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Travelogue

Rendezvous with cordon Bleu Chef Urbano De Rego: One of India’s top five chefs who has preserved the heritage of Goan cuisine

Apart from  Goa’s religious legacy Basilica of Bom Jesus church, Fort Aguada , sandy beaches, sea shacks, and fenny there is another Goan treasure that has preserved the flavours of the Goan legacy. We are talking about celebrity Chef, URBANO DE REGO.

Countless celebrities, journalists, and legends are enchanted by chef Rego’s dishes, from Ratan Tata to Dr Vijay Mallya, to Shobha and Dilip De to many others, they all go bonkers for the dishes he cooks.India’s jet set corporate movers and shakers arrange their schedules around his availability at the VIVANTA BY TAJ in Goa. His clients have included royal families like Shah of Iran, king Hussein of Jordan, Henry Kissinger, George Bush Senior and the list is endless.

I had this desire to meet with this person during my stay at VIVANTA BY TAJ, NORTH GOA. Although I was impressed by Chef Rego, I was a bit intimidated by him as well because of his larger-than-life presence and wondered how someone with such a towering personality would come across. Fortunately, he surprised me and I was compelled to describe him as humble, down to earth and a man without superciliousness. The Interview encompassed more than just one topic and It brought to the fore his professional and personal life trajectories, as well as the many flavors and experiences that culminated in him being ranked among the best five chefs in the history of the country.

Q. Having been a professional football player in the past, how did you become a chef?
Cooking or  passion for food was not my cup of  tea in early stages. I  always had fetish for soccer and was quite good at it. I was supposed to join the Tata Sports Club. Unfortunately, I damaged an ear-drum while playing football. I underwent three surgeries for the ear but got in vain. I was anxious  about my future, I  came across  an  ad  about Taj Bombay looking for apprentices, I applied and got selected. In 1970 at the age of 18, I joined the Taj group and I have been here since then.

Q. How about your passion for the sport of football today?
Yes, I meet my passion by watching matches on TV.

Q. What is the motivating  factor for you even at this point of time?
No left- over in  guests saucers  make me feel happy and is the perfect example of food being relished by guests.  Moreover, it gives me the courage to walk up to the table and ask the guests whether they relished their meal or not, he grins.

Q. Can you share with our readers the food choices of some of your esteemed guests ?
(Laughs) I still remember the days when Dr Vijay Mallya whose bungalow was at stones throw from our property coming at the wee hours with his entourage, he was a habitué of the restaurant. He liked very simple dishes like ‘ Clams in coconut and ‘Prawn stuffed papped’. Mr Ratan Tata, while on a visit to hotel , orders ‘ Prawns Amto’, prawns with mango, and ‘ Clams cutlet.’

Q. Can you provide any insight as to how you feel about becoming a legend in your field?
I don’t brag about my work, I may not be a  good orator or a showman but a good chef indeed. I feel elated when people in my village and my family feel proud of me.

Q. How would you describe your favorite type of food?
I love all cuisines, but if I had to pick one, besides Indian it would be Continental food. Other than that I love Shrimps – fresh out of the water with the shells on into a pan, stir fried with whole garlic, sliced onions, red chilli flakes, kokum and salt.

Q. Do you like to go out to eat frequently?
Very rarely, smiles chef. But I love eating at small pizzerias in Italy, the aroma  of freshly baked pizzas and pastas is always alluring.

Q. Can you describe comfort food in your words?
I would recommend Goan fish curry with steamed rice without giving second thought.

Q. Could you please tell us what your signature dish is?
Camarao Tigre Cilantro – tiger prawns with lemon, chilli paste, ginger, garlic and cilantro.

Q. Would you like to mention one particular trend in the world of food that you dislike?
I detest trend of food with preservatives.For that reason I am not fond of breads too.

Q. What are the attributes of a good chef, any tips you would like to share with us if you could?
Passion for profession, complete dedication with creative bend, strong senses to smell the taste, presentation of food with your eyes, nose and taste buds.

– HOP Archive

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