Despite a growing clutch of awards and accolades Kanthi is a humble, generous and warm individual with family values in the broadest sense of the word. He takes pride in creating a family feel within the restaurant, making the effort to spend quality time with his team, involving them, ensuring that they enjoy what they do in life and work. This also extends to the local community. He has supportive relationships with fellow chefs, suppliers, producers and restaurateurs. This collaborative and open approach to business contributes to a thriving local food scene – good for the economy and for us foodies.
As well as raising money for local charities, Kanthi also supports charitable endeavors in his native India. In January for his birthday instead of a typical birthday celebration he held a charity dinner to raise money for an orphanage in Chennai.
One lunch time I managed to catch Kanthi to chat about his inspirations, values and all things food...
What's important to you?
Three things – never compromising quality, and the team; making sure I get to know each team member and that they are happy in what they’re doing, that they are passionate about the cuisine (Kanthi seeks input from the front of house team when developing dishes for the menu as he believes that they should love what they sell), and last but not least giving something back to the community and charity.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From many places – the local farmers and producers providing me with fantastic ingredients, amazing fellow chefs and most importantly my travels which are always food orientated. Recently I spent time in India, visiting my family and travelling further afield to discover new cuisines. On my last trip to India I discovered the unique cuisine of Coorg, where the curries are completely distinct. I discovered a slow cooked pork curry, very unusual for this part of India and this will be appearing on the menu at Curry Leaf Café very soon. I get inspiration from all good international cuisines, a recent trip to Barcelona was also food heaven for me! The informal tapas style of dining appeals in the same way as Indian street food which features strongly at the Curry Leaf.
What do you cook at home?
Anything and everything! I look at what I have in the fridge and create something. Ingredients come first and then the recipe emerges.
Popcorn! – although I usually add turmeric, paprika or masala spices...
What do you think of the local food scene?
I am blessed to be working in such a great city and region. Conde Naste voted Brighton and Hove the best city to dine out in because we have so many great restaurants. Some commentators point out that we haven’t got a Michelin star in the city but in a way I admire the fact that the chefs here are more focused on cooking what they love and being true to their passion rather than ‘trying to get a star’ which requires a certain formula. Having said that I think its only a matter of time before we’ll get one just because the chefs here are so talented.
Where do you like to eat out?
I love The Set for a special occasion, La Choza; good Mexican street food and the informality appeals to me. Terre a Terre cannot be beaten for vegetarian food. Semolina is a great new local restaurant run by a husband and wife team turning out stunning dishes. Having worked for the Chilli Pickle I really rate what they do and its where I go to dine for Indian food other than here!
Which celebrity chefs do you admire?
Having worked for Jamie Oliver, I still admire what he does. For Indian food, I am inspired by Alfred Prasad, the youngest Indian chef to obtain a Michelin star at Tamarind in London. I love his humility. You won’t have heard of him because he doesn’t seek the limelight. He just quietly gets on with creating excellent food.
I am never satisfied, I am always looking to make improvements, develop and learn. On my recent trip to India I have started building the foundations to grow my own produce such as coffee. This allows me to ensure fairtrade and ethical business, cutting out the middlemen. Expect to see Curry Leaf Café home grown coffee on the menu soon!