New Chef, New Menu Items at Whip In

Martine Pelegrin helps 'Whip Indianize' comfort-food classics

Martine Pelegrin at the Whip In
Martine Pelegrin at the Whip In (Photo by John Anderson)

Continuing his efforts to keep things fresh and fun at Whip In, general manager Dipak Topiwala hired Martine Pelegrin in April as chef and kitchen manager. Austin food enthusiasts will remember Pelegrin from Le Marseillaise, the online French bistro she operated alongside her husband, Eric, until April 2009. Her culinary playfulness and creativity fit right in with Topiwala's mission to "Whip Indianize" comfort-food classics by adding Indian flavors. "Martine has tremendous kitchen knowledge and a full grasp of what spices can do," says Topiwala, the man behind such delightfully wacky dishes as the South Asian Frito Pie: Bastrop Cattle Company beef and Lone Star beer-curried chili, Fritos, organic black bean masala, shredded jack and cheddar cheese, sour cream, and homemade cilantro chutney. He consulted with Pelegrin to develop the gravy for his "Indjun" chicken-fried steak, and after seeing the success of the dish and the potential Pelegrin had for the company, he offered her the full-time position, a move that will allow Topiwala more time to work on the new Whip In brewery.

"Chandan [Topiwala's mother] laid an excellent foundation menu, so I want to follow her flavor profiles by using ingredients that are not necessarily traditional to Indian cuisine, yet still honor great home cooks like her," says Pelegrin. "I am thinking, 'What would Indian home cooks make if they had access to the variety of ingredients that we do?'" Her specials change almost daily according to ingredient availability and will change seasonally. Recently we enjoyed shepherd's pie made with Loncito's lamb stewed in sherry, curried, and covered with Yukon Gold potato mash, and a pan seared, jalapeño-cilantro Gulf black drum fillet with tomato-pastis sauce, served on spiced basmati rice with the house cucumber salad. By popular demand, Pelegrin also serves a rotating selection of Le Marseillaise appetizer favorites like brandade, rillettes, pâté, and eggplant caviar.

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