Posted 26th November 2013 by Great British Chefs
After ignoring his father’s advice to become an engineer, Vivek Singh has built a distinguished career as a chef. He began by working in some of the finest hotel groups in India including The Rajvilas. While at that hotel he established the kitchen there as one of India’s best, and under his skilful cookery, the hotel won the prestigious accolade of Best Hotel in the World from Tatler magazine.
Moving to London in the early 2000s, he opened his first restaurant, The Cinnamon Club, in 2001. It became an instant hit and was followed by two further successful restaurant openings of the Anise in the City and Cinnamon Kitchen in 2008.
A famously articulate and genial chef, Vivek has bolstered the success of his restaurants with an impressive media profile. With four cookbooks under his belt, he has also performed his fair share of Omelette Challenges on Saturday Kitchen.
Vivek did not cook a lot when he was very young, which is why he’s keen to get kids cooking today. However, he certainly had strong memories of food while growing up. He said: “I actually didn’t really learn to cook as a child, unfortunately, but aside from my mother who must have cooked millions of meals for us in her lifetime, I suppose the biggest influence was growing up in a community that was really close-knit and celebrated all their festivals and occasions together.”
Did any of those dishes influence Vivek’s cooking today? “Yes, several” he said, “Whether it was my mother’s sweet tomato chutney or my dad’s roasted aubergine crush, or more recently chingri malai curry that I cooked on Saturday Kitchen.
“Those thick, fat, sweet prawns cooked in a coconut curry sauce fragrant with cardamom still take me back to the Bengali wedding I attended as a six year-old child.
“There have been many different influences with food throughout my life that have shaped and moulded my cooking today. As well as those Bengali weddings, I remember travelling through South India as a 10 year old boy and the trauma of not liking coconut! I also have a strong love and admiration for North Indian cooking. It was love at first sight with Butter Chicken in Delhi.”
We asked Vivek for the first thing he ever remembered cooking by himself. He laughed: “I must have been about 13 when I first had a go at roast chicken. I ended up burning it, but it never put me off!”
Now Vivek’s has children of his own, do they help him in the kitchen? Vivek smiled: “Yes, but on their own terms. My younger one Maya loves salads while Eshaan makes a mean scrambled egg, as long as there are truffles around!”
Finally we asked for Vivek’s tips and advice on helping children who are fussy eaters.
“It helps if they are experimental but if they are not, it is best not to force them, as that might put them off completely. One effective tip is to not give them too much choice so they end up eating whatever you give them”.
You can find out more about Vivek and sample some of his recipes over at our Cooking with Kids section.