We chat to Yousuf about his food philosophy, cooking style and signature dishes.
Chef Yousuf Mohammed refined his skills in some of the UK’s finest Indian Restaurants including Dishoom, Tamarind and Bombay Brasserie. However, it is Yousuf’s childhood in Hyderabad where his father taught him to cook and his subsequent travels that provide the menu inspiration and attention to detail that has seen his restaurant Tsaretta Spice go from strength to strength.
We caught up with the London-based chef to hear about his influences, his favourite time of year for sourcing ingredients and where you’ll find him dining on days off.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including your where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?
My name is Yousufuddin Mohammed, and I am from Hyderabad, India. I have been in the industry for 25 years, and my biggest inspiration is my father. He was my mentor and my honest critic. I fell in love with London when I was here in 2005 and have never left!
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
As I mentioned, my father is my biggest inspiration. He was a master chef at the ITC group of hotels. During my spare time after my studies, I used to help my father at events. At the time, I didn’t realise cooking had become my passion; I worked hard to learn more and one thing led to another.
What’s your signature dish?
There are many dishes, but the most loved are the Hyderabadi lamb chops and Hyderabadi dum biryani which we serve in our restaurant.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Understanding peoples’ palates is the main thing I consider when crafting a menu or making any food.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
No, it’s according to the diners’ preference and the seasonal ingredients. This means we change our menu from time to time. I consider what people like and the feedback we receive in the restaurant.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I would say home-style cooking that makes us stand out from the crowd. I get this comment from people all the time as they mention we serve a good combination of healthy and tasty food which they find unique.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
I love summer. So at that time of the year, I try and experiment with seafood a lot.
What is your favourite ingredient to create with?
My personal favourites are coriander and peppercorns which enhance the flavour of dishes pretty well.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I would say, engineer.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
I love seafood.
When are you happiest?
When I experiment with a dish, and it becomes a hit. And travelling, as I can explore more.
What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
It’s not about favourite, it’s about the most important, and that is a mixer.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Freshly baked pizza.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
I like Noura Restaurant, London.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend?
I am a foodie, so I like to experiment with my food palate and so I try everything.
What do your future plans entail?
My plan is to be a part of a culinary school where I will teach and pass on what I have learned from my father.
What differences do you find working with local produce as opposed to non-local produce in terms of what you can create and flavour?
It depends solely on the quality of the product.
How do you go about menu planning?
We plan our menu according to the season.
What’s the process from picking the ingredients to getting them fresh into the kitchen and into dishes?
It involves a lot of research which I do when I get free time.
How would you describe the food you create at Tsaretta Spice to someone who’s never experienced your kind of food?
I would say to try and then judge!
What’s your favourite flavour combination?
A combination of lemon and garlic, it is really flavourful.
What is the USP of your restaurant?
Home style cooking.
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