Chef Jehangir Mehta's Culinary Q&A

We checked in with Chef Mehta, one of 10 rival chefs competing on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, to find out his culinary icon, favorite seasonal ingredients, go-to potluck dish and more.

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Who is your culinary icon?
A:
Jean-George. Not only is he an amazing chef, but he has great business sense.

What's your favorite cookbook written by someone other than yourself? What makes it so great?
A:
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. I love things that are not mainstream and therefore, Modernist Cuisine captivated my attention. The plethora of knowledge I gathered from it was fascinating.

What's your Achilles' heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else's dish?
A:
Bacon. Although I enjoyed bacon, I gave up eating it when my father had his quadruple bypass surgery. Now, it just reminds me of that dark moment.

Give us a favorite seasonal ingredient for each season: summer/fall/winter/spring.
A:
Summer: Watermelon
Fall: Butternut squash
Winter: Brussels sprouts
Spring: Maple syrup

What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who — details, please!
A:
It was on my honeymoon in the backwaters of Kerala. The boatman dived into the water and came up with fresh mussels, then he threw out a fishing net and pulled in some shrimp and then cooked everything right there on the boat. The taste and flavors, along with the mood and romance, made that meal a memorable memory.

What's the first dish you learned to make really well?
A:
Financier

What's your signature party or potluck dish to make at home for friends?
A:
Dhansak, which is yellow lentil cooked with goat meat, pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, fenugreek and any unused vegetables one finds in the vegetable tray. The cooked lentil is then mixed with a variety of herbs and spices and is eaten with caramelized rice, accompanied with onion, tomato, cilantro and lime salsa. It's easy, simple to make and is absolutely scrumptious.

What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
A:
Although I love music, while cooking I enjoy either total silence or, if I am at home, I love to chat with my kids. While cooking, music actually bothers me a bit, but the kids’ chatter is invigorating.

What's your favorite "food city" to visit, and what do you like to eat there?
A:
Bombay, hands down. My favorite is Zoroastrian cuisine (Indo-Persian).

If you had not become a chef, which profession would you have chosen?
A:
Architect/interior designer. I love to create things that leave people in awe, be it with my food or with beauty.

If you have kids, what do you like to cook with your kids?
A:
I have 3-1/2-year-old twins, and we love making omelets together. They get a kick out of cracking the eggs and beating them! Needless to say, we create a "crunchy" omelet!

Chef and owner of Graffiti and Mehtaphor in New York City, Chef Mehta came in second place after competing on The Next Iron Chef Season 2.