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Top Chef: Aparna Aurora

Twice a month, we shine a spotlight on our favourite chefs in the city. This time round it's Aparna Aurora of South Indian eatery Chutnify, which recently branched out from Prenzlauer Berg to Neukölln.

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Aparna Aurora is one of ‘those’ Berliners: born in Dehli, she grew up in Hong Kong and studied in London, before living in Australia, New York and Mexico among other countries (10 in total) and heading to Berlin from Spain three-and-half years ago. “A masala background!” she heartedly jokes. This mother of two and ex-fashion designer turned chef is the mastermind behind super-popular southern Indian street food restaurant Chutnify. She’s now serving her delicious dosas, thali and bhel puri at a second location in Reuterkiez. And business is already booming.

What kind of food do you cook?

We cook the kind of Indian food I was surprised didn’t exist when I arrived in Berlin: fresh and light homemade South Indian food.  We don’t use greasy, cream sauces here, and guess what, we’re mostly gluten free!

The best-selling item at your restaurant?

I’d say it’s a tie between our traditional Masala Dosa (‘pancake’ filled with a potato mix) and the Bombay Bhel, which is a puffed rice – I don’t want to use the word “salad” – but it’s a puffed rice appetizer with peanuts, pomegranate seeds, a mix of fresh herbs and two of our homemade chutneys: coriander/mint and tamarind/date. It’s huge, it’s a very typical street food dish in India.

A cooking tip…

Use everything fresh! Buy every day, cut every day, cook every day, don’t freeze your food! So use fresh ingredients, and make your food with love. I’m sure everyone says that [laughs], but that’s important. Everyone’s in a good mood in the kitchen, everyone’s having fun.

A dining tip (other than your own restaurant)…

The one Japanese restaurant that I love is called Zenkichi, that’s probably one of my favourites. And another one is Chay Village, which is vegetarian Vietnamese. It’s probably the only decent Vietnamese I’ve been to in Berlin. They have two locations, and it’s the Friedrichshain one that I’m really into.

The food trend you hate the most?

It’s not really a trend trend. But what I don’t like is creamy sauces, especially in Indian food. So often in Berlin Indian restaurants, you find them in every dish, and that’s not very Indian.

The best thing about having a restaurant in Berlin?

Ohhh, it would have to be meeting nice new people. I’m actually originally a fashion designer, and it’s a completely different world. When you’re in the restaurant business, it’s immediate satisfaction: people eat a meal and they say “I loved it!” or not, but obviously the best part is when they say they loved it [laughs].

The worst…

[Laughs]. Immediate dissatisfaction! You get that too, sometimes. I guess in Berlin it would have to be the complainers. You know, you get a lot of people who walk in complaining, even before they eat. I wish I could change their attitude… if only they could walk out after trying it and say, “That was amazing.”