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From Fashion To Malaysian Food: Chef Salil Mehta Has Never Actually Set Foot In Malaysia

From Fashion To Malaysian Food: Chef Salil Mehta Has Never Actually Set Foot In Malaysia

A Malaysian restaurant called Laut in New York recently earned a Michelin Star.

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A restaurant serving Malaysian food in New York called Laut is said to be the first Malaysian food restaurant to have a Michelin Star.

Located in New York City’s upper west side, Laut is owned by Chef Salil Mehta who took over the restaurant in 2010.

Chef Salil is making headlines here thanks to a recent interview he had with CBS.

The reason for this is that Chef Salil revealed that he has never actually set foot in Malaysia.

In the interview, he also mentioned that back then, he never knew what a Michelin Star was.

I’ve never been to Malaysia in my life.

Chef Salil Mehta

After admitting this to host Meg Oliver, the scene cut to Chef Salil showing her how to make roti canai. You would not have guessed that he has never sat food in a KL mamak shop by the way he expertly kneaded and flipped the dough.

Foray into food

Chef Salil told Oliver that he was a self-taught chef who learned through a lot of research.

This was probably due to the fact that he had come to New York to become a designer. Being born and raised in New Delhi, India in a household of 40 family members, Chef Salil graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 2008.

He initially quit design to work in the food sector to “pay the bills”.

Pic Credit: CBS

Chef Salil told Oliver that he used to visit a Buddhist temple in Elmhurst, Chicago in the state of Illinois where the Thai community would cook for the monks.

“…and I just went there, I took food, and I started talking to the local Thai ladies,” he said in the interview.


At Laut, his popular main course is the Dragon Breath Char Kway Teow.

There are many recipes from Malaysia in the restaurant including the iconic roti canai and nasi lemak.

“This is your comfort food. It could be breakfast, it could be lunch, it could be dinner, it could be your drunk food. It could be your any food,” Chef Salil said of his Dragon Breath Char Koay Teow.

On their website, it states that Laut’s goal is to preserve the flavour profiles of each dish they serve, while maintaining the integrity of each cuisine.

The only way to achieve that is to recreate them from scratch with regionally authentic spices and the freshest ingredients.

Laut NYC

While Chef Salil has not been to Malaysia, it is heartening to see that he uses Bahasa Malaysia in some of his menu, such as ikan bakar which is listed under Chef’s Specials.

Apart from roti canai, Laut also serves roti telur and murtabak.

The prices may make your eyes water though as a murtabak served with spicy curry dip is priced at USD19.

But, it’s a Michelin Star restaurant in New York City and it’s a wonderful thing that Chef Salil is doing, introducing Malaysian food to New Yorkers and Americans in general.

Going strong

In the CBS interview, Chef Salil said that for him, South East Asia is a source of inspiration and full of fascinating stories he wants to continue to share.

Besides Laut, Chef Salil runs several other eateries including another Malaysian restaurant Wau (BM word for kite) and also a bar, Singlish, inspired by cocktails from Singapore.

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