Nayantara Mohan comes from India and she is a second year student of the Bachelor’s Degree in Gastronomy and Culinary Management at Gasma – CEU Cardenal Herrera University. We have asked her a few questions to know more about her experience, hobbies and, most of all, about her passion for gastronomy.
5 lines to describe yourself:
I am a nineteen year old Indian girl who loves to laugh, have a good time, make new friends and who is always ready to try something new. I love anything that makes me use my creativity or think out of the box.
When did you know that you would dedicate yourself to gastronomy?
When I was a small child, I would help my mother in the kitchen as she whipped up different creations. I used to be amazed by the fact that with just a few mediocre ingredients like eggs and flour you could create something amazing, like a cake. A source of true magic, I found myself drawn towards it. I spent hours with my mother in the kitchen, offering as much assistance as my little hands could offer. From reciting recipes to anyone I met to nibbling off my parents’ plates, my knowledge of food began to grow, and along with it, my passion.
Do you have any obsession as a cook?
I love strong, bold flavours! Being an Indian, I am used to having flavours and smells hit you in your face! I love pairing contrasting flavours together in order to create something brand new. Different spices and herbs can compliment each other in so many ways and come to create a different profile altogether.
Which ingredients have you discovered at Gasma and you can’t get them out of your head?
As I am from South Asia, the use of cod was not very popular for me. After coming to Gasma, I have been able to taste it in various forms and cook it using different methods; something I could not have done back home.
If you had to highlight a dish from a partner, which one would it be?
During my first year here, I have had the privilege to live with Alisha, who is from Taiwan. The food she would cook for our dinners together is something I can never forget. From her Three Cup Chicken to Beef Noodle Soup, I have learnt a lot about the Chinese cuisine from her.
Vanguard or tradition?
For me, tradition plays a big role in the dishes I cook. Most of my recipes are personally written family specialties that we would cook together for Sunday lunch. That being said, I would love to take the new techniques and methods and apply them to the same traditional flavours I grew up with.
What did your childhood taste like?
My childhood has been a melting pot of different cuisines and cultures. My mother would travel a lot and bring back with her exotic treats from places like Turkey, Malaysia for me to try. My aunt, who used to work in the hospitality industry, would introduce me to new flavours and dishes almost every weekend. However, on the other hand, traditional South Indian dishes such as rasam (a spicy tamarind and tomato soup) usually eaten with rice, and the meaty flavours of my family’s Sindhi Mutton Curry (pieces of goat cooked and simmered with browned onions, spices and water) are the first things that pop into my mind when I think of my home and childhood.
What gastronomic experience will you never forget in your life?
Not exactly a gastronomic experience, but I think my first internship in this sector is something that I will never forget. A six-week internship in the bakery and pastry section of a big hotel… I learned so many new things. The highlight for me was definitely learning to work with fondant and creating specialised cakes with it.
What would your ideal restaurant be like?
I have not really given it much thought, but my ideal restaurant would be a place specialised in, as I mentioned, traditional Indian flavours with modern techniques and methods. I want to show people that there is more to Indian food than your stereotypical curry and rice. I picture my ideal restaurant to be full of light, good food, laughter and music.
What do you think about when you don’t think about cooking?
Aside from cooking, I think my interests lie in drawing, reading up on new things and catching up with my friends. I love to watch comedy shows and documentaries (usually about cooking).
What is the best thing about studying at Gasma?
Definitely one of the best things about studying at Gasma is the campus! Villa Dolores is a gorgeous place to study and learn in. I also think that one of the best things about Gasma is the smaller class sizes, which ensures that we get more personalised classes and attention from the teachers.