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Benares’ Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, talks Tania Daniels through the kitchen of his Osterley home
When we moved into this house we thought about opening up the kitchen. It was very tempting to knock the wall through, but I hate construction work – I see enough of it in my restaurants. At home, I just want to have a peaceful day – get up, have a nice cup of tea, play with my kids. We had Amisha (now five) and Arjun (now three) fairly soon after moving in, so I didn’t want to disrupt their lives. “Let’s just keep things as they are and raise our family,” I told my wife, Deepti. “When things are less busy, we can always move to a bigger house.”
Most of the important decisions are taken in the kitchen. Although Deepti isn’t involved actively in the business [which includes Benares and three other restaurants], I seek her opinion on any major investments. Most of our life decisions are taken here. I like to stand in the kitchen when she’s cooking, so we can talk. We split the cooking fairly equally at home. Deepti’s cooking is very home-style – I love the food she cooks. I’m more cheffy, I can’t help it. But really, it’s more Deepti’s kitchen than mine: it’s exactly as she likes it.
I think like a chef – I want the best gadget in town for my work, so why not for my house as well? Sometimes I tell her I want some heavy-duty gadget or other, but then she says: “What do you actually want to achieve with it?” – so we end up with something that costs £25 instead of the £1,500 I wanted to spend.
All four of us get excited about food. Amisha loves to grow fruit and veg – so far we’ve done courgettes, tomatoes, chillis. And we’ve filled some old wine boxes from the restaurant with compost and planted them with strawberries and blackberries.
We encourage the kids to help in the kitchen, too. On weekends we often make something together. We’ll make sushi, pizza, pasta, Mexican – anything really. I want my kids to grow up appreciating different flavours. It’s a philosophy I inherited from my dad. He ran a catering business, so food was always a focal part of our lives. I grew up in a mad house. There were six of us: four sisters, two brothers. Everyone was a good cook, apart from my younger brother. He used to say: “I’ve got five mothers and two fathers, so why worry?”.
ATUL’S SHOPPING LIST
Chopping board Butcher’s End-grain Block, £93, www.davidmellordesign.com
Cleaver Ken Hom Tao, £17.55, www.thecookskitchen.com
heavy gauge carbon steel Wok £11.50, www.amazon.co.uk
spice box £15.37, www.divertimenti.co.uk
stainless steel Knife block set Global, £570, www.cooks-knives.co.uk
Wooden spoons £1 each, www.johnlewis.com
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Autumn 2010