Interview with top Chef Stephen Gomes
Chef Stephen Gomes has never been afraid to take on the challenge of a new project, from seeking to change diners perceptions of Indian cuisine with his restaurant Moksh in Cardiff, to representing Wales in last year’s Great British Menu.
A passionate advocate of both Wales and its produce, we caught up with Stephen in Mumbai, to see how his experiences of opening a restaurant in Cardiff, have led to being selected to return to his home city to launch his new venture Chemistry 101; a gastro-bar with a touch of science and culinary magic.
What first attracted you to open a restaurant in Cardiff?
I had previously been working as a Corporate Chef for what was the largest chain of Indian restaurants in the UK. They bought a restaurant in Cardiff Bay, and I came to work here in 2000. I was originally based in London, but the hospitality and warmth that I received in Wales got me addicted to Cardiff, and I fell in love with the city. In 2007, an opportunity arose and Moksh was born…then there was no turning back!! Almost 17 years on and I can’t see myself living anywhere else, albeit business opportunities are taking me further afield now!
How do you see the future of the Restaurant Industry in Wales?
At the moment, I consider that Wales has some of the best restaurants in the UK. I believe competition is healthy it certainly keeps me on my toes, and I never rest on my laurels – you can’t stay still in this industry! The future of the restaurant industry, particularly in Cardiff is very interesting, as new chains and chefs from all over the world appear to be heading here and the industry is thriving and rapidly evolving! Personally, I say “the more, the merrier”.
How would you best describe your style of cooking?
In a word… innovative. There is a reason Moksh is considered as the ‘Lady Gaga of Indian’s’ – while remaining authentic to Indian cuisine, I like to push the boundaries, and my dishes tend to venture away from those found in traditional Indian restaurants. I love to have fun with food, and hopefully my imagination translates in my dishes and is reflected in my menus!
How does it feel to be returning to Mumbai to open Chemistry 101?
Returning to Mumbai to open Chemistry 101 is quite an experience. I can't really describe the level of excitement. It has been a particularly demanding 12 months, but I love that I am returning to Mumbai as a Welsh Indian Chef; it’s great to be representing Wales and helping to put Cardiff on the map out here. It feels like home from home, but with the added humidity and heat wave!
How are your Welsh roots providing inspiration for your menu in Mumbai?
I have an amazing dessert called Cariad on the Chemistry 101 menu, which all my guests are enjoying at the moment - white lavender chocolate, orange chocolate, chocolate brownie, hazelnut caramel dust and chocolate chilli sorbet.
Above all how can I forget the Glamorgan sausages! They’re surely a hit here! They form part of my Enchanted Forest dish, coupled with cheese and jalapeño sauce in black sesame soil and smoked with hickory wood smoke, customers can also listen to the sounds of the forest through headphones while dining!
What do you always find is the biggest challenge of opening a new restaurant, whether in the UK or India?
The list is endless but as I love challenges it does gradually become a bit easier. Chefs are certainly a challenge – ha ha, and of course I miss being able to use Welsh produce out here. I am a passionate advocate for using local ingredients, and at Moksh source from local suppliers and work with the finest quality Welsh produce and freshest authentic spices.
Any plans for the future?
I would love to expand Moksh into Far East Asia…definitely watch this space!
We let Chef Stephen Gomes get back to his busy schedule! Did you know that Wales has many more links with India? Have a look at our other pages to find out more.