As this year marks the 10th edition of Travel + Leisure India & South Asia’s reader’s choice India’s Best Awards, we are elated to introduce IBA Icons—an editorial-led category that felicitates 10 changemakers and trendsetters across hospitality and lifestyle industries. Presenting the Culinary Innovator, Thomas Zacharias.
Kerala-born Thomas Zacharias is reputed as a chef, but he’s a traveller and champion of regional cuisine first. The former executive chef of The Bombay Canteen is also an Instagram celebrity—his recipe videos with the hashtag #CookingWithTZac have put the spotlight on many lesser-known Indian dishes. Since Zacharias made the announcement of moving on from The Bombay Canteen in December 2020, he has been on a full-time mission to scour the country for vanishing regional ingredients and recipes. His journeys are shared through posts stamped with #ChefOnTheRoad. Kante kanagi (a kind of tuber) from Goa, bakulafrom Kumaon, the Himalayan spice called gandhreni, and many more ingredients from far-flung corners of the country make Zacharias’s Instagram feed a masterclass in Indian food. “Once I started working with my partners at The Bombay Canteen, I realised I knew very little about the food of my own country. I set out to travel through India for about two months in 2014, covered 18 regions,” Zacharias recalls, when asked about the inception of his mission. “I saw traditional cuisine, techniques, and ingredients that I have never seen in my life. I also noticed that people were shying away from these traditions. Ever since, I have taken it upon myself to travel to a different part of India every few months. I have covered around 23 states now, and as I discover more and more, I fall in love over and over again,” says the creative chef.