For a while, I was obsessed with desserts. Every year, I’d look forward to my birthday only because my mom would bring out her big old book of kids novelty cakes and have me pick one; I’d always go for the most complicated. (Once, I picked a cake that was in the shape of a circus tent and filled with animals, she had to actually MAKE marzipan and mould them into a number of performing animals). This obsession didn’t last too long for I soon discovered that I don’t have a sweet tooth, I just loved making things.
And it didn’t stop there. For a while I thought I was a wizard. I made potions and magical concoctions from countless bottles of shampoos, liquid soaps, conditioners and anything I could get my hands on. This soon became and expensive habit so for Christmas, my parents bought me a chemistry set.
I loved my chemistry set but I never followed the instructions. I could be frequently found mixing the brightest colours and powders with the strongest aromas together. Sometimes nothing would happen, sometime a loud pop followed by some violent frothing and pungent odours would follow. (Once the mixture my brother and I created became so hot that we dropped it on the floor and the stain still exists to this very day). A mad inventor, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.
A decade later, I found myself graduating with a degree in engineering from Imperial College in London. It was a moment that made my parents proud but left me with one thought. The 100+ students in my year know exactly what I do. I needed more.
It was during my summer in Ghana that year that I decided to take a position as a PhD candidate in Cambridge. I got told by now former-supervisor that a PhD is designed so that you end up knowing the most about a narrow field. That sold it to me. So I moved to Cambridge, in what was an act of endurance (not academically, socially). But what surprised me is that I ended up in a lab, with fancy test tubes and blue superconducting liquids flowing through weird and whacky apparatuses. I was a mad scientist and all I could think about was my childhood years.
Three years on and Graduation day was (finally) upon me. I felt fulfilled from an academic perspective as I was no longer a sausage produced in a factory, but I made the decision to leave and work in finance for financial reasons. (I also discovered that I was a bit too commercial for academia in the UK and I was not willing to move my life to California).
Now I’m not going to lie to you, finance has it perks but it ranks zero on the creativity and “get your juices going” scale. One of the things that it did open me up to is the world of Michelin stars.
My true first memory of haute cuisine was in a restaurant in Sweden. What looked like a marshmallow stunk like a bishop, a bell jar filled with raw lobster, mussels and oysters presented on salty seaweed froth. I hated every minute of it.
So for a while I declined invitations to join clients at Chez Fancy because I loved home cooking and given I had been away from my family since I was 12, being alone eating what I ate back home or with friends eating somewhere wholesome was my priority. Then came my umpteenth invitation.
How can you turn it down? They asked and rescheduled a number of times, so I had to accept. What awaited me was an experience like no other.
Explosive olives, mimetic peanuts, salmon covered in liquorice, lamb served on a pillow of rosemary, bubble gum soup and oysters and pearls. Heaven. Concoctions that would be at home in a kitchen or a lab but dishes that conjured up childhood memories from the peanuts I bought off the side of the road to the smell of freshly grilled lamb on the barbecue every Sunday. I guess I just needed to find something to relate to and that’s when I began to appreciate the various idiosyncrasies worldwide, understand the base culture/tradition and relate to the methodology.
So this spurred a fetish for dining in fun restaurants worldwide. Having done three years of traveling so far, a friend recommended I put this together, a way to share my experiences. Hope you enjoy it and suggestions are always welcome!