Round two with Jagdish Singh, exec chef of India's Castle: expansion into downtown Denver
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? The last cookbook I bought is Khana Khazana: Celebration of Indian Cookery, by Sanjeev Kapoor, a chef I really admire for his valuable knowledge about Indian cookery. I love making his mulayam murgh sheek, which in English means chicken mince kebabs.
Weirdest customer request: People who ask for their dessert before their appetizer. It happens all the time.
Weirdest thing you've ever put in your mouth: A worm, from a tequila bottle. It didn't taste like anything, but I felt like I was on that Fear Factor show.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: In Indian cooking, simplicity is the key to great-tasting food. If you pick up a good cookbook and you get the hang of Indian cooking, you'll realize that the most essential ingredients are easy to work with. The natural pastes of fresh ingredients and the natural blend of spices are the key to tasty meals.
What's your biggest pet peeve? Disorganization and a messy kitchen. Along with using the freshest of ingredients, we've got to keep our cooking area as clean and as organized as possible. The only exception for not having an organized kitchen is when it's rush hour.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? Cooking is definitely an art to me, especially with Indian food, because of the variety of spices. What I love the most is a perfect blend of spice, whether it's for a tandoori marinade or for a curry sauce. I like it when I get it just the way I want it to taste, and when I'm confident about what I'm serving, I know that I'll put a smile on someone's face -- and there's no feeling that can match that for a chef.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? I'd love to cook with Sanjeev Kapoor. The things I could learn from him would leave me so satisfied...there are very few things I want beyond this experience. I've read his biography, and it mentions that during the very beginning phase of his career he never expected to be a chef -- but he was absolutely meant to be one. I consider my life story to be very similar to his, so I'm motivated by his success and knowledge.
Most humbling moment as a chef: A customer was so pleased with my food that she asked permission to come into the kitchen, shook my hand, hugged me and told me that this was the best meal she'd ever had, despite travelling and eating all over India and the U.K. It gave me a moment to pause and realize that I have the ability to really put a smile on a guest's face, or provide an experience that makes their day better. She also introduced me to her family -- I felt like a celebrity. It's pretty cool when something that happens.