At the age of 10, he whipped up his first ever dish - moong gosht or lentil meat curry - Lucknow style. It was love at first taste for young Mohammad Zeeshan. Fast forward to today, he is the executive chef at Tresind, a Michelin-recognised restaurant in Dubai that is one of the pioneers in the use of molecular gastronomy in Indian cuisine.
Driven by a passion for his country’s cuisine, Chef Mohammad Zeeshan Qureshi is on a mission to revolutionise the way it's perceived. In his interview with Gulf News, he shared his culinary journey and philosophy.
A culinary start steeped in tradition
Zeeshan was born into the esteemed Qureshi family of Lucknow, India, known for its connect to the hospitality industry over generations. The family has a rich culinary heritage that centres on the art of preparing and cooking kebabs.
Talking about his family, Zeeshan said, "My grandfather Imitiaz Qureshi is the master chef at ITC Hotels, known for creating the culinary brand of Bukhara and reviving the Dum Pukht tradition of cuisine. The term ‘dum’ refers to the process of keeping food on a slow fire, while ‘pukht’ means the act of cooking.
“Together, they describe the technique of cooking over a slow fire. This method often involves cooking for extended periods of up to 24 hours. To prepare food using the Dum Pukht method, a round, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a handi (clay pot), is typically used.” Chef Zeeshan explains that the food is sealed inside the pot and cooked over a low flame.
"My grandfather has also served several official banquets hosted by the Prime Ministers and the Presidents of India. He inspired me to become who I am.
“My elder brother, Chef Shadab Ahmed Qureshi, also works in the hospitality industry.” Online reports state that about 30 members of the extended Qureshi family work across the hospitality industry in India.
Growing up surrounded by food and immersed in the traditions of Mughal-influenced Awadhi cuisine, it only seemed natural for Zeeshan to pursue a career in hospitality. He learned traditional Indian dishes from his mother, grandfather and grandmother, who prepared them in their family kitchen. "From my childhood, I have seen my mother, Rukhsana Bano, cooking delicious biryani and kababs, which has always fascinated me."
My goal is to modernise conventional Indian recipes without sacrificing taste. I'm thrilled to serve my molecular creations and love seeing customers amazed.
After graduating from Lucknow University in 2007 and completing his formal culinary training, Zeeshan worked in various renowned hotels and restaurants in India. He started his journey as a junior sous chef and worked his way up to become the Executive Chef at Tresind, Dubai, in 2017.
The artistry of fusion cuisine
The chef has an adventurous palate and enjoys experimenting with international flavours and fusion cuisine, while still maintaining the authenticity of each recipe. "My goal is to modernise conventional Indian recipes without sacrificing taste. I'm thrilled to serve my molecular creations and love seeing customers amazed," he said. As a part of Tresind’s culinary team, he played a pivotal role in shaping the restaurant's innovative approach to Indian food.
One of the standout features of the restaurant’s dining experience is the use of molecular gastronomy techniques, where science meets art to create visually stunning and delectable dishes.
One of his most celebrated creations is the 'rasam sphere', a dish that takes the classic South Indian rasam or tomato-tamarind spiced broth and transforms it into a delicate, liquid filled sphere that bursts with flavour upon the first bite. This dish encapsulates his approach to cooking – paying homage to his Indian tradition while embracing innovation. "I enjoy experimenting with various spices and combinations, spending hours perfecting my recipes. The immense happiness I feel upon finalising a dish is indescribable," says Zeeshan.
When asked about his favourite ingredient to work with, he said, "Coriander. It has an intense flavour and can create magic in a recipe when used in different proportions."
Here are three recipes from Chef Zeeshan to try at home:
A tribute to Dubai’s innovative spirit
Zeeshan believes that Dubai offers everyone a chance to succeed. "Dubai gives you the opportunity to try and bring out the best in you." Over the years, Tresind Dubai has received various awards and commendations, such as the Michelin recognition in 2022 and being named one of MENA's 50 Best Restaurants in 2022. Additionally, the restaurant was awarded a Toque at the Gault and Millau UAE Gala and Guide Release in 2023.
"Always be true to yourself and stay passionate. Keep learning to broaden your mindset and allow new ideas to flow," he said.
"Chefs should be able to experiment with unique recipes without sacrificing flavour. Even minor adjustments to the ingredients can have a significant impact on recipe development. I'm fortunate to have access to such resources and am also learning along the way."