Speaking at a function here on Monday night where he conferred the honour on Chatterjee for his contribution to reinventing the gastronomic scene in the Indian capital, Ziegler said French and Ind share two unique traits: they can talk about food, food and nothing but food, without getting bored for even a second - and there isn't a single French or Indian film that doesn't have a scene featuring a meal.
"Priyam, you like to introduce yourself as the ambassador of French cuisine in Delhi. You most certainly are so, and tonight we applaud your most promising career," Ziegler said.
Having trained under eminent French chefs, Chatterjee is known to honour French cuisine by revisiting the traditional dishes of his native state, West Bengal. His masterful plating, his eclectic cooking style and his creative dishes draw upon his Bengali roots, the French influence in his life and his love for music and art.
"The first time that I tasted your cuisine, I was astonished that I had not met you earlier," the envoy said, adding: "This was at QLA restaurant in March 2018 and you had agreed to promote the Gout de France event, which aims at making French gastronomy better known in the world."
"It was quite an amazing occasion. I remember that I had originally planned to stay for half an hour for a cross-interview with you; instead, I stayed on for two hours to sample the dishes you had prepared," Ziegler said.
Noting that it is precision that characterises the chef, the French Ambassador said: "It's there in your dishes as well as in your paintings - because you paint - and in music - because you are a very good rock drummer. And, often, your plating is reminiscent of artworks. One gets a glimpse of your whole personality even before tasting your dishes. Apart from its taste, what is striking in your cuisine is quality and creativity - two qualities that Master Chef Paul Bocuse has always highlighted, and are at the core of French and Indian cuisines."
Chatterjee is currently the head chef at Jaan Restaurant Yacht, France. Prior to this, he was the head chef of Rooh (group of Indian Chef Sujan Sarkar) and QLA in Delhi.
He began his rigorous training under Chef Jean-Claude Fugier (from Maison TroisGros) at Park Hyatt Hyderabad, before moving on to Fauchon in Oman. He has also cooked with French Chef Ernest Darren Alford, Michelin-starred chefs, Spanish Koldo Royo and Italian Matteo Grandi.
With a narrative behind every platter that he dishes up, his reinvented Bengali cuisine and his training with French and European chefs have contributed to his experimental gastronomy.
Instituted in 1883 by then French Minister of Agriculture, Jules Meline, the Ordre du Merite Agricole is a distinction bestowed by France for outstanding contributions, among others, to agriculture, agro-food industry and gastronomy, regardless of the nationality of the recipient.
( With inputs from IANS )