Chef Kamlesh Negi grew up stealing eggs from the chickens outside his home in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. Never mind that he didn’t always cook them right; more than one destroyed pan would have been found in the bin, had one known to look. Surrounded by wildlife and a dozen pets in the mountains of northern India, he learned the kitchen basics from his father, an excellent cook; but this wasn’t a common profession for the residents of his town, most of whom went on to join the army or teach. With a hazy idea of what to do next, he passed the entrance exam for the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology. Opting for a placement in South India, he joined the Institute of Hotel Management in Hyderabad, developing a laser focus on cooking within his first semester. After graduating, he worked his way up at the Novotel in Hyderabad, before moving to The Leela Palace Udaipur as junior sous chef. He then joined the Novotel group again to set up a new space outside Mumbai. In 2016, he joined the founding team of Masque as sous chef and head of pastry, and in 2022, moved into a larger role of Group Head Chef, Urban Gourmet India, which oversees both Masque and boutique catering company Sage & Saffron. Growing up in the hills, Chef Kamlesh was raised on indigenous Indian produce, and despite having formally trained in Western and cold foods, this has very much informed his style of cooking. His food shines a light on native, seasonal ingredients that are often relegated in lieu of commercial crops, with the belief that India has so much more to bring to the fore.