We had the good fortune of connecting with Ruchit Harneja and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ruchit, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Pastry arts is a different world in itself. It is all about meticulous art, creatively balancing flavors and skill based techniques. I’ve always had an inclination and hunger to explore the nature of ingredients and cooking styles which made me a pastry chef.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a dessert aficionado, I have been diligently working to eradicate the misconception which says eating desserts is unhealthy. Through all my desserts, I have always translated that eating sweets ‘in moderation’ after your meal always aids in Digestion. It is scientifically proven that eating sweets triggers the release of saliva, which loosen stomach muscles to make the food we’ve eaten settle easily.

So, with my style of desserts, I always make sure to control the amount of sugar and carbohydrate level and also to incorporate appropriate digestive spices like fennel, caraway, ginger, anise, etc which turns out to be beneficial in terms of health.
The spices have been fostering Indian cuisine since ancient age and I’m extremely zealous to assimilate my own spice blends differentiating by their cooling, warming, baking and digestive nature. Each and every spice blend has a different note and reaction when it comes to pairing with ingredients and cooking technique.
I’m doing thorough research on the nature of spices and so far I’ve been very notorious with my unique style of incorporating our phenomenal and unusual spice blends in desserts.

I feel the creativity and innovation in gastronomic world is ever-evolving my latest trend is to go HETERODOX.
I work a lot beyond the food pairing parameters and most of the time succeed with my experiments on the concept of negative food pairing in desserts.
For example, Pairing ingredients like fresh green chilies with Indian desserts is something for which the orthodox side of food pairing would always be against.
You’ll find such ‘Not to do’ food pairings in a lot of my desserts in the most entrancing way.

In my opinion, surprise is an important element of a meal. Guests have certain preconceptions when coming to a restaurant like ours. Generally, they imagine the proceedings to be a bit formal – and I like to toy with that notion. My mission is to astonish, to surprise, to shake up guests and see a childlike sense of wonder on their faces.

During my 100-day journey in India, I travelled to plenty of tucked away places to fetch recipes which are not in the mainstream and those dishes are barely found on any menu card here in the United States like bebinca from Goa, Ghevar from my Hometown – Jaipur, endless varieties of Halwa from North India and Mishti doi from Bengal.

Another very engrossing fact about my desserts is the use of my unusual ayurvedic spice blends, which I invent for Indian desserts and use of super foods like millets and grains, Moringa leaves, Lotus seeds, etc.
I bring back the long lost Indigenous Indian grains like Bajra (Pearl millet), Jowar (sorghum), Ragi (finger millet), Kangni (Foxtail Millet) to the modern world of gastronomy.

Through the desserts I make, I try to create some of my most memorable moments of life by reminiscing my childhood memories and joys.
I have created modernist versions of such treats which every Indian has cherished at some point in life.

Bottom-line, My intention through Musaafer’s dessert program is to showcase our homeland in a manner that authentically honors the country’s culinary diversity.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Houston’s dining scene is one of the best for gourmands, and our restaurant ‘Musaafer Houston’ is recognized as Time’s world’s greatest places 2021. Luckily my best-friend and I share our one and only hobby and recreation, which is to explore restaurants and eateries. And to our favor, culinary culture here in Houston is incredibly diverse and vibrant. He has to definitely start his excursion here from Musaafer which is a must-visit spot, the moment you land in this city.

Then there are some plenty of restaurants which offer excellent takes on some of the Mexico’s finest regional cuisines.
We definitely need to grab classic street tacos from the Tacos Tierra Caliente truck, then head to Caracol for coastal Mexican cuisine.

Chinatown has some lip-smacking dishes to be tried from hole-in-the-wall eateries of Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese cultures. Ramen from Tiger-den is a must.

By-far the best burgers I’ve experienced so far, are from hopdoddy, so that definitely has to be on the list.

Before dinner, would love to enjoy expertly-mixed martinis and Manhattans at the vaunted Anvil Bar & Refuge.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I started cooking since the day I could reach the stove top. Learning the nuances of cooking from my mother and grandmother, I articulated the fame I currently hold by making way to the very prestigious Institute of Hotel management, Bangalore in 2010 and later completed Hotel operations management training from The Taj group of Hotels.
I had a couple of advantages in my support, as I helped my father to bring his ambition of opening a small eatery in Jaipur called ‘Ravee’s Kitchen’.

I learnt the knack of resourceful and sustainable cooking from that project.
The most cherished joy of cooking for family landed me in a challenging situation which called for certain modifications in recipes, because of my family history has sever diabetics.
This gave me a spectrum to look at desserts from a different angle. I gathered a ton of information and executed a research that says ‘healthy dessert eating is not a myth’.
I took it as my quest to set a benchmark of healthy Indian desserts in a contemporary way.

I armed myself with knowledge of applied nutrition & food science from the tips I used to get from my mother as that’s her core competency and educational background.

I have also been brought up with a great hotelier in the family. My uncle, Chef Ashish Bhasin who has mentored every step of mine in the industry and pushed me towards excellence.

I’m widely renowned as a chef-traveler now based on my perpetual food journeys. I got an opportunity by the owners of The Spice Route Co. (Mr. Shammi Malik & Mrs. Mithu Malik) to embark on a 100-day culinary journey.
This journey was made to explore varied Indian desserts and pastries and learn ancient and traditional recipes from each region. The knowledge I gathered from my journey has not only added depth to my expertise, but helps me thoroughly in achieving my mission to provide an educational tour to American diners.

My triumphs of travelling took me across the world to take master classes with some of the world’s most renowned pastry chefs, including Chef Antonio Bachour, who was named as one of the “Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America,” Chef Carles Mampel, who was selected as the Best Euroamerican Pastry Chef, and Chef Marike Van Beurden, the award-winning pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong.

I travelled to France and Belgium to learn the extensive chocolate arts at the Callebaut chocolate academy; to Italy to learn the art of ice cream, gelato, and frozen desserts at International school of gelato, Rimini; and to Spain to study the deep science of molecular gastro art at SOSA ingredients, Spain.

Website: https://www.musaaferhouston.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ruchit.harneja/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruchit-harneja/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruchit

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