Chef de cuisine Atul Lahkar is a prominent face among the chefs in the Northeast. Known for his effort to make traditional ethnic cuisine of Assam at par with other cuisines of international repute, his experience of sharing kitchen with some of the big names like Sanjeev Kapoor, British chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay etc., to name a few reflects his reputation in the industry.
With restaurants ‘Khorikaa’ and ‘Heritage Khorikaa’ under his purview, his recent venture ‘Domahi: The Heritage Village Kitchen’ is one of its kind in the society. Stating it to be a dream project, Lahkar wants to bring in the experience of cooking and dining culture of different tribes and communities in one platform.
“It is difficult to go from one village to another to explore and experience the authentic and ethnic cuisines of that place,” added the chef extraordinaire.
Born in Tezpur, Assam as one of the eight siblings, Lahkar had to face struggle of being from a financially unsound family. His passion for the discipline of cooking came in when he had to take his elder sister to Chennai for medical treatment. There, he witnessed a street vendor selling biryani from dawn till dusk. Upon his return, when he requested his mother to mention the names of some of the iconic Assamese dishes, the reply was just tenga, khaar, aloo pitika.
Knowing that these were not the signature dishes of this diverse state alone, he started finding the mystery behind the making of traditional ‘ethnic’ Assamese cuisines.
“Usually, people do not visit to the remote parts of Assam to explore the availability of traditional and indigenous food items. Without these, the Assamese cuisine can never be completed,” said Lahkar, who feels: I live for cooking, without it I am nothing.
He also laments that even the professional chefs from Assam are not well-versed with the plethora of dishes this state has to offer.
Trained in oriental and continental cuisines in the culinary schools, these professional chefs lack the skill for preparation of authentic Assamese dishes. Hence another idea behind his recent venture, Domahi, is to train chefs in the nuances of Assamese cuisines, Lahkar said.
His passion for cooking and continuous efforts to put Assamese cuisine in the global map are such that he meticulously plants herbs from different parts of the Northeast in his garden. The hand-picked herbs find its way to the delectable dishes he concocts leaving us gourmand wanting for more.