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Chef Omar Allibhoy and his quest to bring Spanish cuisine to the world

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Omar Allibhoy, the man behind the Tapas Revolution in the UK, talks about his upcoming book

Omar Allibhoy, the man behind the Tapas Revolution in the UK, talks about his upcoming book

“I must have been around five or six years old, but I never wanted to be an astronaut or a footballer — I always wanted to be a chef,” says Spanish celebrity chef Omar Allibhoy of Tapas Revolution fame. “Some of the earliest memories of my childhood are of my mother cooking. I remember hurrying back from playing football with my buddies just so I could help her in the kitchen.”

“My mum’s peas and parsley puree was always special for me. Till today, I can’t make it as well as she does,” he laughs.

Food has always been an intrinsic part of the Allibhoy household. “Our extended family would meet for a leisurely lunch every Sunday, with everyone bringing a dish to the table. I imbibed the joy of cooking for others from these gatherings. I also first learnt about Indian cuisine at these lunches where my father would prepare select dishes for us.”

Mushrooms croquette, truffled potato parmentier and truffle shavings by chef Omar Allibhoy
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

To make his dream a reality, Omar enrolled in culinary school at 14, and like anyone with a passion for great food he wanted to learn more about other cuisines. “Foreign cuisines are never the same as prepared in their home country.”

He left his home town of Madrid to learn English in the United Kingdom, hoping it would get him closer to his goal of mastering different cooking styles. He was a fast learner and eventually worked under celebrity chefs such as Ferran Adria and Gordon Ramsay, among others. However, even as he was making a name for himself in the area of haute cuisine, he realised the world’s knowledge of Spanish cuisine was limited. “Spain has been a popular tourist destination with Europeans for decades, but most people only know of tortillas and churros.”

Slow cooked egg, truffled potato parmentier and jamon iberico by chef Omar Allibhoy

Slow cooked egg, truffled potato parmentier and jamon iberico by chef Omar Allibhoy
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Omar made it his mission to bring authentic Spanish fare to the masses by sharing recipes, appearing on television shows and writing cookbooks. His latest book, Paella, will be available early next year. “Only half of the book comprises recipes. The rest is a master guide that talks about the history and culture of this complicated dish.”

Despite his life’s work of decoding Spanish culinary delights, Omar has not forgotten his quest to learn more about the cuisines of other countries. He first visited India four years ago and fell in love with kaju barfi, kheer, brain curry with roti and of course, biryani. “It is similar to paella in a lot of ways — the flavouring of rice with stock, the harmony and balance of spices is exotic!”

Chicken roulade, blue cheese and walnuts croquette, butternut squash puree and chicken demi by chef Omar Allibhoy

Chicken roulade, blue cheese and walnuts croquette, butternut squash puree and chicken demi by chef Omar Allibhoy
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

He says that due to the Moorish influence on Spanish cooking, there is an emphasis on the subtlety of flavours, a “need for the ingerdients to shine”. He cites the example of the pincho moruno, his signature dish of lamb chops. “The flavours of cumin, nutmeg and thyme blend with smoked sweet paprika to not only make this dish aromatic, but delicious as well.”

During the pandemic, Omar kept busy with his YouTube channel, The Spanish Chef and once the lockdown lifted, made it a point to travel again. Recently In India as a guest of All Things Nice, he says he enjoys bringing “a piece of Spain and pairing it with wines.”

Torrija bread and butter pudding, coffee granita and hazelnut ice cream by chef Omar Allibhoy

Torrija bread and butter pudding, coffee granita and hazelnut ice cream by chef Omar Allibhoy
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement



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