Chef Interview: Daniel Shemtob

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Amira recently collaborated with Chef Daniel Shemtob, winner of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” to create an exciting menu for the March debut of the Amira Basmati Bus at Natural Products Expo West in California.

At the age of 26, Shemtob is a talented young chef who has achieved tremendous success with his own award-winning food trucks in California’s Orange County.  Not to mention, he also opened his own restaurant, TLT.  His dedication to local, organic and sustainably sourced fresh ingredients and inventive recipes make him the perfect pairing for Amira.

Karan A Chanana: How would you describe basmati rice to someone who has no knowledge of it?:

Daniel Shemtob: Basmati rice is excellent. It’s delicate, aromatic, and has very distinctive and beautiful fluffy, long grains. Considering how delicate the rice is, I was impressed with the Amira basmati rice.  It holds its own against any curry or stew, and you can still taste the flavor of the rice.

Why is basmati rice held in such high regard throughout the world?

From my standpoint, the high quality and uniqueness of basmati rice makes it greater than all other grains.

You created the menu for the Amira Basmati Bus at Natural Products Expo West.  What was your process?

When I put together the menu, I wanted the basmati to really stand out. I wanted the flavors to be complex, yet created with simple and minimal ingredients to highlight the basmati rice.
I also wanted to offer a variety of tastes to keep people coming back up to the truck to try all of the samples. I feel like I accomplished that with the menu items. Each dish had different flavor profiles and different styles of preparation, while still leaving the basmati as the star.

What would you say is your favorite dish on the Amira Basmati Bus?

This is a difficult decision. It’s like choosing your favorite child. They are all delicious, but the Middle Eastern Rice Salad is very nostalgic to me. I enjoyed the process of preparing it, and eating it, a lot.

What is more challenging; owning food trucks or a restaurant?

They both have their unique challenges, but working anywhere in the food and beverage industry is quite challenging. It’s all fast-paced and I want every dish to be perfect.

What region of the US is home to your favorite cuisine? What about the world?

In the US, I love Southern California. It’s a melting pot of all of these amazing cultures. In one place, you are able to eat super authentic food for cheap prices or go splurge and dine at a Michelin-rated restaurant.
My favorite cuisine in the world is too difficult to pick, since it has so much to offer. Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern flavors do get me really excited, but good pasta from Italy can change your life.

What is your favorite food memory?

I have so many, like eating frozen chocolate covered bananas in Balboa Island with my dad and making little mini pizzas and complex soups as a kid.

What is your favorite meal when you are home?

It’s a Persian dish called Ghorma Sabzi, which is a stew served on basmati rice… coincidence.

Daniel Shemtob’s recipe for the Amira Breakfast Chimmi Rice Scramble