Dayashankar Sharma

Dayashankar Sharma

His next step was opening Grank Trunk Road with Rajesh Suri, a small neighbourhood restaurant in South Woodford, London. It was a big leap, but their expertise meant they were able to open a place that offered something a little different to everyone else. By focusing on the Grand Trunk Road after a five-week research trip the two of them took along the ancient route, they were able to take the best of every town, city, region and country the trail took them through. ‘We knew about the traditional recipes of where we both grew up, but what about places like Delhi, Kolkata and Benares? Every place we visited along the road had so many different dishes, but we tried to choose either the most popular or famous ones and bring them together on a small menu back in England. There are so many different cuisines in dishes in India – I grew up in Rajasthan which had lots of lamb and goat and game, but no seafood at all because there is no coast. But then in Bengal it’s almost the opposite, and there is a whole new world of ingredients and cooking techniques to discover.’

The trip not only gave Dayashankar inspiration for the menus at Grand Trunk Road – it also made him realise that there weren’t many of these recipes written down or standardised in any way. ‘If you look at things like mayonnaise and demi-glace in French cooking, there is always a fixed recipe,’ he says. ‘You can of course deviate from that, but there is a solid foundation that’s universally recognised as the recipe for that particular dish. In Indian cuisine, there is nothing like that. If you look at something like butter chicken, which comes in a makhani sauce, there isn’t a fixed recipe for that sauce – many chefs might make it in a similar way, but not exactly the same. I think it’s better to have a specific recipe that everyone recognises as a standard makhni sauce, and then chefs can play around with the ingredients if they want to.’

It’s this belief that made Dayashankar decide to start writing down and standardising all his recipes, both his own and the ones he discovered during his travels along the Grand Trunk Road. The result is an enviable arsenal of recipes at his disposal, which he used to build the menu of his own restaurant, Heritage, which opened in Dulwich in 2021. This restaurant follows the same ideals of his previous one – Indian dishes done a little differently – but instead of focusing on the food found along the Grand Trunk Road, Dayashankar has the freedom to explore countless more regional and traditional foods, reimagining them for a modern audience.

Three things you should know

Dayashankar has won many awards during his career, most recently earning the title of Best Chef at the Asian and Oriental Chef Awards 2020.

During his training, Dayashankar focused on mastering fish and seafood first, as it was something he’d had no experience with whilst growing up in Rajasthan.

Dayashankar has travelled all over the world to places like Malaysia, Singapore and Geneva to cook at food festivals and events and showcase India's regional cuisine.