Craveen Crasta Head Chef at Qalamkarri, Banyan Tree Doha, on his passion for authentic tastes, textures and ingredients.

You’ve said that your culinary journey began at a young age, what was it that ignited that passion?
From a young age, my passion for cooking was ignited by my love for food itself. The sheer enjoyment of savouring different flavours, experiencing diverse textures and being captivated by enticing aromas fascinated me. It was this fascination that led me to explore the art of cooking and delve deeper into the world of ingredients and culinary techniques.
Every time I present a dish, it goes beyond being a mere combination of ingredients. It becomes a reflection of my hard work, expertise and, most importantly, my genuine love for this craft. Cooking has always been a profound source of joy for me, and there’s a unique satisfaction in preparing meals that bring happiness to others.

What three ingredients do you always have in your kitchen and why?
Lentils, rice and spices. These ingredients hold a special place in my culinary repertoire for several reasons. They have been fundamental elements in Indian cuisine for centuries, deeply rooted in the country’s culinary heritage. They reflect the diverse regional flavours and cooking techniques that have evolved over time. By incorporating these ingredients into my cooking, I pay homage to the cultural traditions and flavours that have shaped my culinary journey.
Lentils and rice are versatile staples that can be cooked in numerous ways. From simple preparations like dal rice to more complex recipes like khichdi, where rice and lentils are cooked together in one pot, the possibilities are endless.
Spices are an integral part of Indian cooking, and they add depth, aroma, and complexity. Whether it’s the warmth of cumin, the vibrancy of turmeric or the heat of chilli powder, spices play a crucial role in creating the distinct flavours that define Indian cuisine.

You were involved right from the conception of Qalamkarri, the Banyan Tree’s Indian contemporary restaurant. How did you go about creating the menu, what were the factors you looked for to offer a good blend of dishes and flavours?
Being part of the conception of Qalamkarri was an exciting and creative journey. When it came to creating the menu, my main objective was to develop a culinary experience that would resonate with a diverse audience, including both locals and expats, while staying true to the essence of Indian flavours.
To achieve this, I embarked on an extensive process that involved menu trials, recipe exploration and tastings in collaboration with food experts. I wanted to strike the perfect balance between traditional Indian cuisine and contemporary influences, allowing guests to experience the best of both worlds.
In selecting the dishes, I considered several factors. First and foremost, I focused on the authenticity and quality of the ingredients, ensuring they were sourced meticulously to preserve the true flavours and aromas of Indian cuisine. I also considered the balance of flavours, textures and presentation to create a harmonious dining experience.
Additionally, I paid close attention to the preferences and expectations of our diverse clientele. By incorporating a range of vegetarian and pescatarian options, we aimed to cater to varying dietary requirements and provide an inclusive dining experience for all.

What is your own signature dish, how was it developed and what makes it popular?
It’s challenging for me to single out just one dish as my signature, as I believe that each creation in my culinary repertoire holds a special place. However, if I were to highlight one dish that has gained considerable popularity, it would be the Chettinad Prawn Dosa.
The development of this dish stemmed from my desire to offer a unique and innovative twist to the traditional dosa presentation. I envisioned a fusion of flavours and textures that would elevate the dining experience. Drawing inspiration from tacos, I conceptualised the idea of using dosa as a taco shell, which ultimately led to the birth of the Chettinad Prawn Dosa.
This dish showcases the rich and vibrant flavours of Chettinad cuisine, combined with the delicate sweetness of prawns. The dosa, acting as a versatile and crispy taco shell, holds together all the exquisite ingredients and flavours in a harmonious combination. The spiced prawns, accompanied by aromatic spices and a medley of fresh herbs, create a delightful explosion of flavours with every bite.
The Chettinad Prawn Dosa has become a favourite among our guests who appreciate the culinary craftsmanship and the vibrant blend of flavours it offers. ✤