Sofitel Mumbai ignites the culinary world with their move in ‘The meat industry’. Chef Varun Inamdar meets Chef Hans Hartman and finds it reminiscent of his days in culinary school, his earlier work profile and so much more. 

Beef Chorizo Sausage_SMBKC

Salt has been a very vital article of trade and was transported by boats across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara in camel caravans. The scarcity and universal need for salt has led nations to go to war over salt and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is also used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural significance. But one very important use of salt was taught to me in culinary schools. Offcourse, beyond the universal and clichéd phrase- ‘salt to taste’

DPP_100And that was in the use of Preservation. Salt is one of world’s oldest preservatives before the advent of refrigerators and hence plays a very important role in charcuterie. Pronounced ‘shar-COO-tair-ee’, it is most definitely every meat-loving chef’s dream to master. So did I fancy it once, but hated the theoretical lectures in school. I loved the practicals more as there was so much to dig into post clean-up.

Munchner Weisswurst sausage

Little did I know that years later, I would be heading Garde Manger and handle ‘Charcuterie’ as a section with an enthusiastic team. Yes, they were brunch set ups to die for and our day-work usually ended with planning cold cuts, flavoured sausages, emulsified sausages, pâtés, rillettes, galantines, crépinettes,terrine, roulade and the likes. Those were the best days of my life and if I may admit, are sorely missed, today. Not only did we enjoy making them but also the entire gamut of tastings that followed was relished.

For one of our photo shoots, for India’s first food channel on YouTube- ‘Cottage Chef Culinaire’, we set a day out in the suburban town north of Mumbai. We spent a few hours clicking photographs on this vast white expanse containing natural salts and collecting some information about its necessity, collection and transportation. It was an experience worth remembering.

DPP_106A few days in the same week, I was invited for a Charcuterie Festival at Artisan, Sofitel, Mumbai. On reading the invite, I could not hold my excitement of meeting the charcuterie-consultant guru Chef Hans Hartman. We walked into Artisan, which this time had aromas of a variety of meat, to meet the man himself. I walked in the middle of a conversation to hear Chef Hans in his oratory moods. He was so charged while talking about the role of salts. He said, “Before the discovery of nitrates by German scientists, curing was done by unrefined salts only.” It quickly took me back to my culinary school and the wait for the charcuterie platters, specially cured by him, was getting longer and longer, but informative though.

He went on to speak about the purposes of preservation like osmosis, dehydration, fermentation and meat’s denaturing proteins. As he starts elaborating, a sumptuous platter of Gelburst, currywurst and Chicken loaf is brought in, with a bread-board and some home ground mustard. Gelburst was moist and succulent. Currywurst, with its coarse pork meat and curry powder was absolutely perfect. The inclusion of Bacon added to its moisture and gave it distinct smokiness. Chicken loaf was creamy, smoky yet was very gentle on flavourings. Pumpernickle added to their charm and ground mustard perfectly pungent.

DPP_111The platter of cold cuts included some Chicken lyonner chilli peppercorn, chicken lyonner and salami. Chef Hans suggests that we make some sandwiches. We instantly jump onto the idea and combine the accompanying lettuce, breads and sauces. We feel blessed. Next on the table is an assortment of chicken tikka sausage, pork andouillette and muencher weisswurst. Chicken tikka sausages are his take on the very traditional chicken tikkas. They are smoky and spicy with the tang of lemon juice and some garam masala. Pork Andouillette is a mixture of pork belly and mushrooms , flavoured with nutmeg. Muencher Weisswurst with its bite of minced onion and parsley is soulful and as my friend commented, “Perfect with drinks”

Pork andouillbite sausage

Overall, the afternoon was well spent and on our way back we are informed about their retail counter, set up at their epicerie.  Moreover, Chef Hans has trained the Sofitel, Mumbai ‘Charcutier’ for consistency and betterment of the product, which is soon going to hit the market.

While I eagerly await their presence in the market, my colleague couldn’t wait any longer and purchased a few packets for his dinner, right there. What are you waiting for? Head straight for your share of delight!

Photo Courtesy: Varun Inamdar

Article originally appeared in Pioneerchef – A complete chef and food magazine.