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Celebrity chefs are the pop stars of the 21st century – although their daily life is a lot less glamorous. “You don’t become a chef unless you are extremely passionate about it. The money isn’t great, the hours are long and you work when everyone else is having time off. So you really, really need to want this. It helps if you have your role models to look up to. That’s why it’s great there are now so many famous TV-chefs showcasing the art of cooking. It fuels the aspiration of an entire new generation.”

So says THE ENTOURAGE GROUP’s executive chef Hariprasad Shetty, who has put his name on the culinary map with several high-profile restau- rants around Europe, under the wing of Yossi Eliyahoo, co-owner and founder of the group. THE ENTOURAGE GROUP’s current basecamp is set up on Ibiza, or to be more precise the jaw-dropping premises of the third IZA- KAYA restaurant at five-star boutique hotel Sir Joan in Ibiza town. The fact of the matter is that Shetty is spending most of his hours far away from Ibiza’s blissful beach- es and naughty nightlife, dreaming up new culinary journeys to delight food aficionados.

Lately, inspired by the cuisine of the Balearic island, he dared to reinterpret the sacrosanct and omnipresent paella, experimentally adding wagyu beef, sushi rice, sake, Japanese mushrooms and a stock made with tamari soy. “Food is an evolution, you know,” he says. “You need traditional dishes as a reference, but then it’s OK to improvise and make it your own.” The paella experiment withstood the test, becoming one of the most popular dishes on the menu. It also shows his predilection for the road less travelled — even if it seems like dangerous territory. He took a similar approach to Ibiza’s ubiquitous Iberico ham. That piece of pork was screaming for a twist and so it ended up in a canapé-style dish with honey melon and yuzu kosho.  Shetty was born in the seaside town of Mangalore, Southwest India. “I grew up among fish,” he says, “until we moved to Bombay.” Food has always played a big part in his life, his dad running a restaurant that the young Shetty used to rush to after school, peek- ing in pans and quickly stirring their contents, too. It was his cousin, though, who truly ignited Shetty’s desire to become a chef. “I recall him coming back from his work on cruise ships with a suitcase full of the most amazing exotic memories. I wanted that life, too.” While his DNA is Indian, his true cooking roots lie further east – in Japan, to be precise. He has frequented the country where perfection, balance and an extreme eye for detail govern every part of life, including what arrives on the plate. He mastered his knowledge of Japanese cuisine in London, where he worked for almost a decade at a renowned establishment.


When Shetty moved to Amsterdam six years ago, it was to join MOMO, Eliyahoo’s first restaurant in the city. MOMO, already open for four successful years, was a groundbreaking restaurant at the time it opened.

It was the first sophisticated Asian restaurant where top-notch sushi and exquisite easy-to-share Pan-Asian dishes make up the versatile menu and set the tone for a unique social dining experience. He contributed to a book (with the same name) about his culinary vision, which – he says – surpasses the actual food. “During my time at MOMO, I learned that a great dining experience requires the utmost attention to every element, from the perfection of the chef’s skills to the service, from the interior of the space to the music. Everything matters and must work together. It’s a total package. I learned that perfectionism and eye for detail from Yossi Eliyahoo.” Five and half years later, THE ENTOURAGE GROUP opened IZAKAYA Asian Kitchen & Bar in the same city. Together, Hari Shetty and Yossi Eliyahoo created an innovative union of South American and Japanese cuisines. “The concept was based on small and tasty dishes, not too heavy, and food that is easy to share,” Shetty explains. Dining out is a social thing. It always has been, although people used to only go for dinner maybe once a month, for a special occasion. The frequency with which people dine out now has grown exponentially – and their expectations have evolved accordingly. Eating at home has become a luxury now. I see the same people dining at our establishments six days a week. By sharing food, people interact more. Which implies less stress.”

Could he imagine introducing Indian cuisine influences to the Izakaya signature at some point? “I don’t think it would work. Indian food is very strong in flavour. We use a lot of coriander, cumin, ginger and turmeric – not to mention garlic. It would probably overpower the rest of the ingredients.” Not that he doesn’t love to indulge in the richly-flavoured dishes of his native country. “You can wake me up for a pao, a traditional bread they only make in Bombay.”

When visiting his parents’ home, it’s a welcoming break from the stove for him as his mum dishes up his all-time favourite: a South-Indian traditional dish consisting of neer dosa [a delicacy of the Tulu Nadu region, it’s an ultrathin crêpe prepared from rice batter] with a local spicy chicken curry, accompanied by coconut chutney. “I can eat this seven days a week, 365 days a year – no problem,” he says. “It’s interesting how you can read India’s history through the regional food. As opposed to the North, where you find a lot of influences from Iran which ruled this part of the country, the South has never been conquered. The Moguls only ever got as far as Hyderabad, and thus the food in the region is still traditional.’ Bombay on the other hand is “a true culinary melting pot, you get food from every region. I grew up with kebabs and street carts serving the most seductive tidbits – you can’t beat that anywhere in the world. I literally used to have lunch and dinner, and then go out again to eat.”



Portrait photography: Barrie Hullegie, Hair and make-up Alexandra Borcila @NCL rep.

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