Rasoi by Vineet, located inside Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, is one of the most acclaimed Indian restaurants in Europe. In addition to that elegant establishment, its head chef and founder, Vineet Bhatia, oversees a small empire of other restaurants and culinary endeavors that have elevated Indian cuisine globally.
Baskar Chakravarthy joined Rasoi by Vineet as head chef in January 2016. Originally from the Tamil Nadu region in India, Chakravarthy studied hotel management in Bangalore in Southern India, and was sous chef to Vineet when Rasoi opened in Geneva in 2011. From there, he worked in Dubai for two years, only to find his way back to Switzerland. We recently sat down with Chakravarthy to talk Geneva, go-to ingredients and going “glocal.”
How did you come to Geneva to helm Rasoi?
Geneva is very close to my heart as it was my first assignment abroad after my training period in India. I have been with chef Vineet Bhatia and his cuisine for the past seven years. Rasoi by Vineet is a signature restaurant and there is a grandeur here where I have evolved as a chef, so I grabbed the opportunity to come back with utmost pleasure as it was like a homecoming.
Though Geneva is an international city, does Indian food feel misplaced here?
No, not at all, because we interpret Indian flavors with a touch of finesse and global influences while using local ingredients. I believe in bringing out the natural and authentic flavors of India to create Indian-based textures, scents and aromas that are light, intriguing and pleasant. Our guests love the whole experience of dining in Rasoi.
What are some of your go-to ingredients?
I have an influence from Southern India and its cuisine, which is where I choose ingredients. Fresh coriander leaves, fresh curry leaves and ginger are some of my favorite ingredients. You’ll find these applied to many of our dishes, including grilled chili-curry leaf lobster with ginger that’s dusted with cocoa powder and our black-quinoa-crusted halibut.
Given the city’s cultural diversity, how do you prepare your dishes to appeal to the widest audience?
I see this as a welcoming challenge, which gives us the liberty to innovate and be creative. We choose the ingredients that are what I call “glocal,” meaning they are global ingredients and, at the same time, they are local in Geneva. Because we focus on finessing and coaxing Indian flavors and aromas, we pair the spices in such a way that it matches every palate precisely because they are nuanced.
Where in Geneva would you dine on your nights off?
I love the diverse food scene in Geneva. Apart from Indian food, I like Thai food and I go for a lot of casual dining, with no specific restaurant as a favorite.
You have worked in Dubai, Las Vegas and Bangalore. What separates Geneva as a culinary destination?
Geneva is definitely a class apart. Besides being a multi-cultural city with a huge population of foreign inhabitants due to the many international companies and organizations located here, the passion for food here has always been very strong. Geneva has the best location for supplies and fresh ingredients. Considering we are very close to France, Germany and Italy, we have access to regional ingredients, which celebrates our many European influences, making Geneva a great culinary destination. That Geneva is such a global city gives us the liberty to go beyond people’s expectations.
Many people may not realize the number of local farms around Geneva. Do you prefer mainly local ingredients and, if so, what are some of them?
Yes, I do prefer local ingredients and all of my meat is local. We have done our limited menu in the past using only local ingredients and, currently, we are using Cartigny lentils in lentil chaat and Swiss chard in our salads.
Are there inherent pressures associated with working at one of the most revered Indian restaurant in continental Europe?
I believe in using the right ingredient with the right technique and applying delicate touches and finesse with our food. That means I focus my energies on the food in front of me. I would say it’s not a pressure, but rather a welcome challenge as it helps me and the team improve our menu, techniques and service each and every day.