Peter Joseph


Peter Joseph

By moving away from the stereotypical view of Indian cuisine and embracing modern plating styles, Peter Joseph has taken the food he grew up with to dizzying new heights. He made his name at the Michelin-starred Tamarind, and now has his own restaurant Kahani in Chelsea.

Growing up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state, meant Peter Joseph was brought up on dishes such as idli, dosas and sambar, foods full of flavour and colour. But it was the importance of food in the home and the passion he saw when his parents cooked that really inspired him. ‘I loved watching my mum put dishes together – the way she used lots of fun colourful ingredients and spices was always something that intrigued me,’ he tells us. ‘She would always pack me off to school with a tiffin box full of delights such as parota (fried bread), appam (rice pancakes), sadam (flavoured rice) and always a few sweet treats such as halwa too.’

The rising popularity of Indian cuisine in Britain was also something that excited Peter. ‘It was fascinating to watch Madhur Jaffrey conquer the UK, using techniques and ingredients I understood from watching my mother,’ he says. ‘In some underlying way I suppose I wanted to be able to do the same; reading cookery and recipe books was a bit of a secret pastime for me and I loved finding new and exciting dishes to chat to my mum about. Food just started to become a bigger and bigger part of my life as I grew up.’

Once he had decided to dedicate his life to the art of cooking, Peter entered the hospitality industry and began gaining experience in professional kitchens. ‘In the early years of my career I became a management trainee at the ITC Sheraton Hotel, where all the chefs I met and worked with were an inspiration,’ he explains. ‘Later, I worked with Rakesh Upadhya, who was really talented and became my mentor, advisor and guru. All the chefs I had the fortune to meet and work with during my career had a passion and drive that was hugely motivating to witness. Their influence built the foundations of my cooking career and that’s what I go back to when I need inspiration. They remained true to Indian flavours yet explored spices and ingredients, and that is what I continue to do today.’

Peter joined London-based Tamarind in 2004 as sous chef, which was a huge step up from the traditional restaurants he had worked in previously. ‘Tamarind was the first Michelin star restaurant that I’d experienced,’ he tells us. ‘I was used to cooking in kitchens where the food wasn’t necessarily cooked to order and the majority of the dishes were prepared with a standard bulk sauce, which is how Indian restaurants are able to get so many dishes out quickly. There was no real consistency in the cooking or kitchen processes so the dishes that went out to the customer would vary in taste and colour.’

The quality of the ingredients, care and attention given to the cooking techniques and presentation styles opened up a whole new world of cooking for Peter, becoming the driving force behind his own cooking style. ‘We focused on producing dishes that had wonderful layers of flavour achieved through delicate spicing and authentic cooking techniques, but it didn’t stop there; the look of the plate, the detail in the presentation and the front of house service were all equally important.’

In 2012, Peter became head chef at Tamarind, introducing new concepts such as tasting menus and his now famous Pudhina lamb chops. ‘Nowadays, my cooking style remains true to what I believe good honest food is all about,’ he says. ‘I love spices and I love using different combinations to produce fantastic flavours all within an authentically Indian cooking style. Over the years my cooking knowledge has grown and I have been able to explore new ideas and areas of India that have influenced my dishes. I lean towards more traditional Indian flavours influenced by the northwest – I find the history of Mughal cuisine, biryanis, curries and kebabs fabulous. It’s a privilege to work in London because there’s an amazing variety of produce available – very traditional Indian vegetables are now easily accessible but I also love using great seasonal British ingredients to keep my food relevant and dynamic whilst remaining authentically Indian.’

Tamarind continued to offer Michelin-starred Indian cuisine under Peter’s watchful eye, with bright, beautiful and richly spiced dishes proving the country’s cuisine isn’t all curries served in bowls. Peter left Tamarind in 2018 to open his own restaurant Kahani in Chelsea, which opened in September that same year. ‘My plans for the future are to keep innovating and inventing new menus that will wow our guests,’ says Peter. ‘I want to push and develop classic cooking styles and use intriguing new concepts that will inspire a new generation of chefs and foodies.’