In Hong Kong’s vibrant culinary scene, our own Chef Palash Mitra of New Punjab Club has carved a niche that is as unique as his journey, one that has taken him around the globe from India to the United Kingdom to right here in Hong Kong.
Armed with culinary expertise honed in some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens, Chef Palash’s career is a testament to his relentless pursuit of excellence. On Wyndham Street, he found a canvas large enough to paint his culinary vision, earning New Punjab Club the world’s first MICHELIN star for a Punjabi restaurant, which it has retained since 2018.
Chef Palash’s philosophy transcends the boundaries of traditional cooking, embracing innovation while respecting the heritage of Punjabi cuisine. His dishes are a dialogue between the past and the present, a celebration of flavours that resonate with guests from Hong Kong and with visitors from around the globe.
As he continues to redefine the narrative of Punjabi cuisine, inviting diners to explore the rich tapestry of tastes and textures, Chef Palash shared a glimpse into his world during our recent New Punjab Club pop-up at Carousel in London. From early morning chess games with his daughter to the exhilarating rush of a packed dinner service, his “Day in the Life” diary offers an intimate look into the dedication and joy that drives one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated chefs.
5:45am: The day begins early, not by choice but by a charming obligation. My eight-year-old daughter, an early riser and budding chess enthusiast, decides it’s the perfect time for a quick game.
6:15am: After a competitive but heartwarming chess session, I find solace in the simple ritual of a morning shower and a wet shave. It’s these small moments of normalcy that ground me.
6:45am: Breakfast is a family affair in our home. Today’s menu: eggs, sausage, potatoes, English muffin and strawberry marmalade, all complemented by a warm cup of chai. There’s something deeply satisfying about cooking for my family, a stark contrast to the high-energy environment of professional kitchens.
8:30am: Breakfast wraps up leisurely, and my daughter, Sara, already curious about dinner, sparks my guilt for not cooking for her more often. I whip up a fragrant prawn curry with rice, her excitement palpable as she assists with stirring and seasoning. We capture this delightful moment for Instagram, a small but significant memory.
10:00am: I depart for 19 Charlotte Street W1, where my temporary kitchen setup resides. The commute from Surrey to West London is a blend of bus, rail and tube, lasting about an hour and twenty minutes. This journey becomes my mobile office, where I catch up on emails and coordinate with my Hong Kong team due to the time difference.
11:30am: Arrival at the kitchen is met with a fully booked day ahead. Despite the economic frugality of the moment, the doubled price tag of our dinners poses a delightful challenge — to awe and deliver.
Throughout the day, the real challenge isn’t the cooking or ingredient sourcing; it’s navigating the 25-step staircase connecting the essential areas of our kitchen — a physical and metaphorical ascent repeated numerous times a day. Prep time is a whirlwind of activity, with no pause even for a quick bite.
6:30pm: As the first guests arrive, I’m reminded of the diverse and supportive guests we have encountered over the years. The night is a blend of familiar faces and new ones, each bringing their own story to our tables.
Mid-service, my day includes an unexpected challenge — public speaking. Each meal at Carousel begins with a speech from the guest chef, a daunting task for me. Yet, it’s a moment to connect with our guests, adding a personal touch to their dining experience.
Throughout the evening, the dinner service is a dynamic dance of coordination, teamwork and culinary excellence. Adapting to the unique format of Carousel, our team becomes a well-oiled machine, ensuring seamless transitions and timely service.
7:30pm: The night throws a curveball when a guest, after the first course, announces her vegan preference. This leads to a swift, creative pivot in the kitchen. Together with my partner in crime, Chef Sidhu, we raid the pantry and fridge, crafting an improvised yet delightful vegan alternative.
10:30pm: Post-service, the restaurant winds down. We debrief, plan for the next day and arrange for early morning deliveries. Despite the late hour, I manage to grab a quick meal set aside by one of the cooks, aware of the toll it might take on my body clock.
11:30pm: The journey home begins with a fast train from London Bridge to East Croydon, arriving after midnight. A nippy, drizzly night leads me to opt for a taxi over the night bus.
12:30am: Home at last. The house is quiet, the family asleep, save for our cat who greets me at the door. After a quick wash to rid myself of the day’s labor, I check on Sara, sound asleep, then catch up with my wife, eager to share the unfiltered details of my day.
As I finally settle down, poet Robert Frost’s words echo in my mind: “Miles to go before I sleep.” A fitting sentiment for a day filled with passion, challenges and the simple joys of life and family.
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