Aktar Islam

The chef director of the award-winning Lasan Group talks cooking with mum, fish and chips with dripping and his debt to Gordon Ramsay

Tell us about your cooking

I have a very individual cooking style. I celebrate the vibrant flavours from the Indian subcontinent and combine that with some of the best of British produce, delivering a truly unique experience for our guests. Great ingredients really excite and inspire me. Working with passionate producers is also something that’s key to the Lasan group philosophy.

How did you become a chef?

My training started from a very young age. My earliest cooking memories are from spending time in the kitchen at home where I would help my mother cooking for the family and guests. My mother has been one of the greatest influences and things I gleaned in the early years still influence what I deliver on a plate to this day.

What do you eat when at home?

The key emphasis is on sharing. It’s almost always a very social affair where all my friends gather around the table to eat, drink and generally be merry without too much faff! Whether it be a massive bowl of biryani or a platter of spicy jerk chicken what matters most is that everyone digs in and it’s a hearty meal.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?

Gordon Ramsay has been a massive player in my life and he’s been instrumental in spreading the gospel about the great things we’d been doing in our early years in Birmingham. In my opinion his success is unparalleled, a truly impressive and talented chef! As a city we’re very lucky as we have so many talented chefs that I’m honoured to call friends – Luke Tipping, Glynn Purnell, Brad Carter and not to mention all the guys within our group.

Is the customer always right?

We always endeavour to try and please all our guests. Nobody is always right, but what’s important is that everyone is able and willing to accept criticism or be open-minded enough to be educated as often complaints are down to lack of understanding of the product.

Share a cooking tip

My biggest complaint is over-cooked fish! I always say leave it slightly under as it will continue to cook as it rests on the plate, so usually by the time it’s at the table it will be perfect.

What was your favourite food as a kid?

I’m a mummy’s boy… I love all the amazing flavours that would come from the exquisite dishes my mother would cook. To this day, I often call her and put in requests. Another great favourite of mine is good old-fashioned fish and chips. It’s all about frying in dripping – sadly something we don’t see very much anymore.

Food heaven and food hell?

I’m a fiend for a great piece of beef, so food heaven is steak. I get my fill at Fiesta Del Asado quite regularly… In winter months we do a mutton porridge at Lasan which is really satisfying and hits the spot! As for food hell – I hate mushy fruit.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?

Lamb’s brain is definitely one of the most unusual. It’s very rich but so good with some wholemeal bread!

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

I guess a producer or grower. I really do love food from farm to fork and would like to be a part of that process.

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?

The tasting menu. It allows guests to follow the journey through our current menu paired with great wines. It’s extremely popular and definitely the best way to experience Lasan.

Lasan, 3-4 Dakota Buildings, James Street, St Paul’s Square B3 1SD. Tel: 0121 212 3664 www.lasan.co.uk