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Diet for The Mind: Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s Guide to a Healthy Brain

How to take care of the grey matter

It was in London that Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s childhood love affair with food bore fruit—it was at the age of 11 that the kitchen became the foundation of his future. A future that involved stints in the kitchens of acclaimed restaurants such as The Fat Duck and Michelin-starred The Oak Room. After he mastered the classical and avant-garde French techniques, Sachdeva went on to master European cooking. But his heart lay in India.

Once Sachdeva was back, he took his mastery of European and French cuisine and married it to a glocal philosophy but at the same time, he’s been pushing culinary boundaries, devising ways of integrating nature more closely with his cooking. Sachdeva worked closely with farmers, relying on seasonal produce, sourcing locally and organically. 

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On Being a Brain Health Advocate
Apart from being a champion for Indian farmers, Sachdeva is also leading the healthy eating revolution. According to him, all health begins in the brain, an organ that is always “on”, working round the clock 24X7 even while we’re catching a few ZZZ’s. The least that we can do, according to him, is feed it well and keep it fueled.

This fuel can simply be sourced from your daily diet that impacts the structure and function of your brain. While a lot has been spoken about stress eating, the relationship between food and brain health is less clear—how does food you consumer influence your mental health and can dietary changes potentially improve your mental health?

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In an attempt to put all such questions to rest, Sachdeva has taken on the role of a host on LF’s new show, Fit and Fast – Fuel Your Brain. The new health-focussed show will have him cook-up recipes designed to keep your brain in the pink of health. The show will also have Mumbai-based neurologist, Dr. Sankalp Mohan, elaborating on the scientific connection of foods on the brain.

Also read: 6 foods to help boost your memory

On What to Expect from The Show
The globe-trotting chef’s experiences find an expression on the beautifully plated dishes, redolent of the fare that were on offer at his restaurant, on Fit and Fast – Fuel Your Brain. “I travel for food, and my culinary adventures often inspire my menu,” says chef Sachdeva. So do not expect cuisine centric dishes on the show: “While I may have a French background, and have specialised in Mediterranean cuisine, my food tends to have influences from different parts of the world; mostly dishes I have eaten and the countries I have travelled to.”

Taking us behind the scenes, he tells us that the thought process, “Our approach was simple—healthy, nutritious dishes for the brain that, at the end of the day, should be tasty.” All 39 recipes featured on Fit and Fast – Fuel Your Brain were created specially and each of them are very dear to his heart. “But watch out for the Kimchi recipe; it’s a very easy recipe to follow, which you can then further use to make your own creations,” he exclaims.

On His Travels  

Food lovers know that your appetite plays a significant role in igniting wanderlust and in search of novel flavours, dishes, and ingredients. As someone who considers himself fortunate enough to travel, chef Sachdeva testifies to this belief. Be it a new flavour, a different technique, the use of a familiar ingredient in a new way, the traveller in him never rests and is always in search of inspiration. According to him, a new culture is what influences him the most. “This is what you take back and use as a building stone to create something new,” he adds.  

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Also read: Junk food and stress, a bad combination

On Using Fresh, Local and Seasonal Ingredients

Enough has been spoken on the chef’s love for all things fresh, local, organic and sustainable. “That’s the only way to cook. That’s what our parents, grandparents have done – and that’s ideally what we should be teaching the generations to follow,” he says. Sachdeva also manages to extract the best of every ingredient on hand. Taking 31 superfoods, each of the 13 episodes will see one ingredient taking centre stage, thereby helping us change the way we look at food.

Also read: Where to find fresh, local and organic produce?

On Making Healthier and Smarter Choices
Search ‘healthy eating’ on the internet and you’ll find depressing and insipid images of veggies. A healthy diet doesn’t necessarily have to restrict you to only ghaas phoos. Helping debunk the myth around healthy eating, chef Sachdeva says, “’What’s healthy isn't tasty or what’s tasty isn't healthy’, is a notion that’s been plaguing the food industry. Staying healthy is a lifestyle choice, and making your healthy food taste better is again a choice you can consciously make.”

Sachdeva recommends not using recipes as a bible, but instead as a guide. When asked about his own tried-and-tested methods for sticking to a healthy diet, he says, “What’s healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. Instead, focus on simply making your meals tasty.” 

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On Keeping up With Challenges and Innovations  
As a chef, pushing the envelope of cooking with innovative experiments is a job requirement, but once in a while, a challenge becomes too great. It was then but obvious for us to ask chef Sachdeva, which was that one ingredient (read superfood) that posed a challenge for him. Unsurprisingly, Sachdeva equates challenge to “fun!”  He adds, “Fortunately, I have lived in Mumbai long enough to understand the season and ingredients, so having to work with the fresh and seasonal produce didn’t come across as a surprise. Unless you consider camera (in this particular case) an ingredient.”

Also read: How to make healthy eating choices when dining out

“One that really had me thinking was ginger; using this particular ingredient in a recipe which you want to share with others can be tricky. Solely because you want the ginger to be the hero but it plays a supporting role. Not having it in a dish makes a lot of difference but at the same time going overboard with it can also overpower a dish.” Trying to strike the right balance was indeed a fun exercise, he signs off.



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