If you are on social media, you could not have missed seeing your favourite Bollywood celebs including the likes of Ananya Pandey, Disha Patani, Tiger Shroff, Shilpa Shetty, Malaika Arora and more, outside Bandra's famous Bastian restaurant that Cheung was earlier associated with. Cheung's food, which has always been dichotomous is known to be elegant while also being savage, creative but not gimmicky, distinctive and yet with a very strong sense of cognizance.
We caught up with the chef who is now bringing his culinary genius to the capital city.
Well, thank you. At the end of July I packed up from Mumbai with full intentions to move back to North America. And then Delhi chose me. Well, actually Arjun Jain and Aman Kumar, the dynamic duo behind GrubFest, chose me. They already had an amazing space and a clear vision of the design, but were lacking in the food department. When they asked me if I’d join them in Delhi, and take on this project I knew after creating wonderful food in both Colaba and Bandra, it was time to take on a new challenge. While my heart belongs to Mumbai, especially after the birth of Bodhi, my family and I have settled into Delhi quite quickly, met tons of friends, and are excited to start feeding everyone at Dadel and Kiko-Ba.
I didn’t have a single friend or even an Instagram when I first moved to India, so I’m very familiar with being an unknown chef just cooking for the love of it. Let’s get to know each other, Delhi?
You had the whole of Bollywood & weight watchers going gaga over your Kel cakes...
Did I? Maybe! I always thought it was the gluten free pancakes and chocolate chip cookies I first created at Ellipsis in 2012 that were the real draw. KelCakes were created while my wife was pregnant with our son and I had hit a bit of a “writers block” when it came to creativity. Andrea challenged me to bake something I loved, rather than something that was beautiful for instagram or that we knew would sell, and that’s where KelCakes started from. They were messy and fun. You’ll see newborn Bodhi in many of my original KelCake videos and photos as he was always strapped to one of us in the restaurants from 10 days old onwards.
What is the idea behind Kiko-Ba?
Kiko-Ba has been named after a Japanese fictional character who comes down from heaven and brings good luck to the people. The ethos of Kiko-Ba is intrinsically entwined with my culinary journey. Just like my own son, I was practically raised in restaurants. From my humble beginnings as a dishwasher at my family’s traditional Chinese restaurant, I worked my way up until I could prove dedication and discipline to my father who taught me exceptional food technique. Although the food I serve to guests has undergone an evolution of sorts, drawing inspiration from various regions, I still feel the best recipes are like heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. With Kiko-Ba I will be paying a tribute to my father’s legacy and taking our patrons on a sweet, and of course savory, journey back to my roots where I'll be reviving a beautiful bygone era of my own cooking, my father’s style of modern Hong Kong style Cantonese cuisine, and folding in flavors from my travels and beyond.Essentially, this menu will include everything I learned at my father’s restaurant, my training in French culinary, my work at restaurants in Belgium, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, and eventually Mumbai.
Over the years, my food, plating, and skills have evolved, and I’ll be putting it all together and serving up a ‘new Kelvin’.
What can one expect on the menu at Kiko-Ba & Dadel?
Dadel is open and we are serving up delicious bar bites such as Japanese Scallops, Gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi and root vegetable chips with edamame hummus.
For Kiko-Ba, you’ll find dishes like the heirloom baby corn with smoked honey truffle butter - I am extremely excited about this one. My family spent the majority of this summer in Toronto and the corn we picked at the farms was incredible. Bodhi and I were both obsessed with the Peaches and Cream variety that is only in season for about six weeks. It’s incredibly sweet and doesn’t need any butter or seasoning. I’ll be making a smoky gai yang chicken on the robota which is inspired from eating at the open ends market from one of my many trips to Thailand. You’ll see Ginger Fried Rice on the menu at Kiko-Ba and while it’s delicious regardless of it’s healing qualities, it’s a special dish in my family especially for the nourishment of postnatal mothers. My wife ate this three times a day after giving birth to our son. Chinese people believe that the mother who gave birth is more likely to pick up a cold and the warming and anti-inflammatory effect of ginger can help fight against it. Ginger also promotes blood circulation as we consider it an essential food for postpartum recovery. And so much more! Even brunch.
What would be your must-recommendations while dining out at Kiko-Ba& Dadel?
For Dadel, I would recommend Japanese Scallops, Gluten-free sweet potato Gnocchi and the boneless jerk glazed wings with Naga chilli along with the signature cocktails by Bartosz Jakowiec.
Kiko-Ba - I won’t know until we’ve finalized the menu. It’s pretty thrilling!
Tell us the reason behind your stupendous success?
I truly believe in keeping my head down and continuing to create dishes I am proud of, want to eat myself, and am excited to serve regardless of what is already available in the market. For the longest time, recipes have been these massive secrets heavily guarded by chefs and home cooks. At the end of the day, even if you follow a recipe exactly, it will likely come out just a bit different. The real difference is the heart and patience put into a dish. I know that will reflect in what I am serving in Delhi. And as I’ve said before in interviews - I might be the face and get all the glory, but Andrea is the guts. She keeps my ship sailing smoothly from behind the curtain.
According to you, what are the trends that are likely to shape the industry going forward?
*Customers and consumers, both when eating inside or outside of their home, that are aware and well educated about their food choices, carbon footprint, and dietary restrictions. No longer are people following recipes blindly, believing influencers because they “said so”, or ordering a dish because their friends liked it. Customers are well read and far more discerning over what they consume (and put on their bodies) than they have ever been. I personally love this and cannot wait to engage with a new set of consumers at Kiko-Ba and Dadel as I’m sure I’ll be challenged in new ways by customers while I will challenge theme in the way I present dishes/ingredients.
*Interacting directly with farmers. I’m a massive fan of building long term relationships with farmers and working towards a product that they are proud of, is purchased at a fair price, and that is sometimes even customized for my menu. In the past, I’ve worked with cheesemakers to perfect burrata, helped hydroponic green growers perfect their salad, and persuaded a farmer that picking of vegetables at their peak was better for him than waiting for them to grow to their largest - when he thought that he would make the most profit. If we’re willing to pay a fair price, we will get a higher quality product. While I’ve been working on the Kiko-Ba menu, I’ve been scouring local farms for ingredients I haven’t cooked with before or that weren’t easily available in Mumbai. I’m currently very excited about baby heirloom corn supplied in the husk. It takes me back to this summer picking corn at the farms in Toronto where we spent a majority of the summer.
*Food as medicine. You’ll see Ginger Fried Rice on the menu at Kiko-Ba and while it’s delicious regardless of it’s healing qualities, it’s a special dish in my family especially for the nourishment of postnatal mothers. My wife ate this three times a day after giving birth to our son. Chinese people believe that the mother who gave birth is more likely to pick up a cold and the warming and anti-inflammatory effect of ginger can help fight against it. Ginger also promotes blood circulation as we consider it an essential food for postpartum recovery.
*Veganism. In general an animal product free diet is better for you and better for the planet. This is where a discerning consumer comes in. I’ve just posted today on instagram about my recent findings about the environmental impact of almond milk. The more we learn the better we can take care of ourselves and the world we live in.
*Composting. One of my personal 2020 goals is to set up a compost system both at home and at both Kiko-Ba and Dadel. I’m calling in the professionals for help with this one!