Sameer Taneja, an Indian chef, is upscaling the dishes of Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, Benares in Mayfair as an executing chef. The Delhi-born chef who had no idea what to do in life chose to study Hotel Management.
Taneja started his career in Delhi and one of his favourite fast-food joints, Nirula’s. After a few months, he moved to Jaipur to work at the Oberoi Rajvilas as a commis chef, and finally, made his way up to London. When Taneja was working in Jaipur with chefs from France and England, his passion for culinary arts blossomed. He started writing hundreds of letters to chefs across the world, hoping to get a better opportunity.
That opportunity knocked his door through Pascal Proyart, who helped Taneja relocate to London in 2003. That was the time when he realized his dream to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant through an opportunity with The Westside Inn. Life came a full circle for Taneja when he managed to put Benares on the coveted red book in 2012. He also worked at many famous restaurants in London like Michel and Alain Roux at Waterside Inn in Bray, and Pierre Koffmann at Koffmann’s in Mayfair.
In 2015, Taneja launched his restaurant, Talli Joe, in Covent Garden, but after four years, he joined back Benares as an executive chef.
According to Taneja, the idea to create food for him is to elicit an emotional response. “When you see a plate, it shouldn’t make you think, ‘Oh, this is pretty’ because that’s not what food is supposed to do. Rather, it should put a smile upon your face,” said Chef Taneja, during an interview with India Food Network in February this year.
As the Delhi chef grew up having his mother’s chaats in India, he chose to recreate his mother’s cuisine. He then came up with the ‘cured sea bream and oyster chaat’ and tagged it as his signature dish.
His own version of chaat combines the saltiness of oysters. It is garnished with crispy Indian boondis and served with sour Aam-Panna dressing.
Taneja sees a massive impact of Indian cuisine in London with the largest number of Indian restaurants making it to the prestigious Michelin Guide of fine dining. Besides, the chef is upbeat about the trend of small Indian restaurants serving single-origin and regional cuisine from different Indian states.