Food For Thought — February 20, 2015 at 11:10 am

Behind the Plate with Chef Hemant Mathur

Chef Hemant Mathur of Tulsi - New York, NY
Indian cuisine is all the rage, especially in New York City, where we have an entire neighborhood devoted to it — Curry Hill. Chef Hemant Mathur is making his mark in the city that never sleeps, with an impressive six restaurants currently under his belt, as well as a catering company. The chef plays both owner and executive chef to Haldi, Malai Marke, Chola, Dhaba, Kokum, and Chote Nawab, and runs his own catering business, Jashn.
The well-respected chef is no stranger to making a splash with his dishes. Early in his career he worked alongside Chef Raji Jallepalli at Tamarind, following a stint as executive chef at Diwan Grill. In 2003 he opened and was the co-chef at Amma. Following this, he ran the kitchen at Devi and then opened Tulsi in 2011, which was awarded Michelin stars. Now he holds the reins to an array of Indian eateries in the city, each one putting its own twist on Indian flavors. We had the opportunity to chat with the renowned chef on his illustrious career, his restaurants, and the dishes they serve.
How do each of your restaurants differ from one another?Luchi Alur Dum LR
Each of the restaurants serves food from a different region in the country or has a different culinary focus. Haldi brings the flavors of Calcutta to the table, Kokum has kerala cuisine as its focal point, Dhabha serves road-side food from Punjab, Chola is North meets South cuisine, Chote Nawab showcases Hyderabadi delights and Malai Marke is a regional speciality restaurant. Each of them has dishes that are unique to the restaurant itself and make them stand out for itself.
What are some of the challenges you face in making Indian cuisine accessible to the masses?
Doing unusual dishes is always important to me and this is challenging as clients have sometimes never tried them. But featuring unusual dishes does bring a great response. We live in the city of the global traveler where clients are quite open to trying new foods and dishes and that has definitely been a great aid in us being able to do unusual dishes.  
What do you think sets apart your restaurants from other Indian restaurants in the city?
We offer regional menus, so Haldi is the only restaurant serving food from Calcutta, Kokum is the only one focusing on Kerala as its highlight; our dishes and menus set us apart in the market.
Fish Paturi LRIf you had to choose your favorite dish from all your restaurants, what would it be?
I don’t have one dish, as each of the restaurants have a different menu. Also since we have just taken over these eateries, we are still in progress of changing menus as the year opens up.  
Where do you source your ingredients from?
We use local suppliers for fresh vegetables and Indian spice purveyors for our spices. We are looking at importing our own spices from India shortly.
How did you pick the locations of your restaurants? Were there specific neighborhoods you wanted or didn’t want to be in?
In the past we looked at foot traffic, access from the subway, square footage, and the demographics of an area for the concept of the restaurant. We have created destination spaces in the past but we also realize the importance of being in an area where we get walk in clients. Most of the present restaurants are all in Curry Hill, which is a destination spot for anyone wanting Indian food.  
Have you always wanted to have your own restaurant?
Yes, I think I always knew that I will own restaurants.
Twisted Talk: Have you visited any of Chef Mathur’s many Indian restaurants? Which one is your favorite? Discuss below!

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