On its 450 pages, the book contains no fewer than 68 recipes of dishes that are or have been served at the restaurant but also, and perhaps even more importantly, it tells the story of the life and times of Sat Bains - so far, as he is only 41 years old, so too young for memoirs as yet.
"Too many chiefs" is above all an autobiographic account of his incredible and sometimes difficult journey from when he started cooking at the early age of 16 to where he is today. A personal and inspirational tale of evolution and discovery, thanking all the people who helped him along the way and in particular movingly expressing love and gratitude for his wife Amanda.
When you flip through the book you also get an intimate, behind-the-scenes, look of the creative process in the restaurant, illustrated by the stunning photography by John Arandhara-Blackwell. What does it take before a dish reaches the stage where it can be served at Restaurant Sat Bains? The inspiration and the development process that leads to a new dish is captured beautifully by the photographs of the numerous notes and sketches in his notebook.
Some of the biggest names in the industry have contributed to this book. The foreword is by Heston Blumenthal and the book also features the copies of emails from no fewer than 35 chefs from all over the globe, including David Chang, Mauro Colagreco, Jason, Atherton, Rene Redzepi, Michel Roux and Ben Shewry. The emails are well worth reading, as the chefs tell interesting stories and sometimes hilarious anecdotes about the restaurant industry.
The recipes in the book are divided into three main sections: 'savouries', 'main course' and 'the finish'. These main sections are complemented by 'crossover', chocolate and cheese recipes. Crossover dishes are recipes of dishes that prepare you for the switch from savoury (main course) to sweet (pudding). All recipes serve 10 people and are based on the restaurant's seasonal and British produce philosophy. The dishes served at Restaurant Sat Bains usually consist of at least 90% British produce. Tasting menus at Sat Bains are designed around the five basic flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami. Each recipe has a so-called taste profile where the scale is an indicator of the relative dominance of a certain basic flavour. Each recipe also has a calender which indicates when that particular dish is in season. A unique feature of the book is that every dish in the book can be pre-ordered at the restaurant (if in season) with 5 days' notice if not on the tasting menu already. This is quite a wonderful and fun way of creating interaction between the reader/diner and author/chef.
All recipes come with a short introduction and with clear instructions. This is a book for chefs and the experienced home-cook; some recipes are more challenging and complex than others, but the ingredients are usually not too outlandish. The occasional recipe does include some molecular ingredients however, like agar-agar or citric acid. Recipes in the 'the finish' or dessert section often require liquid nitrogen because all granitas are made this way in the book. It is not something I routinely use at home. Not all recipes are as high-tech as this however, but if you actually want to cook from this book, investing in a water bath is essential, not only if you want to re-create Sat's famous "ham, egg and peas" GBM dish or the evolved version. Most main courses require a water bath too. Another favourite piece of equipment in the main course section is a pressure cooker and as you will appreciate no state-of-the-art chef, creating cutting-edge food, can do without a Thermomix or Pacojet.
But don't let his put you off: plenty recipes can be cooked without specialized gear and asparagus 'gazpacho' with panna cotta and hazelnuts will be a show-stopper at any dinner party. Other favourites (and dishes that I will probably order next time I'm at at Restaurant Sat Bains) are: duck liver muesli - mackerel satay - scallop curry - deer, kofta, burnt aubergine and yoghurt - duck, feta and mint - mandarin and parmesan - chocolate, cumin, caramel and yoghurt - popcorn, passion fruit and miso.
"Too many chiefs only one Indian" is a spectacular book that vibrates with the passion and energy of its author. In the book Sat Bains mentions that at the time Marco Pierre White's book "White Heat" blew him away. Sat Bains' book did the same to me.
"Too many chiefs, only one Indian" is published by Face Publications. The first edition is limited to 10,000 numbered copies and is exclusively available through Face Publications and at Restaurant Sat Bains for £75.