When they first met some years earlier, Vivek Singh and Iqbal Wahhab had discussed the concept of applying French techniques to Indian cooking, and their restaurants are a testament to this original idea. In a broad sense, Vivek’s cooking style is modern Indian, in that, as the chef himself says, it ‘reflects the lifestyle, tastes and values of the young, modern and cosmopolitan India’. While there are clear roots in traditional Indian cooking methods and flavour combinations, these are paired with new techniques and seasonal produce from Europe – Anjou squab pigeon from France is served with pomegranate and jaggery sauce, Iberico pork with Goan spiced pork dumplings, for example. The tandoor oven is one of the most prized sections of his kitchen with fish, meat and vegetables coated in fresh marinades and cooked in its heat, absorbing the oven’s unique smoky flavour.
Menu items at The Cinnamon Club are governed by the seasons, and Singh has evolved his cooking to suit the desultory British climate. Autumn is his favourite season, and he has a particular fondness for game which, while steeped in Indian tradition, was banned by the government over fifty years ago. With seasonal game widely available in the UK, the chef is able to experiment, reimagining dishes from Indian history in a distinctly modern style. His Roast saddle of deer with pickling sauce is a signature on The Cinnamon Club menu, and the dish represents what the chef describes as the ‘perfect example of combining new and old, east and west, the best of all worlds.’
Vivek is also a prolific writer and has published six recipe books: The Cinnamon Club Cookbook (2003), The Cinnamon Club Seafood Cookbook (2006), Curry: Classic and Contemporary (2008), Cinnamon Club: Indian Cuisine Reinvented (2011), Cinnamon Kitchen: The Cookbook (2012) and Spice At Home (2014). Through his books, he aims to demonstrate that authentic Indian dishes are accessible to anyone, whether or not they have a background or experience in Indian cooking. He is also known for his regular appearances on popular food programmes including the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters form Warwick University in January 2015 for his significant contribution to the culinary landscape of London and the development of Indian cuisine across the United Kingdom.
Vivek is actively involved with a number of charities, particularly those which promote education and self-development, such as Wooden Spoon, the Prince's Trust and Action Against Hunger. Each year, he participates in the Curry For Change campaign, which aims to raise money for the charity Find Your Feet to help rural families in Asia and Africa fight poverty and injustice. He also strongly believes in training and growing talent from within his restaurants. The Cinnamon Collection does its bit in creating opportunities and growing its people via various initiatives such as in-house apprenticeships, management training programmes and the Mastara Chef Programme, an initiative to attract people from all backgrounds to take up a career with 'spice'.
As Vivek Singh says, his core philosophy is that ‘food does not exist in a void; it’s not timeless and does not operate in a vacuum’. The chef strives to keep his food in a constant state of evolution, with new techniques and cultural influences blending with aspects of Indian tradition until they become a tradition of his very own.
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