When Christiaan Stoop decided to study the culinary sciences and become a chef, his parents asked him to begin by taking a solo trip to a country with contrasting culture. He drew out the map and picked Shanghai as his destination. The few weeks he spent there taught him a lot more about diversity in food and culture than he had experienced growing up. “My parents had hoped that it would give me perspective on what it means to live alone and learn in an alien environment but it turned out to be so much more than that. I could explore the local cuisine, sample ingredients that I had never come across, and more importantly, understand technique by spending time in the kitchen,” says Stoop. “In short, it taught me the importance of travel in the honing of one’s culinary skills,” he adds.
The sous chef at The Oberoi, New Delhi, is 23 now. In these past seven years, he has consistently travelled across various countries, spending time to understand and learn about local cuisines while training under acclaimed chefs. He has been mentored by the celebrated, seven-time Michelin star chef, Carme Ruscalleda, and has trained under Chef Bobby Bräuer in Germany. And it is this experience and expertise that Stoop has put into designing the latest menu at Vetro, The Oberoi, Mumbai. Titled ‘Confessions of a Culinary Traveller’, the menu brings together some of the best dishes and unique ingredients from the UK, Spain, France and India. Available until July 14 in Mumbai, it will be served as a four-course tasting menu for lunch and a five-course gourmand menu for dinner.
The menu, thus, features elements such as sea buckthorn from the UK, black garlic from Spain, mango and ginger from India and lamb loin and asparagus from France, among other ingredients. Recounting some of the memories from his travels to each of these countries, Stoop says that cucumber for him really stood out during his stint in the UK. “While working with Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, I saw that he included the use of humble ingredients in fine dining, like the cucumber. And unlike most others, he wouldn’t chuck away the seedy heart of the vegetable. That was a huge inspiration,” says Stoop, who’s special dish with the vegetable is, thus, a cured and pickled slice of cucumber that enhances its texture.
Showcasing Spain without the use of seafood is unimaginable for the young chef, who grew up eating the wholesome meat-heavy German cuisine. The lightness of the summery food, dominated by fish, crabs and spices, made him fall for the cuisine. India, however, was a contrast, and Stoop’s choice of ingredients (lemon, ginger and mango) represents exploration of vegetarian food. With these, he showcases the strong, individualistic flavours Indians enjoy in their food. However, he uses them to prepare a sorbet, lending them a unique flair. With France, the chef was keen to contradict the common perception of the cuisine’s complexity and has hence used comfort foods such as onion creme and potato gratin in conjunction with lamb loin and asparagus.
Every journey eventually concludes at home. And that’s what Stoop does too. Saving the best for last, he is serving the guests the classic Bavarian creme for dessert with raspberry and thyme. “It’s the perfect balance of flavours and textures, with the sweet cream and tangy raspberry — a German classic,” he says.