From Jeweler to Pizzaiolo, Melt’s Abhijit Choksi is a Self Taught Success Story
After trying out two experienced chefs at his first restaurant venture in Goa, this former jeweler turned pizzaiolo, decided to teach himself how to cook. Having spent a lot of time in Italy as a jeweler working with big brands, Abhijit was attracted to the artisanal creativity of pizzas. In Italy, pizza chefs are called maestros! And so Melt was born.
At first, Abhijit hired a chef from France and another from an Indian metro city who were both top of their game. Unfortunately, both didn’t work out and with only a couple of weeks to go before his restaurant opened, Abhijit decided he was going to teach himself how to be a ‘pizzaiolo’.
He soon came across an inspiring episode of Chef’s Table featuring Nancy Silverton, owner of a pizzeria in Los Angeles, who began her career with famed chef Wolfgang Puck and helped create a couple of landmark eateries in the city. On a whim, he called her restaurant on the phone and asked to speak to her. To his surprise, she spoke to him for 30 minutes about his approach to the artisanship of pizzas.
Abhijit wanted a light pizza that is delicate and nourishing, which he achieved by using a slow proofed fermentation process for the dough and carefully sourcing ingredients such as protein-rich flour native to the rainless Kutch area. He feels that pizza should be like a sweet perfume, with the flavour lingering for a while. And that is the experience international and Indian guests have with his pizza. A couple from Delhi remarked that they had visited Naples and were so pleased to discover authentic Neopolitan pizza in Goa, which they have not come across elsewhere in India.
Some of his traditional, artisanal creations include an ‘Eggy’ pizza like you get in Florence, a ‘Cinque Formaggi’ with five cheeses rather than the usual four cheese, and a Roasted Pumpkin with pine nuts, ricotta and sumak spice. Vegetarians can rejoice here with herbs grown literally in his garden, or sourced from nearby farms. Meat lovers have their choice of Jamon Serrano, Prosciutto, homemade beef meatballs and smoked salmon.
Abhijit chose Goa because it allowed him to explore his ideas more than cities like Bombay, Delhi or Dubai, and he was able to take his time to hone his craft here.
In a sprawling bungalow off the main road bordering Arpora and Anjuna, Melt has a uniquely Goan character to it. Guests dine under a breezy shade structure with a view of the open kitchen and long bar counter, which are within the main house. The herbs and vegetable garden makes for a relaxing ambience surrounded by aubergine, zucchini and pumpkin plants.
Keen to educate people who are only familiar with pizza as a fast food, Pizzaiolo Abhijit guides his team to work off the principle of adjusting the menu to suit the weather. “You can’t standardize a living product. Various factors will impact the taste of farmed produce and our flavours are largely inspired by our garden.”
And the menu doesn’t stop at handcrafted pizzas. The ‘Quick Trip’ section features ‘Beets Me’ a Lithuanian cold soup, there are tasty ‘Wiches’ like the Abundant Egg Salad, and pastas as well that are frequently ordered for home delivery by little ones. Grown ups can relish inventive cocktails like flavoured gin and tonics in red capsicum, earl grey and ‘burnt star anise and Sri Lankan cinnamon’. For more surprises, watch this space, as Melt is likely to keep evolving until it becomes an institution on the culinary trail in Goa.