SHAGUN MEHRA – A chef, oenophile and a conservationist
Shagun Mehra draws her gastronomy inspiration from her time training and working all over the world. She was educated in hospitality at Switzerland’s renowned Ecole Les Roches and fine-tuned her culinary skills at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu. She recently completed training at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian which is said to be the Mecca for Avant-Garde Gastronomy. She was handpicked to represent India by ICEX Spain. While in Spain, Shagun cooked a 4-Hands dinner with top Barcelonian chef Xavier Pellicer. The dinner was an Indian inspired meal using Spanish produce and was featured by La Vanguardia as being a huge success. Shagun co-founded the first accredited Wine School in India and has personally trained top hotel, airline and restaurant staff across the country on the finer points of food and wine.
Shagun is a director at her family hotel in Vadodara, she is also co-owner and Director of Cuisine at the luxury award-winning resort Coco Shambhala Goa & Sindhudurg. In addition to being named one of the top 5 craftspeople in India by The Luxury Edition of Fortune Magazine, her passion for food led her to host and feature in a variety of shows for networks such as Ping, Living Foodz, Arré and India Food Network.
Shagun is incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about wildlife and animals, particularly conservation and care, which led her to co-found the Ear to the Wild Foundation and she works with the Wild Life Institute of India to save Elephants from train collision deaths. She is also working with the Goa Forest Department to arrest Turtle & Dolphin deaths. She believes in giving back to the planet and making her life useful towards a better future for the generations to come.
Here is Shagun Mehra in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) How did your journey as a Chef begin?
Born in a family of hotel business and management, I was very early versed with Food. We are incredibly passionate about food as a family and that was my laying foundation.
2) Who has been your inspiration?
My mother is a formidable cook. I have grown up tasting exquisite preparations of regional Indian cuisines as well as international flavours – all under the umbrella of vegetarian, plant-forward cuisine. My mother is my first inspiration.
3) Tell us about your Wine School.
Returning from schooling in Europe, I found a sudden enthusiasm in India for wines – but there was a missing link between wine supply and the wine consumer. Hence I decided to pursue further wine education for myself and my countrymen. I co-started the wine school with Sanjay Menon – a fine wine importer and our school ‘wine educated’ many in India.
4) How did you feel after getting such good compliments for your own dishes?
It motivated me further towards the direction I had taken. I feel grateful.
5) Tell us about your experience in ICEX.
Incredible and intense Gastronomic journey at one of the finest culinary institutes in the world – Basque Culinary Center. I represented India alongside 21 chefs and FnB professionals from 11 different countries – of which I was one of only two women vis a vis 20 men. It inspired me to stand up for and represent India for ‘Women in Gastronomy’ – an initiative by a Michelin Star Female Chef, Maria Jose.
6) Which has been your favourite food item?
A fresh Baguette with Camembert Cheese.
7) Tell us your favourite recipe.
My Ridge Gourd Salad will surprise you.
8) Tell us about your foundation.
Learning about elephant train collisions in 2017 shifted something inside me. Ear to the Wild Foundation (EWF) was formed to find solutions and give focus to this particular problem. Elephants are sacred to us Indians as well as a highly endangered animal. It is an animal similar to human beings in many ways. Hence, “If science has advanced enough to send a man to the moon and bring him back safe, why can’t we allow the largest animal on earth to pass” – MK Dr Ranjitsinh, Architect Wildlife Protection Act of India and Chief Advisor EWF.
9) How was life in quarantine?
Quite eventful personally and professionally both. It was been a time of big changes. EWF kept me busy throughout and many incredible travel experiences came my way during the pandemic.
FACEBOOK: Shagun Mehra’s Food Design Studio
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