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Local produce is very nice here, says chef Cristian Borchi

  • A new restaurant in Mumbai, Sorrentina, showcases the best of traditional Tuscan cooking
  • The chef’s focus on fresh produce and quality ingredients is a good fit for this restaurant located inside gourmet grocer, Foodhall’s newest store in the city 

Chef Cristian Borchi.
Chef Cristian Borchi.

Cristian Borchi, a 41-year-old chef from Tuscany, Italy, is a true man of the soil. It is perhaps only natural that his food philosophy centres on hearty wholesome fare and traditional cooking. His parents had a fruit and vegetable store, and he learnt about provenance and growing techniques that would ensure quality. Had he not become a chef, says Borchi, he would have been a farmer—this, in fact, makes him a good fit for Sorrentina. The restaurant is in the newest branch of speciality gourmet food store Foodhall, on Linking Road, Mumbai. The menu curated by Borchi draws on the cuisine of Sorrento, in south-western Italy, and offers a selection of small plates, pastas and Neapolitan pizzas. Interestingly, the chef has focused on a lighter take on starch-heavy Italian originals by creating a menu that is bursting with fresh ingredients. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How is Italian food, traditionally considered gluten-heavy and starchy, changing for a new health-conscious diner?

The Italian and Mediterranean diet has always been heavy on starch. In order to appeal to health-conscious diners, we try to be high on flavours and use substitutes like ancient wheat, which is lower on gluten and cooks faster and is also much easier to digest.

What is the most indulgent Italian dish you can think of—and is there any way to also keep it healthy?

Any pasta cooked right is pure indulgence. A way to make it healthy is to use the best possible seasonal produce and quality olive oil.

Authentic Italian flavours are a lot about ingredients and sustainability. How does this idea translate for an Italian restaurant in Mumbai?

Besides the olive oil, the local produce is very nice here, ranging from tomatoes to eggplant and especially the cheese—it’s just up to you to find a great supplier. The flavours vary from dish to dish with the ingredients in question but so does the palate of the consumer.

The idea of a restaurant within a gourmet supermarket is quite unusual. How does it work with the kind of food you want to present?

It’s perfectly aligned with our ethos and gives us the opportunity to try out more ingredients and create memories for our clients, also for the chefs to experiment with different ingredients.

Your take on traditional versus modern interpretations of classic dishes.

I love the flavours of traditional dishes as nothing comes close, but technology has given us the power to take those and elevate them using sous vide techniques or rational ovens. These are things that have changed the way chefs cook, making cooking much more precise and flavourful.

Which dish, according to you, is the quintessential Italian classic?

The parmigiana, which showcases a rich tradition of Italy and its produce.

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