Masterclass with Dayashankar Sharma

With three decades of experience working in the hospitality sector, Chef Dayashankar Sharma is one of the best Indian chefs in the country, having won Best Chef at the Asian and Oriental Chef Awards in 2020 and chef of the year at the Asian Food & Restaurant Awards in 2019. His success hasn’t come easily however, hard work and dedication to his craft are at the foundations of his career which spans the Oberoi and Taj group of hotels in India to the Tamarind Group which owns many of London’s best-known Indian restaurants in the UK. A master of delivering dishes featuring subtle, balanced spices, Chef Sharma runs Heritage in Dulwich, showcasing the very best of traditional regional Indian food.

When did you forge your career as a chef and what inspired your choices?

Becoming a chef was not really my plan, I always thought I would become a doctor! However, growing up in Rajasthan, I used to help my mother cooking large meals for the whole family, so she was definitely my early inspiration.

As soon I finished my diploma in hotel management, I worked as Trainee Chef at Oberoi’s hotel in India. I was always curious to learn, working different sections across the kitchen and I still vividly remember having to skin chickens all day in the butchery section!

What did you enjoy about working within large hotels and how does the experience differ to an independent restaurant?

Working in hotels opens you up to a large variety of cultures. Compared to working in an independent restaurant, you get the opportunity to cook multiple cuisines on a large scale, as well as experiencing all different sectors of hospitality such as Accommodation, Tourism, Recreation!

How has your training shaped your career path?

When training, you learn the foundation of skills such as discipline and focus which stay with you throughout your career.

What has been your proudest achievement?

I was among a chosen few to cook for the prime ministers and VIP delegates at the SAARC summit – it was an absolute honour.

What have you learnt from exploring different regional Indian dishes and traditional foods?

I have learnt the influence of cultural identities, history, religion and how all of these factors can impact the final dish. For example, if you look at a dish like butter chicken, which comes in a makhani sauce, there isn’t a fixed recipe for that sauce – many chefs might make it in a similar way, but not exactly the same, because of where they come from, and how they were taught.

Are you still uncovering new traditional Indian cooking techniques?

As India has a very diverse gastronomy, the learning never stops! Before I launched Heritage, I travelled around India for almost four months researching and learning. The rural parts of India were the main places I discovered new flavours and techniques.

When working on new dishes, what is your development process?

For me it is very important to stick to the roots of Indian cooking. While I add my own twists and get creative when developing a dish, I try to maintain the originality of the flavours and spice pairings.

What inspires you to continue innovating?

Of course, innovation is key to the competitive industry I am in, but I also love the feeling of always being able to give more to my guests.

What do the next 12 months have in store for you?

I have recently launched Jhakaas, a new premium Indian delivery and takeaway brand, as I wanted to bring something fresh to the Indian take-away market! The aim is to grow the brand and open at least two more sites in London neighbourhoods in the next 12 months.

What would be your advice to young chefs joining the industry?

Patience is key, learning is a process and passion and hard work is important. My favourite motto is don’t count the hours but make the hours count!

What have you selected for your masterclass?

I have chosen to do my masterclass on how to marinade lamb chops. The recipe is how I make one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Heritage Dulwich – Heritage lamb chops.

What is the secret to marinading red meat?

My secret to perfectly marinading red meat, which is prone to becoming tough, is that I marinade it twice. Marinading it once relaxes the muscles of the lamb and allows it to tenderise. By marinading it a second time, for which I use an oil-based marinade, you are giving the meat longer to infuse the oils and flavours, which prevents the meat from shrinking during cooking and also ensures that it doesn’t become chewy once it is cooked. I like to include spices like cinnamon and star anise in the marinade mix as they are warming and complement the flavour and soft texture of the meat.

I hope this helps all the Stir It Up readers to make the perfect lamb chops, just like I do! 

Heritage Lamb Chops

INGREDIENTS:

  • A rack of lamb

First Marinade

  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp coarsely grounded star anise
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Second Marinade

  • 150ml mustard oil (mustard oil withstands high temperatures and absorbs flavours faster!)
  • 150g raw papaya with skin on
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • Salt to taste 

METHOD

  1. Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Cut away any excess fat and excess meat between the bones from the lamb, (this prevents shrinking of the meat) and then cut it into 4 medium sized cutlets.
  3. Cover the meat in the first marinade and leave to rest for 30 minutes. This begins the breakdown process of cooking and relaxes the muscles of the lamb.
  4. Whilst the meat rests, blend all the ingredients for the second marinade together, then add to the lamb after the 30 minutes is up.
  5. Ensure the grill is coated with oil to stop the lamb from sticking. Grill the cutlets for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes.