Settle Anywhere - A Conversation with Pablo Naranjo Agular
Settle Anywhere' is a series dedicated to chronicling the lives of people whose idea of "home" has evolved with their various significant movements. We talk to some of these people to understand more about these movements and their influences on their work and life, and about how they manage to settle just about anywhere.
Pablo Naranjo Agular is a Colombian-Hungarian chef, born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. He studied culinary arts at Paris' esteemed Le Cordon Bleu (LCB), and was running his own restaurant in the city when he was approached by pastry chef and fellow LCB alumnus, Pooja Dhingra, to help set up Le15 Cafe in Mumbai. Pablo now heads the venture, operating out of a space in the tourist-frequented bylanes of Colaba. For the second edition of 'Settle Anywhere', he takes us through his move to Mumbai.
Pablo Naranjo Agular
The Ups and Downs
Starting life in a new place is never without its rewards and challenges. And Pablo has been through his fair share. "Starting from scratch is never easy right? There's nothing much worse than being forced to do something, and when you're moving, there are a lot of things you have to do - which is what makes it so tough. It's really exciting to start life in a new country but the rigamarole that comes with it is hardly a breeze. Things like finding an apartment, opening a bank account, getting a cell phone plan, WiFi, and arranging for legal documents (visas and government appointments) aren't exactly fun and take up a lot of your time." Pablo, however, does manage to find a silver lining to this otherwise dark cloud of bureaucracy. He says, "You can learn a lot about a new culture when going through these processes though. So if you look at it as an opportunity to learn about the country, it becomes easier."
Getting to the best parts of starting over somewhere new, the chef attributes a significant portion to the newness itself. "You feel like a baby seeing things for the first time. Usually when I move cities or countries, I overexpose myself to simple things, and after a couple of days or weeks, I need to lock myself up just to be able to process them all. There is so much to see in this world. It baffles my mind every time I get to observe a different part of the world, and the societies, cultures and beliefs people have constructed for themselves. Lastly, one of the best parts is obviously discovering the food. I didn't want to have a very chef cliché answer, so I talked about all of the above first, and then food."
"I've been saying this for many years - I don't live my life, I taste it. And the more you taste, the more you know and learn."
There isn't much Pablo had to change about his lifestyle to feel completely settled in Mumbai, at least not within his own home. "When I'm at home, I don't need much to feel settled. I'm quite simple like that. Moreover, I don't spend much time at home. Instead, I feel the need to know the neighbourhoods I live and work in, so I usually go for walks just to observe everything. It's always fun knowing what's around you."
Your new surroundings are bound to influence your personal and work lives. In Pablo's case, he says, "I believe that we are who we are because of every single thing we've lived through until the present. Moving from one country to another is just a mind-opener and every moment I spend in a city changes me a little, as a human and as a chef!"
Much like the other places he's lived in, India has certainly left its mark on him. "I can safely say that I'm a different person now. I am way more easy-going. Some things that used to be very important in my life, aren't anymore. For a chef, your palate and your taste in food changes completely when you move. There are things I would've never craved, but I would kill for them now...and that's just because we're exposed to a lot more and have so many ways of interpreting everything. I've been saying this for many years - I don't live my life, I taste it. And the more you taste, the more you know and learn," he adds.
Follow Chef Pablo Naranjo Agular's work and life here.