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14 September 2016 Quality Means 100 Percent Guest Satisfaction, Zero Defect for Me

Clement D Cruz is currently the Executive Chef of Hyatt Regency in Kolkata. He was nominated for the Chef of Year by J.C Maclair Hotelier Middle East Caterer in 2005 and 2006. He was the Five Star Employee award of the Quarter 2000. During his Ritz-Carlton days, he was recognized with a first class card from Corporate Chef after a special appreciation by a guest. He won the bronze medal in the Hotel Asia Competition Maldives 2011. This maverick chef who has worked in India, U.A.E and Maldives; has cooked and served celebrities like, Brazilian football coach Zico, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Bollywood personalities like Shah Rukh Khan,Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharmila Tagore, Anupam Kher, Asha Bhosle, Nimrit Kaur and Bengali film stars. In a brief interview with Pallavi Bhattacharya of Better Kitchen the talented chef talked about his professional journey, kitchen planning, serving a variety of guests and new technologies in the kitchen. He gave us a mouth watering recipe as well. Excerpts.

Tell us about your background. How have you come to the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking?

My father is from Portugal. My mother is Bengali.I studied in St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. I did my diploma in Advanced Kitchen and Restaurant Management for the 21st Century from the Emirates Academy in Dubai managed by Jumeirah International. I did my apprenticeship in Oberoi Grand in Kolkata. After leaving Oberoi Grand, I moved to Saudi Arabia in 1994. That’s how my professional career started on foreign shores. Why did I choose the kitchen line? This is because my father used to be a chef. My mother is a teacher. To keep both of them happy, I chose to be a chef, because ever since my childhood, I’ve been seeing my dad churning out a lot of recipes. I got inspired by him.

Where you have done your training?

I started my apprenticeship in 1991 from Oberoi Grand in Kolkata. I then moved to Saudi Arabia and landed in Dubai. In Dubai, I was with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for 13 years after which I was selected to go to the Jumeirah International for learning advanced kitchen management.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how do you plan and visualize it?

When I start my day, regarding what to do and what not to do; I probe into the fridge to find out what we have, how things are being stored and inspect the temperature control. I ascertain whether everything has been placed in order. If you’re a chef, you need to start planning your day with what you have. Then only can you plan for the day.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with chefs. From a chef’s experience, they talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.

Kitchen planning is done by architects and designers in consultation with chefs. When any hotel comes up or any renovation of the kitchen is done, it’s very important to involve a chef in this planning; because at the end of the day, it’s the chef along with the team, who has a better understanding of what can or cannot be done. When I was working in Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dubai, I was one of the key members in kitchen planning. I pondered carefully on how effectively I could design the kitchen for the benefit of my guests. We brainstormed and came up with what we should or shouldn’t do regarding kitchen planning.

How do you rate the food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and be served at the table? How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?

Whatever food goes out of the kitchen to the guests has to have a quality. I define ‘quality’ as 100% guest satisfaction and 0% defect. The guests should really be delighted by the food which is served. The plate the guests eat from should become empty, That gives satisfaction. We make ever so many dishes. If those dishes are eaten with relish, it gives a sense of satisfaction to the chef.

When you are cooking food for a senior citizen, do you suggest something more suitable to his/ her palate?

Absolutely. On viewing the guest’s age, we as chefs, mentally anticipate what kind of a meal may suit him/ her. We need to keep the guest’s need in mind rather than do what we as chefs may wish to do. After all the chef has to keep in mind, that his duty is to delight the guests.

When you are serving 1000 guests, the preparation is bound to be different. How will your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots change accordingly?

It’s very easy to serve 10 guests but very difficult to serve 1000. Before we serve 1000 guests, which is a very big number, we do a cooking session along with a tasting panel. We share the feasibility of giving the best to our guests. Then when the panel has been fixed and the menu has been finalized, we look into the cookware. We don’t do one time cooking but do so in batches while keeping in mind the quality of the food and so that we can live up to the promise that we’ve made to guests. We need to select the cooking pots and cookware against the satisfaction that we’ve promised to guests. A promise is something which can’t be either under-developed or over-developed. That’s why a tasting panel is very important to what will be served on the final day.

Regarding technology, do you use gas or induction; or something different?

We use both; gas as well as an oven. We are now practicing using eco-friendly products which are easy to wash, easily movable, can be detached and are very hygienic.

Tell us about the green practices you follow in your kitchen.

We now use fresh organic products. We use different kinds of vegetables which are also very healthy. We want the guests to feel the organic nature of the ingredients. In my buffet, we always have a green vegetable section, where guests can make salads and the chef is present to assist them. That gives the guests a very healthy choice.

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen? What are the hazards of using different fuels?

A chef must have a fire in the kitchen. We surely need to keep safety in mind as fuel is something which can burn or kill people. The kitchen has many hazards, not just related to fuel, but it is possible that the gas may be leaking or some danger may be related to the electrical gadgets. The chef’s uniform is a fire protected one, it’s of 100% cotton.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?

Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. Way back in the 1960s, there was a gas oven. Then all that we could do was to roast the product. Now, the oven is still there but you can do steaming and roasting there as well. Modern technology is one of the greatest advantages. That’s why when we survey, we search the internet to find what technologies can help us, so that we may introduce the same. Now, newer technologies like molecular cooking are coming up.

Do you have a disaster plan in place in case of an emergency?

As this is a five starred hotel, a crisis and disaster management plan has to be there. We have to undergo various training programmes on the same. We have various teams to handle emergency. We have an evacuation plan for imminent danger.

Earlier we would hear that chefs don’t disclose their recipes. Nowadays with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what chefs are making. Do you think the chefs can keep their recipe a secret anymore?

Now, the guests can see what the chef is doing behind the line. Previously there had to be a wall between the chef and the guests. We called this ‘barricade’, the line of control. Now guests love to see what chefs are doing behind that line, because cooking is both a skill and a science. Cooking is essential. At the end of the day, nobody can survive without food. Guests are eager to learn how we make food.

Of course, we can’t keep the recipes a secret. Earlier the chef would work behind the wall. They were afraid that somebody would take their job away. I don’t wish to mention names but there were many chefs who don’t wish to disclose what they were making. Today, you can’t keep recipes a secret. There are recipes of all the dishes on internet.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?

Absolutely. That is one of the strongest modes of suggestions. Plenty of ideas come from guests. We discuss the menu at length, especially when we have a wedding function or a special event. We incorporate their suggestions and make changes if necessary. Eighty per cent of our invaluable ideas come from the guests. The guests who live in our hotel, have travelled the entire world.

As a chef, what message do you have for the readers who wish to plan their dream kitchen, whether it’s a domestic or a commercial one?

The kitchen has to be clean all the time. It shouldn’t produce someone’s food and someone’s poison. After taking food, it can become someone’s poison. You have to have passion, care and energy to maintain a kitchen, whether it’s a domestic or a commercial one. The kitchen should be designed in such a way that it’s convenient to cook, and hazard free (safety is very important). The kitchen should be a comfortable and practical place for the chef to cook. Chefs stand and work. They don’t have an office desk job. They need to cook in a way that they don’t break their backs. They stand for eight to nine hours. Everything needs to be reachable so that they don’t have to move much while reaching out to things. Rather than having to move around, everything should be in the same place. The floors should be safe. The chef shouldn’t be in the risk of slipping and falling. That’s how I visualize the ideal kitchen.

10 September 2015 An Unforgettable Culinary Journey of Tastes & Thrills

India's Celebrated Master Chef Amit Chowdhury is currently the Executive Chef at the iconic, The Taj Mahal Hotel and Towers, Mumbai, with a grand portfolio of 10 of the city's most popular restaurants nestling in the prestigious property. In an exclusive interview with BETTER KITCHEN, Amit takes the readers on an unforgettable journey of culinary tastes and thrills sharing with them priceless tips and thoughts that only a Chef of his global standing and vast experience could offer.

Your Down Memory Lane

I did my graduation as well as my post graduation from Dadar Catering College. Around that time in 1985, there were only two well-known hotel brands - The Taj and The Oberoi. But somehow, the Taj, being a TATA brand, really appealed to me. So I always wanted to get into this property. Fortunately, Hotel President was taking a batch of trainees and I applied there and passed all the tests. Mr. Shashank Warty, General Manager at The Taj, whom I met many times in Delhi, told me that I had cleared the tests. But then I told him that the reason why I had come to Mumbai was that I wanted him to help me to get into The Taj. I was so desperate to work there. 'Why don't you want to work here, this is a sister concern as well', Mr. Awasthi suggested. To which I said 'The Taj is Taj', it's such an iconic place; it was my dream. To reach here, a lot of hard work had to be done. Obviously I had very good mentors throughout my career. They gave me an opportunity not just to see what is happening within the Taj chain but also to go abroad and see the competition there. Those days we had this tradition of sending the chefs abroad. So, once I finished my training here. At the Taj, we have this 'Zodiac Grill', the most popular European restaurant, where I was the second chef. For Zodiac Grill, it was very important for the chefs to learn about what is happening in different parts of the world. The basic trend was to train with lot of good chefs, at certain iconic hotels such as Dorchester and Connaught Grill in London, since we had European restaurants like Rendezvous & Menage a Trois The concept of Menage a trios was –small portions of three different elements; Menage means mixture and a trios means three. So if you have a starter it is a mixture of three items, or if you have a soup it has to be a blend of three soups; so it was all very unique. I had worked with all of them and that really broadened my horizon. After coming back to Mumbai, I was sent to train with the professors from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The Taj group had brought the professors from CIA to Delhi and they selected people from all over the Taj chain and I was fortunate to get selected. I was the youngest in the group. Usually such training was meant for the senior chefs who had put in a certain number of years of experience. At that time chef Satish Arora was there and he had nominated my name because he noticed my passion for European /continental food. I somehow I think that also helped. So it has been a lot of hard work.

At the Taj, we have Chambers. It is an exclusive club wherein you get invited by the Managing Director of this company to his peers and counterparts in various companies, so we have around (two thousand) members now. I was in-charge of the Chambers and Zodiac Grill, then after 10-11 years I was getting restless, because I was just an outlet chef and I wanted to grow. So luckily, my then Executive Chef, Mr. Hemant Oberoi, who was my predecessor then, selected me to become an Executive Chef myself. At that time, Taj was expanding and opening a small boutique hotel in Dubai. I ran that hotel as an Executive Chef for four years, then I got transferred to Maldives; it was a pre-opening. Taj had two properties there in 2000 - The Taj Lagoon and The Coral Reef. They sent me there as a chef to handle both the properties. Immediately The Taj Lagoon went under hammer for upgradation. So I worked there for two years, meanwhile Chef Oberoi became a corporate chef and he wanted me back. So for six years I was abroad and when called back I sought a good, challenging property. I was offered the Taj Mahal, in Delhi. That was in 2002. So I went there, I opened two new restaurants; one was Wasabi and the other the Varq, a very nice concept, which Chef Oberoi and myself conceptualised. It is a modernistic, fine dining restaurant of Indian food and Indian flavours but presented through the chefs eyes. The perception and presentation were important. Ever since I was in Europe, I had that in mind that the food needs to be presented well, because there is a saying that you first feast with your eyes and then you taste it. So if the look is appealing, its taste also will be equally good. So we opened Varq and it was listed in San Pelligrino Asia's best 50 restaurants, which is actually the Oscar of the food industry and they have the annual ceremony in Singapore. I was very much surprised when chef Oberoi called me up and said 'you have to come with me to Singapore, Varq has won an award', and I was thrilled as it was a recognition on an international level.

In the meantime, there was this celebrity lady from USA, Ms Mellini Dunia, she wanted a coffee table book of most celebrated chefs, top 50 chefs, from around the world. She had a topic - 'The Last Supper'. So she gave me a call when I was in Delhi, this was around five years back. So I was a part of it and I felt very good to know that people do appreciate what I do and hard work definitely pays and in our profession it is definitely the hard work that matters, its absolutely in the kitchen, the amount of planning and so on. So now when you called I was actually busy, I have a very big function of Mrs. Jindal. It was their youngest daughter's wedding; we had around eight meetings, of which I could not attend two. She was really upset about that, so this time she said 'I want the chef to come, even if he is busy at least for 10 minutes, sit with me and I just want to run the whole thing and then he can go wherever he wants'. So again in today's day and age the chef dons many a hat, it is not just the backstage. There was a time when I was always in the kitchen but now it is more of planning and more of thought process and how can I earn more revenue for my property, although I keep trying something or the other in the kitchen. We have a huge budget for this property, so it is a big challenge. There is lot of innovation that a chef can do. I always say that in the 12-inch plate space a chef has to canvas his food, his thoughts and so on. So what I do is, I keep on drawing, I tell my chefs that this is what it is, this is the plate, this is what I am thinking of the foundation on the plate, then on that we will draw this particular item, then we need to look at the texture, colour and so on. So I draw it out first and then go ahead. It is also the way the chef has enhanced or he wants to show certain ingredients of that plate to a guest, may be very miniscule, but they try to change the state of the food; It is also that, like perfumes, the concept of aroma has also come in. So there is a lot of experimentation that keeps on happening. Again every six months we change the menu, like now we have to change in October and for that I have to plan four months in advance for each restaurant. So lots of trials keeps happening, we cannot sit idle saying that, ok we have reached and we are here. No, we have to keep on going.

If you can see the education system in India, it is always there, there is a vast gap between what you learn and what you are going to do in the practical life.

Absolutely, just last week we also incidentally trained our chefs, so when we selected them there is a process in this hotel, it is called as HOMT, Hotel Operation Management Trainees, when they come fresh from the college, to minimize that gap of what they have learned over there and what they will learn over here, we make them through a two-year training. I have a dedicated chef trainer; she is here from morning till night. She draws up their syllabus, trains them and guides them so that they understand that this transition cannot happen overnight. We take them through a period of two years. In the first six months we try and understand what is their expertise, like for example women are very neat and particular and so I always encourage them to go to the bakery or garde manger; then you have certain chefs who are very innovative, they will come up with ideas, but they will not know how to use them. So in these two years we make them understand & help them acquire a strong foundation. Once they come out of the training, when they are in the field, in the food production areas, it helps them to understand exactly what is happening. I remember when we were trainees we directly came into the kitchen, we didn't have this training programme. So today's chefs have evolved a lot, during my time it was like from the college directly to the kitchen. I remember we were a batch of 22 and in just one year's time we shrunk to 16, so it's hard work and during the first 6-8 months some come to know that, ok this is not their profession and out they go. This profession needs a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day it gives you a satisfaction, if you are really passionate about what you do. It is again an art, it's a field where you visualise, where you think, you taste, so all your senses are active and then you come out with a dish and its such a unique profession where your raw material and the finished product is done under one roof. It is not like some tooth-paste which is manufactured at a particular place and used by the end-user at some other place and the feedback goes somewhere else. Here it is so unique, in the morning you will get your raw-materials, by evening you process and make your product, then serve your guest and immediately after that you get the feedback of your work. Its live, 24/7, so it's a very unique job wherein the chef has to make, think, cook, go back to the customer, understand, take the feedback, evolve himself and again come back. So that is a challenge. I also tell today's chefs during my time the chefs hardly used to go in the front to meet guests, but now since last 8-10 years the chefs are the important part of the success of any establishment. They have to be visible and customers feel more comfortable when the chefs come out, talk to them, understand and also as a chef you feel comfortable when you get the feed back and feel satisfied. At the end of the day what happens is your business prospers. So this is the biggest challenge that I keep on telling my chefs.

Would like to know about the open kitchen concept, how it has come up and what are your comments on that?

The open kitchen that you are talking about is a proper kitchen. In an Open kitchen, the chefs do come in, display their own thought process; they are there for a shorter time and they go off; but there is no continuity. So what happens is that though you are in touch with your guests you are giving them the feel and taste of what you want and when the customers yearn for more you are not there. This pop-up kitchen is good for experimentation and to understand their palette. It is a good thing if you understand the palette and convert the pop-up kitchen to a permanent one where they know exactly what is to be done. Taste and flavours evolve, I always say that the life of restaurants is maximum six to seven years, not more than that; you have to evolve, the restaurant, the décor, the design. There are iconic restaurants, I know of, in Delhi which are 20-22 years old, but the food also has to evolve and such iconic restaurants are very few, majority of the restaurants can go on up to six to seven years after which they have to come up with ideas and concepts and décor as a whole package, so that the customers can also feel the freshness. In today's day and age, compared to previous times, people travel a lot, experience variety of food and when they come back they expect exactly the same that they had during the time they travel. So it becomes a challenge, it tests the talent of the chef and hence the chef has to know about what is happening outside.

So do you have had any such inspiration or ideas from the guests regarding some recipes?

Yes, we have a dish called Martban meat and Martban ke Chole that is introduced in Varq and also in Masala Kraft. Martbans are jars generally used for pickles during the olden days. In North of India customers wants their food to be tangy and chatpata, so it was a challenge for me. Once I understood what the guest wants, I had to re-do my recipes a little and innovate a little. So we made this recipe of Marthban ke chhole / meat with pickling the elements in that. We marinate the meat with the pickle and we cook that inside the Marthban on a hot plate, with its lid on so that all the juices remains inside. That was the culmination of two things; one is the old style, what my grandmother used to do and secondly what the guest wants that he wants something pickled and chatpata. So there it was, a new dish. Again pani-puri. Chef Oberoi had started with Vodka pani puri shot, it was something unique, it was like you have your Vodka shots in the puri. So these are the things which are practical, elementary ideas that you get form your guests which you try and convert them to give a new look and taste. Moreover, when the guests come and say that 'okay, give me something new,' we have to be on our toes always. My chefs will always keep on trying something new and show it to me. So we try things which are off the menu and get our regular guest's feedback on it and when we change our menu we incorporate these dishes. So we are giving the guests what they want. Usually what happens, this is my personal view, the chefs from Europe, France and other places, they innovate and they are held in high esteem; so when they make and give any dish, even if you like it or not, you have to give a positive feedback. So there the chef keeps in mind what he has to give, but I feel that a good chef has to keep in mind what the guests want and what he can give to 'Woo' & “Wow” the guests. If a guest wants something a chef should add his thoughts and inputs in that and give him a better thing and that is where the success of the chef is. I always tell that guests are God, you have to listen to your guests and please don't interrupt when they are talking; you just keep listening to what they have to say.

Do you suggest some recipes or ingredients in your regular menus to your guests according to their age group or their health problems?

We don't do it actively because many chefs only go into the restaurants when either the meal is done, then he will go and take the feedback from the guest or as a courtesy. If he goes around and sees if the guests have any dietary requirements, only then the chef goes and takes the order. On the menu we have the health section, in the breakfast menu we even have the calories written in certain health section. In our menu we have a special section where we do health food. I am making a menu now, I will call it as a lifestyle cuisine, wherein we are only promoting health foods which are processed, whether it is through heat or any other mechanical process, for example - if I have to cook meat, I will try to retain the juices, there is a process called

Sous-vide, where you thermetically seal marinated meat, you have a water bath, you put that meat in the water bath and then you cook it, so it retains all its juices and it becomes very soft, now that is a healthy cooking as it helps to retain all its juice though meat is not healthy. For vegetarians we suggest the sprouts or tofu which is high in protein or Any specific diet of their choice.. We have come up with really nice salads and soups and few main courses which I want to promote, because in today's day & age everyone has health issues with either BP or sugar or cholesterol. So keeping this in mind we have the health section and cater to such guests. On top of that if you are glucose intolerant, or if you have any other dietary requirements, my chefs are equipped and trained to tell the guests what they can have and can suggest the menu to the guests We also have a Hidden menu. It is something wherein you plan with whatever ingredients you have, if the guest has some dietary requirements and you have to go and meet the guest and you have to be ready with other options.

Please explain the modern commercial kitchen. Earlier we only had gas burners and Chulha but now we have lot of technologies coming up, so how you manage and plan the modern kitchen?

The modern kitchen has helped us in the cooking process to a very great extent and for cutting and processing also. In previous days if you had taken X time in cooking a particular dish, now it has reduced directly to half of that. The plus point is that in a modern kitchen the chefs don't sweat, you have air-conditioning. In olden days we never had even a vent which was aircooled. In my main kitchen we have air condition, air coolers, treated air is thrown into the kitchen to reduce the temperature. It sucks out the hot air. Then we have these induction plates, so you don't feel the heat. There are more of plus in a modern kitchen and less of negative. One of the things is that in the olden days when you used to cook, whether it was gas or chulha. There were certain brass utensils called deghs, those were heavy but the flavour of the food coming out form them was different. While the modern kitchen and equipments have definitely helped the chef to cut down the cooking time, but the flavour is compromised. . Even the food trend is changing, if you see what is happening now is that it is going through a circle, whatever I read, I understand, talk and communicate with my fraternity, there is definitely a change. The guests now want food from their childhood Which is called comfort food I will shortly introduce the comfort food in my menu, Also to make comfort food you will require those equipment & utensils…. hence that takes us back to previous era, so that is again a full circle. Take for example, when you are cooking biryani you would require a degh and not a a modern vessel. But that requires a little practice. So yes, there are advantages as well as disadvantages of the modern kitchen.

Now in modern kitchen which is fully equipped, is there any disaster management plan?

Yes, we have sprinklers which are automated and set at a particular temperature, and if there is a leakage of gas we have gas detectors as well. The sprinklers are on the top of the hood and these are not ordinary water sprinklers, we have chemical sprinklers, what happens is it has got a glass tube which is resistant to heat to a certain degree above which the glass tube bursts and disperses the chemical onto the fire source. I will give you a very classic anecdote, around five years back I wanted to fix, the same in my Chinese kitchen and the company had come from outside to fix it. We wanted to do a trial run of it. Now the thing is, what we did not take into account was, even the person from the company had also suggested this, the high flame of the gas and in Chinese you cook in very high flame, so the Chinese chef, he was new, was not aware that this sprinklers were there, so I said now let us give it a try and see. So the chef started and within 45 minutes the sprinklers got activated and dispersed the chemical. So I thought this is not the right thing, so we have challenges with the sprinklers as well. We also have water cooled hoods; it cools you and it gives fresh air and it also has this water sprinkler system, so both water and chemical sprinklers are there here. We also have fire extinguishers which are labelled, so for us safety is very important in the kitchen and this company has taken safety to a different level all together, so whether it is the safety shoes also we have it. I have a programme where handling of the equipment is also taught, if there is a new person, even though he has many years of experience, but still he is new to the organisation and the first week he will only learn the handling of the equipment under close supervision so that he understands how to handle a particular equipment, it can be a slicing machine or a chopper or anything else. So safety is of utmost importance. We also have fire blankets because if for any reason if the sprinklers are not able to detect the temperature because of some fault then we need thermal blankets in case of a fire. We also have fire safety training, every week I have to send people and it is mandatory that they certify a certain number of my team through training sessions, both classroom and practical demonstration, to get a certificate and only then can they enter the kitchen. We do it for the safety of the people working in the kitchen as well as for the hotel as a whole. Safety has gone to a different level with the advent of so many gadgets and equipment. Even in the tandoor the live coal that is leftover, we have a process wherein we take out all the coal, after the restaurant is closed, it is taken separately to an open area and doused off. So you also don't have live coal lying in the Tandoor, because in the night when people go, the kitchen is shut and since there are hoods in the kitchen in the morning when people start the exhaust the hoods may suck the dust of the live coal if not taken out and it may catch fire, so all that has to be kept in mind.

Earlier most of the kitchens were designed by the architects and the owners. Nowadays the chef involvement is there. I would like to know your comments on the planning of commercial kitchen.

It is very important for a chef to co-ordinate with the project co-ordinator / facility planner. I have developed and planned my previous kitchens, before I came over here. There are kitchen developers and co-ordinators and you have to work actively with them. I feel the chef should know where his kitchen equipment are and how they are placed because the end-user is the chef. The classic example is where you are keeping the combi oven. It is a steamer, when the door has to open you cannot open it because there is something that is slightly jutting out and when you open the door it is hitting something. There is no other place because most often you will see that the kitchen is cramped and the pace is less. But you are expected to give a better output. So it has to be well planned taking into account the hygiene process also, we have a certificate from ISO 22K-hotels, wherein one of the basic requirements is that your raw food should only move in one direction, when it is processing it cannot come back again, so if you are buying raw vegetables from the bazaar, it is coming to your particular area; it is getting processed, it then goes into the walk-in. Walk-in is a place where we store things in a controlled temperature, then you cut/marinate, then you cook it and then it is dished and passed on to the guest and then it goes into the garbage. So the whole process flow has to be planned first, like where would be my receiving area, from there where would me my walkin in the kitchen, from the walkin where is my pre-processing area wherein I process the food, like cutting of vegetables or butchering of the meat, that has to be sorted out and post that the thermal cooking, the transition wherein I am processing the meat and vegetables, that area has to be there, post that if I am going to hold something, the holding area should be there, like Indian gravy needs to cool down, so that area should also be there and then we have blast chillers, where we cool down rapidly because we cannot cool under normal manner. So you have to explain this kitchen layout and design to the kitchen facility planner, you cannot leave that to him or to the owner, you have to specifically give your inputs, it all depends upon the menu that you are planning. If it is Indian food you got to have tandoor or bhattis and for European where will be the cold kitchen placed, the cold kitchen has to be away from the hot area or well insulated, so all that has to be kept in mind. The placement of the pot-washer and the dish-washer also has to be planned. The pot-washer cannot be at the entrance of your kitchen, it has to be at the exit area, where after cooking the food all the utensils have to go. After cooking the food is plated and it goes to the restaurant and after it comes back the dishes has to go the dishwasher, hence the dishwasher area also has to be earmarked, so more often the kitchen and the back area is integrated, it has to be absolutely well planned and only when it is well planned will you have a smooth flow of things and less complaints. There is lot of hard work that you have to do, when you do bulk cooking you need low flame, like when you are cooking rice or dal in big quantity, so I order burners that are not too low so that you don't have to bend, in olden days even I have done it, you had to bend and then they get back pain and other problems. So to avoid all such problems it is the chefs experience that helps to plan the kitchen. There are many other things like the height of the hotplate, the Combi oven where it should be placed, should it be close to the hot ranges or close to the place where you pickup the food, where will it help more. It all depends on the menu type, what kind of menu you are planning, is there fried items or baked items. Again for in-house dairy products you need a separate walk-in and cooking area. So it is all scientifically laid, the chef has to be well versed, educated, well informed and also he should understand the scientific cooking methods and that is why I say chefs cannot be made overnight, you can build a Manager by giving him a coat and training him to say few sentences and he can stand in front of the guests, but chef cannot be made overnight.

What is your opinion about green kitchen, the concept of less carbon emission?

Carbon footprint, I definitely agree, I am vocal and I am for it and that is what I try in this place. I was discussing with my chefs that I wanted to do a Mile concept, which means that I will get my produce from a radius of one mile, whether it is your vegetables or any other stuff. You can do that abroad because there are lot of affiliated farms and places over there, but here, being a congested city, it is a challenge. Also regarding the English vegetables, we have to fly them down, so again that is also a challenge. As per usage of organic things, I want the organic food to be certified, I do not vouch for genetically grown things. Organic food is healthy to a certain extent. I would also support the chains which are shifting their cultivation from fertilizers to organic. I have done functions where I have got only organic food, but I unfortunately have to pay a higher price to the vendor.

How did you come into this Chef line?

My father wanted me to be a doctor, I couldn't be a doctor but the closest I got into was dentistry. I like cooking, my father was a Sunday cook, an excellent cook, I got into dentistry but at the same time without informing my father I went to my friend's uncle who was working with the Oberoi hotel and he brainwashed me to join the hotel industry. But still I continued to go with the dentistry line and then, may be it was God's wish, I got a letter from the Catering college saying there is an interview and after clearing, the fees had to be paid and you can get the admission. So I asked my dad 'What do you want me to do?' and he said 'Do what you want' and so immediately I applied for this course and got selected and paid the fees and sealed that. I Sot was during the training period I realised that I loved cooking though the entire family back in Kolkata did not like the idea of my dad spending money on me to learn cooking, but I was persistent and it was a long struggle. After my graduation I also did the fourth year diploma to understand the scientific methods of cooking & everything to do with maintenance and running of a commercial kitchen. I wanted to understand the elements of cooking which has really helped me now. When I am cooking, I also understand what are the stages that are there; how does eating affect your combination, what are the things that you need to do, so all that helps in making you a wholesome chef.

What is your message for the inspiring chefs and chefs who have just entered the industry?

Work hard and cook with your heart, these are the two things that you have to do and believe in yourself. Whatever you do, do it with confidence, convince your guests and yourself that what you are giving is the right thing. Only then will you succeed. There is no shortcut to become a good chef.

What is your dream kitchen?

My dream kitchen will be the one where I will have all the gadgets, where I can do my own cooking. There are lot of thoughts that keep running in my mind, where I can invent, do certain things that are different from the routine, lot of new elements and ingredients can be incorporated and that is one type of kitchen that I am looking forward to. Commercial dream kitchen needs all types of gadgets and air controlled area where you can work because more often the kitchen is very hot and it really saps your energy in the kitchen. A right talent who has a vision and a goal that the guest is God and target every guest so that he comes as a repeat customer for you is also very important in a kitchen. So if I get a kitchen with the right talent and right equipment and environment, then nothing like it.

10 December 2015 Cooking is a Passion

AMC is the world market leader in cooking systems with more than 50 years' of experience having marketing and production centres in over 30 countries across five continents catering to 15 Million customers. In a chat with Better Kitchen, Anshu Bagai, Chief Executive Officer of AMC Cookware (India) Private Limited talks about the trends and significance of cookware in the kitchen. Excerpts.

What is the current cookware trend in the world and particular to India?

A well organized kitchen is any cook's delight. It not only reflects food habits but also lifestyle. Nowadays cooking is not a mere need but it has become a passion. In the last few years, people have become more health conscious and are also eager to try different cuisines. Due to this eagerness, demand for good quality cookware is also increasing around the world. Indian kitchens are no exception to this. Indian Kitchens & Cookware market is going through a phase of transformation. AMC premium system perfectly caters to this growing demand with its superior quality cookware. It's the only multicooking system in the world in which one can cook without additional water or oil.

Please elaborate the importance of right kind of cookware in the Kitchen.

In today's fast pace world, staying healthy is a necessity. It's important not only to choose the right ingredients but also to follow the right cooking process for maximum retention of nutrients. What weighs maximum while selecting or buying a cookware is that it should be in tune with the modern world, in which you can do multi cooking, smart in saving time, money and energy, safe to use, hygienic, made of good quality material, durable and aesthetic. In other words complete value for money.

How cookware are changing with the technology? How do these changes impact the taste and flavour of food?

Cooking is a fantastic process where both art & science meet to serve us a delicious meal. Cookware have been a constant subject of upgradation and with every changing technology, cookware are also evolving specially catering to today's need like saving time, money, energy, maximum nutrient retention, less oil consumption, etc. Today we have many options available in the market like glass, ceramic, aluminum etc. but time and again stainless steel has stood the test of time and has emerged to be the best for cooking. In AMC we provide exactly the same. For the last 50 years we are the market leaders in high-grade stainless steel and are constantly upgrading our cookware.

  • AMC Premium System is made up of state of art technology, high-grade stainless steel that is non porous and does not absorb oil or water.
  • Our patented technology has revolutionized the cooking style and helps save energy, time and money along with tasty and healthy cooking.
  • AMC provides a 3-fold guarantee of success ensures that every meal will be delicious and loaded with nutrient value.
  • Specially designed cookware base captures the smallest amount of heat and distributes it uniformly to the food being cooked.
  • Cooking process is monitored to ensure that the food is not overcooked or burned.
People are still going for earlier days utensils to get better taste, flavour and health benefits. Your comment on the same.


There is a saying that “Old is Gold” but not always. If we compare cooking in the earlier days, not much of technology was there and options were limited. Also traditional cooking method takes too much time, which is not possible in today's fast pace world. Moreover cleaning and maintenance of such utensils is also cumbersome. But now times have changed, with increased disposable incomes of the Indian middle class, they are upgrading the products in each category. We are now seeing this in cookware too. There are many variety of cookware available in the market. I would rather go for a cookware option, which saves time, which is healthy for a daily basis cooking and easy to maintain.

Is there any side effect on health with the use of non-stick cookware in long run?

Nonstick cookware certainly reduces the intake of oil, which is helpful keeping the health option in mind. However we recommend high-grade stainless steel, which is nonstick as well. AMC would be a perfect solution to that. Over the years, AMC has revolutionized cooking with its gentle Zero-Oil cooking method i.e. cooking without additional oil and water.

Moreover AMC premium system comes with 30-year global guarantee. So it's a one-time investment and your family's health is secured for lifetime.

What is your recommendation on the use of cookware in the kitchen.

I would definitely recommend AMC Cookware for healthy & tasty cooking. AMC is a 50 year old, leading global company in the field of high quality stainless steel and multi-cooking systems. AMC has revolutionized cooking with its gentle method of Zero oil cooking and has reached out to more than 12 million customers world over. AMC is committed to promote the motto-Eat Better. Live Better. Cooking Zero oil means less fat, fewer calories and lower risk of diseases. Cooking without additional water results in vegetables, retaining their goodness, natural taste, salts, vitamins, minerals and active plant substances.

In addition to this, AMC Cookware comes with an array of benefits over other cookwares, which helps, save energy, time and money along with tasty and healthy Zero oil cooking. For e.g.

  • Stainless steel handles which don't get heated while cooking because of ceramic block inlay.
  • Multi-cooking- Steaming, baking, reheating, roasting, Stack cooking, double boiling and serving.
  • AMC premium system comes with a 30-year global guarantee.

AMC premium system has units ranging from 1.3 litres to 8 litres. These units are available as sets in combination with accessories that caters the needs of small to large families and help them enjoy the benefit of zero oil, multicooking with AMC Premium system.

8 March 2016 Chanting the Health Mantra

With more and more enterprising women leading the way for you and me, Geetu Amarnani is a shining example of someone who is carving her own niche. She is a trained Diabetic Educator & Bariatric Nutritionist, presently in Mumbai, practising as a Nutritionist & Lifestyle Management Consultant. She has over 24 years of experience in the field of Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutrition Management of Hospital and Diet Training. She is Associated with International Food Commissions like California Walnut Commission, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) / Foreign Agriculture Services (FAS) California Prune Board, New Zealand Avocado & Zespri Kiwifruit, Washington Apple Commission USA Pears, Consortium of European Extra Virgin Olive Oil. She is also associated with Walnut Commission for compilation of a book on Health Benefits of California Walnuts. She conducts Nutrition Training Programs, Interactive sessions, and compiles health benefit researches and creates awareness about the International food products available in the Indian Market. She was also attached to various hospitals in Delhi and worked as Chief Dietitian (HOD, Dietetics) with B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital and Kolmet Hospital. The enterprising lady has organized many Health Melas & diet exhibitions. She has also participated & contributed in many National Conferences & Symposiums. Her articles have been published in leading magazines & newspapers and she has also participated in many talk shows on radio & TV.

Tell us about your journey. What was the turning point that made you select this profession?
The turning point came when I started taking interest in my own personal nutrition. It was exciting to experience, how the right nutrition and fitness practices can control how your body looks and feels. I was also drawn to teaching aspect of nutrition, as well as constant learning. Nutrition is a dynamic field of study and is ever evolving. I knew, I would enjoy learning and growing in this field.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word KITCHEN?
It's a “Centre of Health”.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish.
While in school, I made “Aloo Ka Parantha” for my younger brother and I saw him eating it with an unpleasant facial expressions. It was a brave attempt, but definitely not my best one.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Whenever I cook something for the family like “butter chicken” or “paobhaji”, they always complain that I don't put enough butter. I'm just used to using butter with “kanjoosi” because it's healthier that way. My family definitely doesn't agree with this! They want to taste the butter in their “Butter Chicken”!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
I try to plan my days with enough time for both. I try to finish most of my professional work at the work place so that I don't have to spend any time doing it once I'm home with the family. With a little bit of time management, determination and family support, it is definitely possible.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
I believe in merits of fresh home cooked food, so I cook fresh food everyday. I try to plan my days with enough time to prepare fresh healthy food for my family and me. If there is something in the recipe that I can prepare beforehand, I sometimes do that on the weekend so I can cut down my cooking time during the weekday.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
Surely, as constructive critique! He doesn't really help with the cooking but sort of gives his “running commentary of suggestions” while I am at it. I sometimes call him my “mom-in-law”.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice? Any secret ingredients you use?
Every woman knows what she cooks best in a jiffy. My secret is to cook it fresh and to keep it simple.

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
I try to make as much as I can at home. All the fresh ingredients I use are made at home. For example, I do not use store bought ginger-garlic paste and almond milk. I try to make these at home. But as for dry ingredients, I try to make sure I buy organic ones.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
During the week, due to time constraints, I use time-tested traditional recipes. On the weekend, I love to try out new recipes. I look for youtube videos of new recipes from various cuisines. Watching someone cook and following directions via youtube makes it much easier to cook and experiment with ingredients.

What's your role in planning & designing of your Kitchen?
“Everything in place and a place for everything” is the first principle of my design. Health, safety and efficiency are my second principle in choice of equipment.

Does it matter to have a modern well equipped kitchen or simply convenient kitchen? How does it make a difference?
I keep updating my kitchen to keep up with new equipment. I feel a modern, well-equipped kitchen is extremely important for efficient cooking. Using new modern technology really helps in cutting down cooking time. This makes it easy for me to cook efficiently and spend more time with my family.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
My first choice would be to go to a restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine and a pleasant ambience.

Do you snack while at work --- if so what do you prefer?
I either carry a handful of nuts or some fruit with me to snack on at work. Some yogurt and fruit would also be a good snack. It's important to keep eating small healthy snacks throughout the day to keep up your metabolism. I also drink plenty of water to keep myself hydrated.

How do you maintain your health through diet? Are you conscious about calories while eating?
I keep fit by eating healthy and being active. Conscious, calorie controlled & home cooked food coupled with daily physical activity is my mantra for maintaining good health. It's really a simple, age old, tried and tested mantra. There's no other way to go about it.

Who is your role model?
My mother who could multitask in any situation with selfless love and a smile.

What's next?
I intend to continue my journey in this field as nutritionist as it is an extremely dynamic field. It is important to stay up with new information as there are new things coming up in this field everyday. I want to continue to learn and help people achieve their fitness goals.

8 March 2016 The Expert of Community Cuisines

Chef Manisha Bhasin is the Senior Executive Chef at the ITC Maurya, New Delhi which is home to the most esteemed ITC restaurant - Bukhara as well as Dum Pukht which continues to feature in Asias' top 50 restaurants year after year. Chef Manisha has done extensive research on various community cuisines like Moplah, Tulunadu and Saraswat and has created a buzz in this space by showcasing the vast repertoire of cuisines. She developed Dehlavi as a signature banqueting cuisine, one of India first branded banquet Cuisine at Sheraton, New Delhi in 2005. She was amongst Top ten most Admired Chefs of Asia in 2014. Following is a tete-a-tete with the versatile chef.

Your journey to the position of a professional chef. What was the turning point that made you select this profession?
Can't remember the turning point, but yes was always interested in the kitchens with the aromas and flavors of the food… In school I had science as my subject with home science in place of mathematics. This perhaps got me more so inclined to cooking which started at a very young age.

What comes to your mind when you hears the word KITCHEN?
Fun, another new day… colors and aromas… new challenges and ideas.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish.
Remember for one of the home science projects I made doughnut kind of biscuits with jam filling… I later realized that it was my first attempt to serious cooking… what I learnt was the Bull's Eye a very traditional cookie, perhaps my instructor then wasn't even aware of it.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Initial years... with sheer magnitude of the kitchens/equipment and ingredients you are awestruck… then you turn to getting the basics right and the fun begins… whether chopping juliennes or brunnoise, or handling live crabs, or cleaning sacks full of rice or peeling onions in those days… overall it was great fun learning.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Always a Tug of War… but as you grow you learn to balance the work and personal life front. In today’s age of fast communication, it has become simpler.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
Almost every day, they won't have food cooked by anyone else. Hence my day begins quite early.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
He makes excellent Indian lamb curry… that's where it stops.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests in very short notice? Any secret ingredients do you use?
Normally there is something or the other homemade always in the fridge, salsa, hummus etc. I try to blend it with unusual flavors and indianised toppings which is always a hit. Serve snacks in small portion with plenty of options... start the evening with cold snacks gradually progressing to hot and then heavier snacks and then small meals… this is a sure winner.

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
Always make my own blends to the extent of grinding my own spices and making masalas. I have a little kitchen garden, hence fresh herbs and greens are always handy which really starts off ass a great conversation point too. And also buy pure organic ingredients. My mantra of food is keep is simple uncomplicated yet tasty... the more you make a dish complex, less it will be able to stand out in the crowd of dishes.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
Traditional recipes are tried and tested and have stood the test of time. However I like to experiment with the flavors and new ingredients keeping the taste intact yet creating palettes of color in presentations. Getting inspired by traditional and then do a modern interpretation of the same.

What's your role in planning & designing of your Kitchen?
Cent percent involvement… as besides planning menus one has to ensure getting the right cooking equipment, service flow line, HVAC, electrical loads and points etc. Infact facility planning is very crucial for any new project to be successful. so that one does not lose prime space or waste time in order processing, Storages, refrigeration, ovens, back end planning, service ware, table ware… all this plays an important role in foods.

Does it matter to have a modern well equipped kitchen or simply convenient kitchen? How does it make a difference?
A well equipped kitchen will just do fine, if one follows the artisan methods of cooking then a well equipped kitchen is sufficient to create great food experiences.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
New restaurants and when I am not feeling adventurous then eateries in Old Delhi for comfort food.

Do you snack while at work --- if so what do you prefer?
Not really, snacks are mostly almonds and walnuts.

How do you maintain your health through diet? Are you conscious about calories while eating?
Difficult to stay calories conscious, as one has to taste good food all the time. But yes when I feel that too much of tasting has taken place, try to go easy on the next meal.

Who is your role model ?
My Grandmother… she was the one who got me interested in cooking. I recall her trying new dishes at that time. She was an extremely strong and determined lady who supported me when I decided to do IHM and then decided to join the kitchens. I recall sending her soup recipes from catering college for her to try… which was quite unusual at that time for her age. And whatever she cooked turned out to be wonderfully curated.

What's next?
Give it back to the Society… to teach the younger generation the goodness of pure ingredients' have initiated teaching Art of healthy Eating to young children in the age group of 9 to11, this is when they get hooked onto processed foods. I visit schools and do small workshops for this age group and hopefully inspire than to healthy eating. Who knows some of them may turn out to be great Chefs too.

8 March 2016 An Icon Who Dons Many Hats

Her warm smile and her gracious demeanor make recently turned entrepreneur, Nikhila Palat one of the most endearing personas in the city's professional circle. She is the dynamic CEO of Katalyst Reputation Management, a company specializing in Public Relations, Marketing, Digital and Design solutions. With over 15 years of experience in the luxury and lifestyle industry, Nikhila's company handles over 20 of the country's top brands including the country's premier hospitality chain The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, Taj Wellington Mews, India's premiere luxury serviced apartments, The Imperial Club by Taj and the flagship of the Vivanta hotels - Vivanta by Taj President, Mumbai. The enterprising lady also spearheads the Taj Coffee Table Magazine that is placed in every room across the Taj Group. An MBA in Marketing, she is armed with a diploma in Creative New Media and the Web from Harvard University, Boston. And if all these accomplishments weren't enough, she is currently pursuing a second MBA from the reputed Glion University in Switzerland. With her multitude of experience, she only takes on brands she strongly believes in and offers them her complete attention in order to help grow their brand in the competitive Indian market space. A former-National champion in tennis and even a Miss India finalist, Nikhila has donned many a hat, however her dream was always to be a successful CEO and with Katalyst Reputation Management, she is one step closer towards fulfilling her dreams! We caught up with the dynamic diva and here's what she had to say.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today. What made you take up this profession?
I started work at the age of 16. I dabbled in a variety of disciplines from finance to fashion, from entertainment to hospitality, from Animation to Public Relations. In my tenure I have had the luxury of working with some of the topmost brands in India. However it has always been my childhood dream to start my own company and so in May 2016, I am setting out to make my dream a reality.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word KITCHEN?
Deliciousness! I love the aroma of freshly baked bread, the sizzle of the spice in the pan. I also love the slow rising of a cake that's baking in the oven.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and the reactions that followed.
I think the first dish I made in the kitchen was a simple cheese toast. A staple home snack, I chose to add some flavor with onions and chilies and some chopped vegetables. The dish didn't look good. But the taste was very satisfying. My mother's reaction was priceless as I had left the kitchen in a total mess.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
My husband and I once decided to be experimental in the kitchen and make artisan candles by melting wax over the stove and adding spices and other kitchen ingredients to give it colour and aroma. In our enthusiasm we almost ended up blowing up my mother's kitchen!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
My husband - Vivan and most of my friends are all nocturnal. So we spend the day working hard and the night is for us to hangout, go for dinners, watch movies and all the other things we love doing. I speak to my parents several times a day and do try and catch up with my parents though every week.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
Rarely. Much to their delight as they are really not fans of my food. My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook and so is my husband, so I am always well fed.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
Yes. He is an excellent cook. And finds cooking therapeutic.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice?
Aglio Olio pasta is my quick fix dish!
Any secret ingredients you use?
Cliché as its sounds, my secret ingredient has always been love!

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
It really depends on the dish. And how much time I have on hand.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
I follow the recipes of the icons in the culinary industry, who I have the luxury of working closely with, the legendary master chefs – Chef Hemant Oberoi and Chef Ananda Solomon. My dishes are nowhere near theirs but it feels special to be in august company.

What's your role in the planning and designing of your Kitchen?
Minimal, to be honest. I just turn to pictures I like and my husband makes them come to life.

A modern well equipped kitchen versus a simply convenient kitchen, what would you prefer? How does it make a difference?
Personally I love open kitchens. It's like dress circle seats to all the action!

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
I frequent kebab korner and long & short at Intercontinental, Zaffran, Welli Deli at Taj Wellington Mews, Souk at Taj and the Konkan cafe at Vivanta by Taj President.

Do you snack while at work --- if so what do you prefer?
Fruits are the best snack, as they are both nutritious and delicious.

What is your secret to good health?
I only eat my main meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and don't really snack through the day.

Are you conscious about calories while eating?
No.

Who is your role model?
My cocker spaniel puppy - Muffin is my role model. She is kind, thoughtful, loyal and loving. Like the popular dessert that she's named after, Muffin too is perfect!

What's next?
Work. Work. And more work...

8 March 2016 Determination Always Pays Off

Life always brings us big opportunities that start with small steps. The big move in Pankaj Bhadouria's life came with a small step when she decided to leave her successful teaching career spanning over 16 years and enter India's first televised cookery reality show – Master Chef India on the leading general entertainment channel - Star Plus. And as they say, fortune favours the brave, Pankaj went on to become a worthy winner and with it India's first ever Master Chef. The comfort of the classroom gave way to the adulations, accolades and a host of achievements that followed.
Then came Pankaj's way a major recognition and appreciation in the form of a platform provided by the hallowed Cambridge University. She was invited to address the South Asian Community in Britain by Cambridge University in July 2011. She demonstrated some Indian foods for health conscious people and managed to break the general British myth that Indian food is all about spicy curries and Chicken Tikka Masala.
Pankaj hosted her first cookery show - "Chef Pankaj ka Zayka" on Star Plus where she showcased her passion for cooking. The success of this daily show added another flavour to her sweet success. She has helped out housewives cook lip-smacking, healthy and cost-effective delicacies with inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients on her show 'Kifayati Kitchen' on Zee Khana Khazana.
Pankaj took the flavors of India overseas when she was invited to Varli Food festival in New York and share the center stage with some of India's leading and well known Chefs. Then came another prestigious assignment from none other than the British Broadcasting Corporation. Pankaj shot with UK's Top Chef - Rick Stein who was touring India for his BBC series - The Search for the Perfect Curry. She introduced Rick Stein to the delicate flavors of the Awadhi Cuisine.
In August 2012, she launched The Pankaj Bhadouria Culinary Academy- her dream project, where she shares her love for culinary arts with cooking enthusiasts in what she does next best: teaching!
Her signature Coffee Shop -Tramp Tree Cafe, which currently has two outlets in Lucknow, is now attracting the young and the not-so-young alike with its cosy interiors, comforting food and of course - the coffee! She has just given out the first Franchisee for her Cafe in Lucknow. Soon the Cafe will be found in many more locations in and around the city!
Pankaj conducts many workshops and cookery demonstrations. She has been invited to conduct workshops for Samsung, Panasonic, German Technologies, Rotary clubs, Gold Gyms, Rourkela Club, Jaycees Hyderabad and many more. In 2012, Pankaj created New Delhi's largest Sandwich with more than 40 children in 'Be a Hero' event organized by the largest DHA (an integral part of all health drinks for children) manufacturer in the USA.
Coming up soon is Tamaara- Pankaj Bhadouria's signature fine dine restaurant. The restaurant promises to introduce food lovers to the delights from the royal kitchens of Awadh. Excerpts from Better Kitchen talk.
Could you describe your journey from an innocent girl to a professional woman.
I started my career as a school teacher teaching English to ISC classes. The call for Master Chef Audition on television was the turning point in my life which prompted me to go for it and later to quit my 16 year old job to participate in it.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word KITCHEN?
My home kitchen- the most relaxing place for me! It lets me be myself and I do what I love to do best: Cooking! For me, kitchen is synonymous with happy times, childhood memories of sitting on the kitchen shelf and being fed by our dad while mom would be taking chappatis off the tava!

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish.
I started cooking quite early in life – at the age of 11…so I was appreciated and encouraged for everything that I did. Apart from appreciation I would get their genuine feedback as well which always helped me to better myself in the kitchen.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Plenty of them! As I mentioned earlier, childhood days where all of us would be in the kitchen, especially during the winter, my time with my kids in the kitchen now, my daughter cooking with me… these are my happiest moments!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Just like any other working woman! It is tough, for I am also on the move for quite a number of days but then I have a fantastic family whose support helps me to manage everything smoothly.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
Fridays are Feast days at home for I am home on Fridays! So half of the day, I am to be found in the kitchen. Everyday Breakfast, School Tiffin, Holidays, Sunday Dinners, with guests coming in, when I am home early, Festivals, some special dish to be cooked….that is when I am in the kitchen cooking.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
Heavens No! It is better that he stays away!

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice? Any secret ingredients you use?
I Just cook whatever I have at home… if nothing interesting is there, I do potatoes! Potatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen and can be used to make the simplest to gourmet dishes!
Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
Spice mixes I prefer making fresh at home… but tomato puree is one ingredient that I use packaged.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
It's sometimes this, sometimes that… it entirely depends on my mood. At times, I like to follow traditional methods, recipes and go to any lengths to source the right ingredients as well. Sometimes I get experimental and try to dish out something that comes straight out of my mind. At times, when I read about a dish that I find interesting, I even try to follow a recipe!

What's your role in planning & designing of your Kitchen?
My kitchen is entirely my domain. All that I need, I want, and where I want has been put there by the designers. It is a pretty looking kitchen but a very practical one as well!

Does it matter to have a modern well equipped kitchen or simply convenient kitchen? How does it make a difference?
It entirely depends on how long you are there in the kitchen and how you cook. Each person has his or her own cooking style and comfort level in the kitchen. So a well equipped or a traditional is entirely your choice.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
If in Lucknow, I prefer enjoying the wonderful street food here, be it Kebabs and Paranthas at Tundey Kebabi or Chat at one of the many famous Chat shops.

Do you snack while at work - if so what do you prefer?
No, I don't actually snack at work, I am actually tasting food every hour! I have an academy where every hour something is being cooked in the class. So every hour, I taste food at different tables. This eliminates the need for snacking during the day.

How do you maintain your health through diet? Are you conscious about calories while eating?
Because I do not eat full meals but small meals throughout the day, I do not tend to add on too much. As I cannot check what I eat through the day, I try and burn it out.

Who is your role model ?
My Dad! Whatever memories I have of him are precious! I lost him when I was 13 but I remember him as a man who won hearts, made fans wherever he went. He was an excellent cook, a big foodie, experimental and full of life! In fact my mom learnt cooking from him.

What's next?
Coming Soon…!

8 March 2016 The Super Chef Who Rules Everyone's Heart

Enigmatic, charismatic and a powerhouse of talent, Rakhee Vaswani is a celebrity chef, culinary expert, food consultant, teacher, author, cook show host, entrepreneur and above all, a food lover at heart. Certified by Le Cordon Bleu at Gordon Ramsay's Tante Marie in London, Rakhee began her culinary journey at the tender age of 11, keenly observing her aunts cook delicious food that caught her fancy (and her heart). Touted to be the 'Desi Nigella' of India, Rakhee is a natural with flavors and textures, her biggest asset being her strong palate and a deep rooted passion for the culinary arts and the food industry. Her vision to make world cuisines easily available in our city led her to pioneer the birth of the first set of cooking studios in India with Palate Culinary Studio.
Chef Rakhee's first book launch as an author called 'Picky Eaters' which essentially teaches mothers how to make food fun, exciting and yummy for their kids and a lot more to that goes with it.
Her true celebrity sense became the face of a TV show called 'Rewind with Rakhee' on Living Foodz. 2016 saw her latest TV Show 'I Love Cooking' where she amazed the audience with her versatile baking techniques.
She believes in getting inspired to inspire further, learning, sharing her know-how,relishing and pampering palates forever.
In an interview with Better Kitchen she told her own story. Excerpt.

Tell us about your journey from a girl-next-door to a professional woman. What made you select this profession?
I started cooking at a very young age. From the beginning, I wanted to prepare food that was very professional. I was hell bent and willingly learned from my neighbors and aunts and picked up whatever I could. I always wanted formal training though. After running home cooking classes for a long time and shutting it all down to be a hands-on mother, one fine day after all my international travels and food journeys, my family encouraged me to restart my career and not give up on my passion. That was the day Palate Culinary Studio was born. I didn't just want to impart my cooking knowledge; I wanted to offer a balance. A balance that had the perfect blend of knowledge of ingredients, equipment, skill development and of course offer an opportunity to people who couldn't travel far to enhance their knowledge of international standards for culinary expertise. That was the turning point of my career and today my students have opened their own cafes, they are home bakers and a lot more successful stories have emerged from people who have learnt from me. It feels so good to be a giver.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word KITCHEN?
It calms me. It excites me. It lets my creativity flow and it sooths me. The kitchen is my space -my warm comfort zone. There's no other place I'd rather be in!

Recall the first time you made something alone in the kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish.
The first time I made anything was for me and that's because I am a very picky eater. When I realized the food that I made was not as tasty as it should be, I went into the kitchen to improve my skills and this became a very regular scene in the house. My parents loved what I cooked from that day onwards and there was no turning back. I attended loads of cooking classes in that phase. They were all happy and used to look forward to me making my first ever Chinese meal, my first ever Biryani, slow cooked mutton etc.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
With fusion doing the rounds everywhere, it's really nice to fuse your Indian cuisine with a modern approach or take all your old Indian traditional Mithais ( sweets ) and give it a lovely modern twist by presenting it well. Those are definitely fun moments. Besides, I also love how we attempt to come up with new cooking/baking classes per month as per trends. My students are always motivating me to come up with new classes. There are so many times that they push me to launch new concepts because they have the urge to learn. As it is said, change is the only constant and this is what keeps me going and gives me the adrenaline rush I need to keep innovating!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
I have an amazing family. They're very supportive. My husband is my rock (My rock of Gibraltar ) Although I'm a workaholic now, I did give up my career earlier to be a mom but since the kids have grown up, that's not the case anymore so it's easier now. There are so many times when I cannot attend a Parent-Teacher meeting, my husband covers for me. Being at the peak of my career, my personal and professional life is well balanced all thanks to my perfect family.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
Almost every day! My studio kitchen has become my go-to kitchen. There is a fancy class of a different cuisine conducted daily at PCS out of which double portion is made and sent home sometimes. If not, I still cook other dishes at the studio and send it home for the family. My husband often refers to the kitchen as 'Ramgadh' where food is prepared by his Chef Rakhee Vaswani. He asks the cook 'Aaj Ramgadh se kya aaya hai' haha…

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
Yes, the only the help I get from him is the criticism and the marks without which I can't survive! If I experiment with a new menu, a new class or create a fusion that I'm not too confident about, he is my honest critic and I know my scope for improvement thereon. So without this, I'd be nowhere.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice? Any secret ingredients do you use?
I cook from my heart. I feel that anything made at a short notice is always better. In a kabab class, I always tell my students that there is no before and after done. Everything is done right in front of them ,especially marination, and grilled/ baked to serve there and then. When you cook with love and passion and it will be tasty anyway. You need to enjoy what you're doing and your ingredients have to be fresh which is very important. My secret ingredient is LOVE!

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
I make my own ingredients always from scratch. That's why my students really come to me. How to treat your ingredients and use them in your recipes is important and I swear by that.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
I do both. I am traditional in my love for Sindhi kadi, Saibhaji-pulao, Sail bread but I don't make it exactly the way my mom does. Like I said, a lot of experiences have come with the way I've picked up from every aunt and household's cooking pattern. Everyone's style of cooking has influenced me in their own way. For example in Italy, every household has a different recipe for Tiramisu. Likewise, every Sindhi household also has a different touch to their traditional recipes which I've had the good fortune of learning. So I love going traditional on my recipes but I also love giving them the modern approach by twisting the recipe and learning something new every day. It excites me!

What's your role in planning & designing of your Kitchen?
I've had a major role to play in this. I wanted my studio to be a warm kitchen and I did it. I get a lot of compliments for the studio's appearance but the one I've got was from a director who said 'I feel like your studio is giving me a hug!' Clearly, my interior designer has done a fabulous job for making it the way I wanted it to be. I never wanted it to be like a commercial class room. More so, with my training in Tante Marie (London) we were put in a different kitchen almost every week and that's why I have 3 workstations which is a result of my training there.

Does it matter to have a modern well equipped kitchen or simply convenient kitchen? How does it make a difference?
The kitchen doesn't necessarily have to be modern but I do believe in a well equipped kitchen! Well-equipped doesn't have to be expensive, it depends on your budget. I like my oven and microwave to be separate devices. I love my fancy kitchen gadgets because they genuinely make my life easier. For example, if you're a baker you need a planetary mixer for sure. The role of your convection oven is extremely crucial in your kitchen because for your roasts, bakes, grills you need to understand the behavior and importance of a professional oven which comes in all ranges. So, I love to play around with all of these. I'm a big collector and this is well portrayed in my kitchen. You'll find a slow cooker to a Teppanyaki to a Raclette grill to an ice-cream maker to a planetary mixer to a 6th sense technology microwave convection oven to a Kitchen-Aid cordless hand blender, I have it all in my kitchen.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
My top favorites are Yauatcha for their crispy fried prawn Chung Fung and Saffron for the Biryani, Besides, I love going to all new restaurants, food bars, street food areas, etc. and experimenting all kinds of cuisines all over the world. It gives me ideas and teaches me a lot about enhancing the different flavors from different cultures on my palate.

Do you snack while at work… if so what do you prefer?
I try to keep my daily diet really healthy during the day since I go out a lot at night or over the weekends and eat out due to social gatherings, professional events and family outings. I munch on roasted and flavored Makhaana (Sunflower seeds) or diet bhel or veg sandwich in the evening to kill the hunger pangs.

How do you maintain your health through diet? Are you conscious about calories while eating?
Yes I'm very conscious about my diet in the day. As I said earlier, due to my social or professional commitments during nights or weekends I unfortunately have a Yo-Yo diet since I'm a foodie and I get awfully tempted if you keep rice preparation in front of me. It could drown all my efforts easily.

Who are your role models ?
Nigella Lawson, Donna Hay, Gordon Ramsay, Marco White to name a few.

What's next?
I'm currently 4 food shows and one cook-book down! My most proud moment was recently when the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality (CTH) made Palate Culinary Studio (PCS) the first CTH center in the whole of India to provide a UK-certified Diploma Culinary course. So, a culinary college is in the pipeline for sure. Palate Culinary Studio has tied up with Thadomal Sahani Center for Management (TSCFM) for the same. Lot's in store for chefs and foodies!

1 December 2016 When you are a Public Figure Work Becomes Life. I Love the Work I do

Sanjeev Kapoor the most popular chef in Indian homes. He is a celebrity chef, entrepreneur, writer and television personality. Kapoor stars in the TV show Khana Khazana, which is the longest running show of its kind in Asia; it broadcasts in 120 countries and had more than 500 million viewers. He has also launched his own Food Food channel. Sanjeev is married to Alyona Kapoor, who is also a part of his joint venture. With an exclusive interview with Better Kitchen he shares his life journey.

What made you enter this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
I have always had this tendency to do something out of the box – something which my father encouraged. His interest in the kitchen sparked mine too. Back in in 1981, I had planned to become an architect. Then, just by a twist of fate, I applied for Hotel Management at The Institute of Hotel Management in PUSA, New Delhi. And my life changed!

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
After graduation and till mid-1992, I donned different chef hats with the ITDC Group at various properties. I developed a fine sense of entrepreneurship during my stint at Shamiana, the first upscale Indian restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand. In 1992, I returned to India to join Centaur Juhu, Mumbai as the youngest Executive Chef ever. Soon after, I received the offer to host Khana Khazana. In 1998 I opened a restaurant, Khazana in Dubai which became a runaway success right from the word go. Since then we have opened at least 60 restaurants all around the world. A new joint venture company SK Restaurants Private Limited (SKRPL) has come into existence for this. While the restaurant business was taking good shape, another pot bubbling on the burner for me was writing recipe books. My first book 'Khazana of Indian Recipes' was published and now I have authored more than 200 books. I set up our first office in Juhu, Mumbai. It was a very small office but had a dedicated team with a resolution to do something great. Around this same time, Khana Khazana Productions came into existence as a company. We started producing our own TV shows. Then, came the idea of doing our own food products. It started with Pickles, Blended Masalas, Ready to Cook Mixes and Gourmet Chutneys. I was blessed to receive the 'Best Chef of the Country' honour from the Government of India. We shifted to a bigger space which is where we currently operate from. The ultimate was waiting to happen. My dream of doing a TV Channel. FoodFood was born in January 2011 and in a short span of time it has become one of the most trusted brands on Indian TV. The digital front has always excited me. I have always been very active with my digital reach through sanjeevkapoor.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a sanjeevkapoor mobile app, a very active YouTube channel and many more social media initiatives, so we can stay hot and connected with the community that has given me so much!

What are the unique achievements in your career.
Doing Khana Khazana was surely one! Back in 1993 I did not know I was going to be a part of Indian Television forever. Khana khazana went on to become India's longest running show in all categories and was aired nonstop in 150+ countries and awarded for many consecutive years. In 1995, I became the youngest Executive Chef to be bestowed with the 'Best Executive Chef' award by H&FS. Receiving the 'Best Chef of the Country' honour from Government of India was a big sense of achievement. My food channel – FoodFood which was a first for any Indian Chef, was a personal victory for me.

Your food ideologies.
Food is love!

Your contribution to the culinary world.
I'd like to think that like my food journey, this is just the beginning of my contribution to this world of food. My association with Symbiosis, Pune for a unique Culinary Arts college will help future generation of chefs gain a much broader and better exposure to culinary arts. Also structuring and designing menus exclusively for the students of all the 598 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) across the country, in association with the HRD ministry is something that is close to my heart. These generations are the future of the country and I want to do my bit to ensure they get what they deserve which is nothing less than the best. Also, something which I have constantly been told over the years is that people want to taste the food I cook – with SK Restaurants, this too is now possible.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
Judging by the present the future certainly looks bright. The world is going the digital way and food technology is on a boom. I would love to see more science in the kitchen – beyond molecular gastronomy. The current generation of chefs is a powerhouse of creativity. They are not afraid to take risks and that gives them a heads-up over the rest!

How much focus do you give to health in your day to day cooking?
Eating healthy is a habit that is ingrained in my lifestyle. Unless, of course when sometimes my profession demands me to be indulgent – eating healthy takes a backseat and gladly so!

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
The Rajasthani dungar method of slow cooking is one of my favourite ways to cook meat.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
Yes! I am a big fan of regional cuisines. I love to sample the local regional food of a place while on my travels and urge people to do the same. It is one of the best ways to be a part of their culture. Thanks to Social Media, food bloggers and professional chefs who take pride in their traditional food, cuisines that have had to take a backseat all these years, are now in the lime light!

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Indian, it goes without saying. The sheer variety and the balance of flavours, texture and nutrient profiles that Indian food has, is unmatched worldwide! Besides Indian I like Oriental food.

Who is your favourite chef and why?
Rene Redzepi of Noma, is an all-time favourite and a good friend too. I love the fact that he is so passionate about food and determined with his goals – the result of which is out there for everyone to see!

What is your dream job/project?
I am pretty much in my dream job. Currently I have teamed up with Symbiosis to create a state-of-the-art culinary space within the campus and its quite the thing on my mind these days.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
I encourage them to do what their interest lies in.

How do you maintain work life balance?
When you are a public figure work becomes life. I love the work that I do and it pretty much helps achieve work life balance.

What is your goal in the next five years?
My ultimate goal is to put Indian food on a pedestal that no cuisine has ever been on before – make it number one in the world. Give back to the community that has showered me with so much love and respect. I am closely working with initiatives like Forum for Autism, Clean Cook Stoves and Wonderchef. Besides that, there is a lot happening on the restaurant front and I am also working on a couple of new books. For more, you have to wait and watch. Let somethings be a surprise too, right?

How do you like to spend your free time?
I don't usually have a lot of free time on my hands, but when I do, I listen to music or play the drums. My drum set is one of my most precious possessions. Also, like to catch up on reading.

What is your hobby?
Playing the drums for sure. My love for music is almost at par with my love for food.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
My job demands me to travel a lot and as a result of it I end up eating out a lot. I usually enjoy sampling local specialties, fresh produce and street food from wherever I am.

What's your dream kitchen?
I am a big gadget freak, so my dream kitchen is going to full of them. Like a high tech, neat and sleek food laboratory – of course with its own organic herb and vegetable patch!

Your message to readers.
Food is a form of expression, art and love. So, indulge in it with all your heart and your food will always taste great!

2 December 2016 My Life Started Amidst Farms, Vegetables Markets, Sumptuous Punjabi Family Feasts

Vikas Khanna is an award winning, Michelin Starred Indian chef, restaurateur, food writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the host of the TV Show MasterChef India. He is based in New York City. He is the goodwill ambassador for Smile Foundation and supports the cause of malnutrition in India. His Holy Kitchens film series explores the food sharing traditions in a spiritual context. People magazine named Vikas Khanna in the list of Sexiest Men Alive and also referred to him as "The Hottest Chef of America". In an exclusive interview Chef Vikas Khanna discusses his life journey with Better Kitchen.

What made you enter on this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
My life started in the middle of farms, vegetable markets and Sikh community kitchens at the Golden temple. Family coming together around tables for large Punjabi feasts made me fall in love with food and choose this profession.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I started catering for small events and clubs at the age of 16.
Opened Lawrence Gardens caterers at 17
Went for graduation to WGSHA at 18
Trained at Taj, Oberoi, WelcomGroup n then worked at the Leela between 1994-95
Went back to Amritsar to run Lawrence Garden till 2000, November
Left for New York on 2 December, 2000
Worked at 14 odd jobs and many diners.
In 2001 started at Salaam Bombay.
Studied at CIA, Cornell and New York University
In 2004 cooked at James Beard House.
In 2006 appeared with Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.
In 2009 released Holy Kitchens
On December 2, 2010 opened Junoon.
July 20, 2011 cooked at The White House
October, 2011 received Michelin Star
October, 2011 premiered in MasterChef India.
Launched Utsav on May 17, 2015 at Cannes Film Festival

What are the unique achievements in your career.
I think my work is in progress. Meeting HH the Dalai Lama and cooking for him, I count as one achievement.

Your food ideologies.
Keep it relatable, yet be the strength to make it new and bold.

Your contribution to the culinary world.
We are very small to take any credit.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
Oh yes. It has changed big time. At one time I was so shy to confess that I was studying to be a Chef. Now kids openly n proudly say that they choose cooking.
And the parents openly support them. Loveeee this moment.

How much focus do you give to health in your day to day cooking?
I am actually very conscious of health while cooking. I have tried to minimize the use of oils and creams.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
They are the best. Sometimes they are more expensive than modern traditions. But its a pride to do something that our traditions created. We have used hot stone cooking, Old vessels and earthen pots.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
They are the soul of Indian cuisine. Its very important to bring less known or unknown dishes to the diners.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Indian home cooking, Tibetan and Bhutanese. I think simplicity is the key to it.

Who is Current favourite chef and why?
Oh god. So many. Manjit Singh, Satish Arora, Pushpesh Pant, Sanjeev Kapoor, Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert, Ajay Chopra, Kunal Kapur, Varun Inamdar, Ranveer Brar, David Waltuck, Daniel Boulud and the list won't end. They all inspire me. Everyday.

What is your dream job/project?
Utsav- A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals.
Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
If I ever have children, they will choose whatever they want.

How do you maintain work life balance?
My life is mostly work. Very poor balance.

What is your goal in the next five years?
To work on more initiatives, missions of reducing malnutrition and hunger in India.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Swimming, running, reading, traveling, documenting recipes.

What is your hobby?
Running n reading.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Veselka in East Village.

Your message to readers.
Live your life
Love your life.

30 November 2016 Typically Indian Food Globally is Just Butter Chicken. It is Time to Change it

After a sparkling career as the head of the kitchen brigade for globally recognized chains Marriott and Starwood, and after successfully hosting food shows on two of India's leading television channels Chef Ajay Chopra has reinvented himself. He is now taking on the role of entrepreneur in the brick and mortar world and is building his personal brand in the digital space. Ajay is greatly committed to taking Indian cuisine into new and uncharted areas and constantly experiments with new ingredients and flavours. Chef Ajay Chopra shares his dreams with Better Kitchen.

What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
To be very honest, I did not aspire being a Chef at the start of my career, however I was very sure of pursuing a career in hotels. While studying, I developed my passion for food and realized that food was the tune I would like to play. My first job was not the best paying ones, but I was dedicated to learn and perform, and the same thought has led me to where I am today.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I began my career with the Cecil (Oberoi Hotel) in Shimla & later went on to complete a management-training program at the Oberoi Center for Learning and Development (OCLD) where I was a gold medalist. I was assigned in an Indian specialty restaurant – Kandahar at the Oberoi New Delhi for 2 years where I assisted the hotel's large banqueting operations as well as the coffee shop. After that I moved to the JW Marriott in Mumbai as the chef de cuisine of Lotus Cafe, the busiest and the largest coffee shop of Mumbai. Later moved to United Kingdom where I became the Executive Head Chef of the acclaimed Mint Leaf chain of restaurants, which specialized in Indian cuisine.

Apart from accomplishments I also hosted many television shows amongst which is the popular reality show Masterchef India where I co-hosted and judged the first two seasons of the shows along with fellow celebrity judges. I also hosted Veggistan at NDTV Times, Northern Flavors at Living Foodz, Chop Chop Chopra and his current ongoing series Hi Tea on FoodFood. I am passionate about experimenting with new ingredients and inventing mouthwatering delicacies.

I loves travelling and listening to music, also an enticing singer and has a bent towards photography. Being a God loving individual, I believes in honesty, integrity and goodness in people.

What are the unique achievements in your career?
By God's grace and his strength, I have had the opportunity to lead the finest kitchens in the country as well as abroad.
Your contribution to the culinary world.
Indian food has gone in the deep freezer and Indian restaurants have not changed their menus in years. The same old names are repeated typically everywhere. With my experience and creativity, I have twisted Indian flavours in a modern way, with international and local ingredients.

What is the future of the Indian culinary world? What changes would you like to see in this profession?
The future is definitely going to go more regional and local, with international and local ingredients. But the biggest challenge happens to be the right talent. With the hospitality industry not being as organized as it is in the developed countries, the quality of talent is very poor as a very small population choses to be in this profession. An organized industry would definitely attract more talent, and I am working towards it in whatever ways I can contribute.

How much focus do you give to the health part of cooking in your day to day cooking?
Eating healthy is very important. Eating healthy is not about eating exotic vegetables like broccoli and pak choy. Healthy food is just about substituting your ingredients and eating in the right proportion. Simple examples would be replacing refined flour to whole wheat/ millets etc. or replacing fried foods to stir frying or pan frying them.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen and what are they?
Yes, absolutely. I use many methods like spit roasting or braising while cooking meats as slow cooking definitely gives out robust flavours. Making chutneys in a traditional silbatta or cooking kebabs in a tandoor instead of an oven definitely has an edge over the other methods.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
Absolutely, my last show Northern Flavours on Living Foodz exactly promotes local cuisines.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Throughout my career, I have learnt practiced and mastered many cuisines, with different restaurants and hotels, but something that i am very excited about is Modern Indian food. Globally, Indian food is known to be typically only Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka, but now, with so many ingredients and flavours, Indian food can be taken to the global platform.

Who is the current favourite chef and why?
It would be difficult to choose one, but I look upto Rene Redzepi and Jamie Oliver. Rene Redzepi always stretches himself to redefine the trend of cooking, which is why he has sustained to hold up to the best chef in the world title whereas Jamie Oliver is so traditional with his tricks and tips, but still manages to get out such creative recipes.

What is your dream job/project?
My dream project is to have something on the lines of an El Bulli in India.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
Absolutely, but I would like to be more cautious and give them the freedom to choose their ambition. I actually happened to ask my elder son, while I answer this interview, and he does choose to be a chef, over all the options. So let us hope for a great legacy of knowledge.

How do you maintain work life balance?
Maintaining a balance is very important. I make sure I strike a balance between work and family. Work cannot surpass family whereas family cannot surpass work, to ensure positive success and joy of life.
What is your goal in the next five years?
My vision is to redefine Indian food and flavours, with the help of local talent available in the country.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I generally go out with my wife and kids in my free time.

What is your hobby?
Playing the guitar.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Yes I do. I love Asian food personally, and my preferred place to eat out is Yauatcha.

What's your dream kitchen?
My dream kitchen would clearly be a comparison to a child in a toy shop. The kitchen would have the ample equipment, books, internet and most importantly, the ingredients I would redefine food with.

Your message to readers.
Love. Pray. Cook. I completely live by this statement.

22 December 2016 I am a Fan of Slow Cooking. Aromas, Juices, Colour Come out Beautifully in the Slow Flame

'A happy heart makes happy food' is the philosophy that Chef Ashish Bhasin wakes up to every morning. An avid team player, he doesn't consider what he does every day as 'work' in the traditional sense of the word- instead, Ashish feels his workplace is where he gets to spend time with friends and they cook a meal together. On a mission to spread happiness through food, Ashish Bhasin is Executive Chef at Trident, BKC, Mumbai in his culinary journey. In a candid interview Chef Bhasin reveals his likes and dislikes.

What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
People eat to live and Punjabis live to eat is something I believe in. My love and passion for food has given me the strength to distinctly feel each flavor. I noticed this ability of mine when I was in college and, therefore, made up my mind about choosing cooking as a profession.

I participated in various kinds of activities during my school days. An all-rounder, some would say, but particularly passionate about scouting. We went for many camping trips and would have to make our own food on a chullah. The cooking bit of the trip always left me fascinated, but never once did I think that it would become my profession. In fact, at that point in time I was sure I would join the Defense Forces. In 1994, as my most of my friends were gearing up for hotel management entrance exams, my inquisitive mind too would wonder if I had an aptitude for working in hotels. This thought led me to sit for the exam. To mine and everybody else's surprise, I cleared the exam and decided to go for the course. On the very first day of college I stood in the middle of the kitchen telling myself that this was the place for me.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I started my career with Taj Group of hotels and worked there for 2 and half years. In 2002 I got the opportunity to work with the Oberoi group of hotels. My journey with The Oberoi Group started from The Oberoi, New Delhi. In 2006, I got the opportunity to take independent charge of the kitchens of Trident Udaipur. From there, I moved to The Oberoi and was the first Indian chef to be made an Executive Chef. From there, I got an international posting for 2 years in Egypt on the Red Sea in a hotel called The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh. Luck has always been on my side and I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry.

What are the unique achievements in your career?
The turning point in my career was the opening of one of the most iconic restaurants, 360 Degree at The Oberoi, New Delhi. As part of my research, I got the opportunity to travel across the world, sampling cuisines from the by-lanes of Bangkok to the Michelin starred restaurants of Hong Kong.

My greatest achievement is my family. I am a proud father of two children; one is 12 and the other 7. The thing that matters the most to me in life, is to be a good father to them and a loving husband to my wife. I try to spend as much quality time with my family as I can, even if that means not having a social life. On my days off from work, I love to cook for my little ones and wife and give them as much happiness as I can.

Your food ideologies.
My cooking style is based on the rules of French cuisine:
No compromise on taste
Each and every ingredient deserves its individual respect
Food should be as less complicated as possible
Less is more.

Your contribution to the culinary world.
I have been part of various hotels and restaurants
Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai
The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh
The Oberoi Rajvilas
Trident Udaipur
At The Oberoi, New Delhi I was associated with the opening of most successful restaurant “Threesixty”
At Taj Mahal New Delhi, I was associated with the opening of Ricks, Emperor's Lounge and the reopening of Machaan
I worked briefly at Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi
I was also associated with the opening of Café Fontana
I was also a part of their signature restaurant Orient Express
During my tenure have ensured that each dish created by me reflects my passion for food.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
I am a big fan of slow cooking. I feel the technique gives most respect to the ingredients in the dish. On high flame cooking, the chances of food getting overcooked or staying undercooked are a lot higher. You only have a second or two to take a call on the fate of the dish. But in slow cooking, you can see the colors change, the aromas build and the flavours develop. Vegetables and meats have aromas and juices that come out more beautifully on the slow flame and slow cooked meats are as tender as they get. Overall, food made with this technique has a depth that is unparallel.

How much focus do you give on health part of cooking in your day to day cooking?
The health of my guests is my most important responsibility. We are ISO 22000 certified and have best of hygiene practices in place.

My menu provides low calorie, high protein and high fibre options and my team is well-trained to create dishes for guest with special needs. So, there's something here for everyone!

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
Every dish is cooked exactly the way it should be cooked.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
Absolutely, you should read about “Rivaayat” - a unique culinary initiative which seeks to revisit and revive the lost and dying food heritage of India. The first three editions we hosted in Mumbai were very popular with our patrons and we had promised to come back with some more discoveries.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
It's difficult to zero down on one but I love cooking Italian food, especially pastas and tiramisu. My all-time favourite meal would be rajmah chawal with kachumber salad.

Who is your current favourite chef and why?
I am a huge fan of Chef Thomas Keller. He genuinely cares about flavours and does not like to complicate things unnecessarily. Keeping it minimal is his rule.

What is your dream job/project?
My dream job is to impart culinary knowledge and educate people about food.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
That decision is completely theirs. I am very happy and have never regretted joining the industry. Cooking according to me is a playground to experiment with ingredients. There are days when things don't go right, but the moment I step into the arena (the range), everything seems like a cake walk!

What is your goal in the next five years?
Cooking, cooking and cooking! Nothing could be better than cooking.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend time with family and friends. I party a lot.

What is your hobby?
Playing cricket, table tennis and watching movies.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Yes, I love eating out but don't have any fixed favourites that come to mind. I love to explore and try out new restaurants!

What's your dream kitchen?
To have a strong team that makes the back bone of my kitchen.

Your message to readers.
Food is the best thing that has happened to mankind. Enjoy food, but respect it. Always remember, numerous people go to bed without a meal every day. So eat to your heart's delight, but never waste an iota of this precious resource. Another thing worth keeping in mind is that food is a very simple thing, don't complicate it. Respect ingredients and cook from your heart.

25 December 2016 I See a Definite Future in Vegetarian Foods and a Marked Change in Eating Habits

Atul Kochhar's unique talent as a twice Michelin starred chef has changed the way people perceive and experience Indian cuisine. Taking inspiration from his native India, while continuously researching regional dishes, Atul has managed to combine his heritage with his love of British ingredients to create a unique and innovative modern Indian cuisine. Atul remains committed to his passion and is constantly seeking inspiration through travel and research. Atul has written two successful cookbooks; Indian Essence and Fish, Indian Style. A third book, Curries of the World, for which Atul traveled extensively to research. When not busy with one of his various restaurants or projects, Atul enjoys spending time at home in London with his wife Deepti and their two young children. Atul Kochhar discuss his journey with Better Kitchen. Excerpts.

What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
It was a personal decision that was definitely influenced by my childhood and family. My father and his father before him were both business men in the food industry. My grandad was a wonderful baker and my dad owned his own catering company. They did want me to pursue a career in engineering or in the medical world but to me, being a chef was my goal.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I'm Atul Kochhar, a father and husband, chef and restauranteur based in London. I was born in India and travelled to London to work in a restaurant called Tamarind after completing my degree in Hotel Management at IHM Chennai and working at Hotel Oberoi. I was awarded a Michelin star there and went onto win another Michelin star for my own restaurant called Benares, in Mayfair. I have recently opened a Benares in Madrid, and have opened 2 new restaurants in Mumbai, India called NRI and LIMA.

What are the unique achievements in your career.
The most memorable moment in my career so far was receiving my first Michelin star.

Your food ideologies.
I believe that all ingredients should be treated and cooked with respect.

Your contribution to the culinary world.
I hope that I have changed the way people perceive and experience Indian cuisine by taking inspiration from my homeland and combining it with my love of British ingredients.

What is the future of the culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
I definitely see a future in vegetarian and vegan foods. I think that now people are becoming a lot more environmentally focused and health conscious and are therefore changing their eating habits.

How much focus do you give to health in cooking?
I love vegetarian food and mostly eat vegetarian food at home. I keep it light and fresh and full of flavor.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
You can't go wrong with the classics and so these are my source of inspiration although that's not to say I don't enjoy innovative new recipes and flavours too.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
I certainly do. I love how each region as its own differentiating ingredient or addition to a dish influenced by history. For me, it's what makes the culinary world so fascinating.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
I love Asian food; I love Thai and Malay food. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing.

What is your dream job/project?
I would love to travel and cook for the British cricket team, if they are currently recruiting for a chef then I would be happy to offer my services!

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
Food is a big passion in our house; my kids definitely have potential to be both fantastic cooks. If they do decide to go into this career then I will back them all the way.

How do you maintain work life balance?
I aim to get my traveling done in one stretch so that I am at home for the important festivals and celebrations. I also try to always make sure my workload is very light during the kids holidays. I absolutely love spending time with them and watching them grow into kind human beings.

What is your goal in the next five years?
On a more personal note it is to see my kids through school successfully and be the best possible parent and husband I can be.

How do you like to spend your free time?
Currently I don't have a lot of free time as I spend a lot of it traveling. Opening restaurants in India, Dubai, Spain and London means I am usually on the road. When I do have free time and without hesitation I am with my wife and kids, messing around at home.

What is your hobby?
Right now I don't have time for hobbies but I won't lie, I do try to make time for cricket.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Through traveling a lot it's inevitable that you are going to eat out quite a lot. Within the UK I love traveling to try different restaurants with my family (we are all big foodies), we will be going to Le Manoir, Oxford in October and I am looking forward to it immensely.

What's your dream kitchen?
To be working in a professional kitchen surrounded my culinary heroes such as my father, Albert and Michel Roux (Snr & Jr), Raymond Blanc, Rick Stein, Marco Pierre White, Manjit Singh Gill and Jiggs Kalra.

Your message to readers.
Desire to learn and create is the only ingredient you need in life and in the kitchen.

15 August 2017 An Achiever in More Than One Field

Shaina NC is an achiever in the real sense of the word. Her name is in the celebrity list in the fashion world, political world and the social activism scenario. She is the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party who is known for the maturity and wisdom with which she combats her opponents in debates on news channels, she is known for the commitment with which she takes up social causes and she is known for her innovative fashion creations. In fact she blazed a trail in the fashion industry when she was just 18 years old. Shaina came up with 54 ways of draping the sari and was hailed as the Drape Queen. Her name figures in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest drape of a sari. Her attraction for fashion designing came quite naturally from her observation of her mother Munira Chudasama who pioneered the boutique trend in Mumbai by opening the Golden Thimble boutique at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai at a time when the boutique culture was new to the city. A student of Political Science and Law her entry into politics at the age of 31 was not unexpected. Her father Nana Chudasama an eminent jurist is very well known for his strong political views. Likewise her interest in social activism also came naturally as her father became the founder of the NGO Giants International.

In her chat with Better Kitchen she reveals how she has progressed to the position she now occupies. She is a foodie but cooking is not her forte considering the fast pace of her life. Her children and her husband who comprise her close knit family mean the world to her.

Read on to know more about the multi faceted beauty.

Her journey
I am a student of Political Science and Law. I entered the fashion industry when I was 18 years old. At that age I did not realise that I would pull off the feat of draping the sari in 54 different styles. When you are just 18 even draping a sari in one style could be daunting. So I went on to be known as the Queen of Drapes. At the age of thirty one I entered Politics and contested the Maharashtra State Assembly election. In 2004 I joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. I have been into social activism for a long long time. It is a kind of family legacy I inherited from my father and I truly enjoy working in that area. So it has been a satisfying journey.

What thoughts the word KITCHEN inspire in her
I am a foodie and I dream of my next meal all the time. I like a clean kitchen more than a fancy one.

About cooking
I prefer eating to cooking. I have an excellent cook who experiments and comes up with new healthy recipes and gives us all one delicious meal after another. Her name is Sunita and she is my lifeline.

Her Family
My kids are my stress busters. My daughter is sixteen and my son is ten. Lazing around with them and watching television with them is relaxing
for me.

Her kitchen
We have a convenient kitchen and we have had our say in its designing vis a vis the ventilation etc. I am not one for kitchen gadgets.

Eating out
We love to try street food. We go to restaurants that we have tried out and some of them are very popular among the food lovers of this city.

Her food habits
I eat a lot of fruits. Mangoes berries etc. I have a good metabolism. My husband is my role model in maintaining good health. He is very health conscious.

20 August 2021 Marking Indian Food as Indian Global Food

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

Whatever might have been Frost's state of mind when he penned down the above lines, the verse aptly describes the culinary journey of Chef Manish Mehrotra. The struggle, the apprehension dogging his footsteps on the chosen road, the voice in his head urging him to retrace the path he had decided to walk down and his final emergence as a successful culinary giant of the famed line of Indian Accent restaurants, Manish has seen all. Declared as the 'most exciting modern Indian chef in the world today', besides being honoured with a score of awards for his culinary expertise and skill, Manish has literally recharacterized the destiny of traditional Indian cuisine by incorporating global techniques and influences in his creations.

In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, Publisher – Better Kitchen Chef Manish Mehrotra traces his journey right from the sprouting of his career to his penchant of lending global attributes to Indian cuisine and finally to the laying of the foundation stone of his signature Indian Accent restaurants far and wide.

How did you start your hotel journey?
Allow me to start with a few words on my background. It may help you and others to understand the entire curve from its point of initiation to where I stand at present. I essentially hail from Patna, Bihar and belong to a vegetarian household. As for any inspiration from my family propelling me towards food industry, I can think of none since except a few cousins who owned a few sweet shops, there wasn't anyone whom I could look upon for stimulus. Even on the family front, we weren't used to of the concept of venturing out too often as traditionally all the delectable were prepared at home. Hence, there wasn't any special call to pull me out of my happy cocoon and push me towards the greener pastures.

The change set in when a cousin or two got into the hotel industry that lured me to join the newly sprouted career in 1993. Another driving force was my lack of interest in academics and a distaste to work at my father's petrol pump. That's how I ended up joining the culinary industry.

Talking of the initial period of my chosen field, I have no qualms in admitting that I thought I had committed a blunder opting for kitchen as a specialization. Anyhow, it is not unusual for anything new or unattempt to appear difficult in the beginning but the same task goes on to become easier as we grow in experience. So was it in my case. Eventually I fell in love with my specialization!

I may add that while I was struggling to find my feet in the new domain, I met with loads of negativity with people advising me to go back to my lucrative family business but I refused to shirk away from my chosen path. Now, when I think back, I am glad that I found the requisite strength to resist the brigade of antagonism or I wouldn't be where I am today.

Where have you done your training from?
I have done my training from IHM, Mumbai. It is also known as Dadar Catering College.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
Before joining the hotel industry, I was under the illusion that the hospitality industry was steeped in glamour. After becoming a part of the industry, I realized that the reality was far different. For the diners, dining in a 5-star hotel is an exclusive experience or say an episode that leaves a pleasant hangover for days to come.

In contrast, a busy day in the same hotel means endless effort and work for the kitchen staff entrusted with the job of catering to the continual culinary demands to perfection. In other words, more fun and celebration in the restaurant means a super busy day in the kitchen. Here the responsibility of the chef grows manifold as it falls on him to fathom the culinary psyche of the customer and satiate the taste buds of the concerned.

How do you rate the taste of food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table? How much weightage do you give to both cooking and serving?
There is no way that we can afford to serve at the table what we haven't tasted ourselves. The philosophy operating here is that as a cuisinier, how can I expect my guests to approve of what I have rustled up if I don't approve of the same myself? Infect, this is a very important aspect of our trade and I make it a point to drill the gravity of the same in my chefs as well. 'You should be able to enjoy eating what you have cooked”.

Another crucial aspect is that the quality of the food must match the money shelled out to enjoy the grub. As a chef, I must question myself if the food served in my outlet leaves a lingering flavor in the mind of the customer strong enough to pull him back where he doesn't mind paying that much money? In the end, the chef must be satisfied and comfortable with what he is doing and enjoy tasting his own food.

As for serving, 'I give more importance to serving than cooking many a times.' As a culinary artist, I firmly believe that an ideal chef must know how to taste, cook and finally and most importantly serve with respect and warmth. You may be the best chef in the world, capable of knocking up the best dishes in the world; however, if you lack the knack of serving, you are gone for a toss. The servers must be trained to turn each guest experience into “ideal guest experience.”

“Customers crave recognition and acknowledgment.” - Danny Meyer

How did the idea of Indian Accent generate and how you did you manage to implement it as a successful restaurant?
The idea of Indian Accent developed while I was working with the same company in London where I observed particularly in New York and London how international cuisines were so well represented. The next thing I knew was that I wanted to locate Indian cuisine on their culinary map and at par with other cuisines. This included the proper representation of Indian regional food that the new enlightened customer with evolved taste buds and preferences could relate to. For instance, years back, eating raw fish would have raised eyebrows but today Sushi is one of the most sought after dish in Japanese cuisine. So by the same standards, I felt that the entire spectrum of regional Indian food needed to be represented in a way that people all over the world were able to relate to it globally as Indian global food. This is how The Indian Accent originated.

Brief us on modern Indian food?
Honestly speaking, there is no expression like Modern Indian food. When we use the term 'Modern', the expression implies redefining traditional Indian preparations without losing their authenticity. For example, people no longer want to opt for a dish whose authentic taste is camouflaged by the use of superfluous spices and oil. Hence modern food typifies the process of reviving and rediscovering traditional Indian dishes in a manner where each ingredient gets a chance to be exhibited individually in a much refined manner. It also implies retaining the original texture and color combination of the food so as not to lose its flavor and authenticity.

Other than that, no two Indian cuisines are to be used together. The combination has to be sensible and acceptable.

What is the role of presentation in the current scenario? Can you please brief us on the latest trend and how are the chefs working on this?
The role of presentation in any given cuisine is unparalleled. You know what they say, “Before the food touches your tongue, you've already tasted it.” This is to say that your customer visually tastes your food long before tasting in his mouth. Having said that, flavor is more important. You just can't compromise with the flavor. I try to ingrain the same in the minds of my chefs who have a penchant for presentation and thus tend to prioritize presentation over flavor.

Flavor is created by a balanced combination of food, cooking techniques along with seasonings and perceived through the collective experience of our senses when we eat, but particularly through aroma, taste and food textures. Hence, developing flavor must be mastered in order to produce great tasting cuisine.

Whereas trends are concerned, because of the lockdown there is an increased focus on gourmet delivery food which comes with the challenge of retaining the aroma, texture and the taste of the dish for a longer period. So, gourmet delivery food is the flavor at the moment.

What is the philosophy of eating healthy staying healthy?
For me, a healthy body is not a product of your eating habits but of lifestyle change. That is to say that you can eat everything that has been created by the universe from the perspective of maintaining a healthy body but in moderation and at the correct time.

Another pivotal point is that food isn't going to help you to gain or shed weight. You have to incorporate some type of exercise regimen in your lifestyle. Hence, my definition of staying healthy includes eating at the right time within limits and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How do you implement the same in your restaurants?
To be honest, ours is an indulgence restaurant. By way of explanation, people come to us to celebrate. Consequently we are expected to come up with nice palatable indulgent dishes. However, despite using rich cooking mediums like ghee, butter, we never go overboard. Every ingredient is used in moderation. In addition, we make it a point to use perfectly sourced ingredients and fresh seasonal ingredients in our recipes to retain maximum nutritional benefits. Good quality produce is the topmost priority at our restaurant kitchen. Processed food has no place in our spectrum of recipes. Thereupon, this is precisely how we take care of the health quotient in our restaurant.

Some ingredients are only taste enhancers and not good for health. What are the steps that may be taken to avoid using them in recipes in restaurants where guests are going for the taste exclusively?
It may interest you to know that there are thousands of natural ingredients that take care of your health and are excellent flavor enhancers in the same go. Take for example ingredients like garlic, parmesan cheese and mushroom. These are a few amongst the huge plethora of ingredients that can be effectually incorporated in a particular dish. They add to the nutritional value of the food while enhancing the flavor and are a great choice for every chef's kitchen.

What is the scope and trends for frozen foods in future?
Frozen food is a great asset in prevailing times when people are stuck indoors. Besides, it is far better than harmful processed food. I am of the opinion that if it has been done in a clean hygienic environment with a reputed brand, there should be no qualms about consuming frozen food. Case in point is Sushi which is a good quality fish from Japan available in frozen form. It follows that frozen food that adheres to the desired quality guidelines is safe to consume and is here to stay.

What are your suggestions to create uniqueness in your menu?
The most essential aspect when one is looking to create something unique is to abstain from copying. Taking inspiration from different places and people is completely acceptable but in the end, the final product should be a reflection of your individual touch. On the other hand, blindly copying others will eventually result in losing your creativity. My suggestion is that one should endeavor to make new things, seasonal things, something that people haven't seen or tasted before. Your menu should be an index of your distinctive creativity.

Tell us about the Green Practices which must be followed in every commercial kitchen.
First and foremost, all kitchen and personal hygiene norms must be followed to the letter. In restaurants, proper segregation of garbage is indispensable. Other than that, maximum prevention of wastage with uttermost utilization of ingredients is paramount. Apart from this, proper disposal of waste in an environment friendly way plus the use of local ingredients to reduce carbon footprint are some of the vital green practices which must be followed in every commercial kitchen.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced in the coming time?
The advent of new gadgets and technologies is bound to bring a parallel revolution in cooking techniques. As an illustration, we used sil batta for grinding spices in the remote past which is unthinkable now considering the huge increase in the work load and scarcity of time. Hence, mixers and grinders originated reducing the burden and precious time. Another example is the bhatti ovens used way back but gradually replaced by combi ovens. Also take the instance of pressure cooker. Can you envisage an Indian kitchen sans a pressure cooker? Moreover, these gadgets, as mentioned before, save valuable time, energy and are hygienic as well. So, essentially there has been an evolution in the world of kitchen gadgets and technology and all for good.

What are your views on the newly emerged concept of cloud kitchens?
Yes, delivery kitchens are the hot new trend. Owing to the recent lockdown, people all over the world got the food delivered at their homes. Delivery kitchens are a big support at any given time but have their own challenges. Keeping intact the quality of the delivered food is the prime concern in this particular arrangement and as expected, the chefs are working on preserving the quality of the same since delivered food tends to lose its quality. If they manage to control the quality of the food, I would say that delivery kitchens have a great future.

As regard to the exclusive resources unavailable in these kitchens in terms of preservatives and sundry, as business will grow, the resources too shall grow.

It is widely believed that chefs don't disclose their recipes. However, with the new open kitchen concept, where all the mixing and garnishing is done in full view, how do you think the chefs can keep their recipes a secret?
As for me, I simply do not believe in the doctrine of keeping my recipes a secret. On the contrary, passing on the recipes ensures that your creations are not lost to time. Also, everyone is sufficiently enlightened today and have a good hand as well. Thus wise, I share whatever I learn with my chefs. Apart from that, I always advise my juniors to abstain from copying my recipes because my recipes are already out there in the market and hence are not their Individual mark of distinction. However when inspired by my methodology, they create something of their own instead of aping me blindly, that helps them to evolve more as chefs. The idea is not to cook but think like me which will give them the impetus to create more things.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
I have been inspired countless times. It has something got to do with the fact that every house in India has a secret recipe which is exclusive to that particular household. The word secret is the keyword here. Since Indian households were steeped neck deep in numberless beliefs that forbade people from entering the kitchen, unfortunately many good recipes died with the people who created them. Indian cuisine has always suffered despite being older than French cuisine because it wasn't documented properly and hence many good recipes did not see the light of the day. Therefore I always inspire my chefs to share their recipes on social media as much as possible so that their creations last eternally. That's why I am open to inspiration from any guest who cares to share their knowledge on a specific food item and try to incorporate the same in my preparation. It is always a new learning day for me.

Share your fun moments in the kitchen.
There are plenty of fun moments in the kitchen that crease us up. As an example, though we are professional chefs yet we burn things all the time. The best part is when the juniors make fun behind our backs and comment that even chefs burn their food which is hilarious. So there are all sorts of fun moments in the kitchen. At times you get a funny order that just doesn't exist in the menu which brings the house down in the kitchen. These moments are a big help as they give a respite from the endless stress and makes those working in the kitchen more comfortable and relaxed.

Do you help your better half when she is in kitchen?
My wife, when alive, was the master of the kitchen. I lost her to cancer last year. She was also a chef. As for me I don't ever cook at home. She was the one who used to take care of household things including the kitchen.

There has been a growing trend of home chefs entering the market with their home cooked menus. What are your views on the same and its future?
I am all for the concept of home chefs. At the same time, I ask my chefs to maintain the distinctive character of their creations. For instance, if one plan to sell chole bature, there must be some add on like salad, pickle, or maybe garnishing to characterize one's creation marking it different from others. Hence, when you include an ingredient that's unique to your household, your food ends up being unique.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?
To be honest, it's tough to strike a proper work life balance in the hospitality industry. This is especially true as you start out in this trade but as you go higher and reach the top level positions, you can afford to relax with spare time at hand. Anyhow I have made certain changes in my lifestyle lately. For instance, I have started walking and have also rescheduled my eating timings on the recommendation of my doctor. As for the tips on managing the high stress level, I always tell the younger brigade that it is super important to retain their composure at work and make every effort to keep stress at bay since that could be ominous for their career.

Who is your current favorite chef and why?
I have favorites all over the world but am especially inspired by the new young chefs like Prateek from Mumbai, Himanshu Saini in Dubai, Chef Hussain in Mumbai canteen and Saransh Koyla whom I find very hard working. I am confident that these chefs and the likes are the future Indian food which is very good.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
I eat out lots. However, I am more of a craving centric person. For example, one day I'll want to eat a specific dish and the next day, it'll be something else I'll be hankering after. Accordingly the outlets frequented keep changing with my preferences.

Do you want to give any message to our readers about the kitchen? How can they make their favorite kitchen?
I must profess that this question is very close to my heart. That's because one day, I also want to make my dream kitchen. However, my advice to those aspiring to make a good, working and a functional kitchen is to pre decide the place for each and every item and gadget that you plan to include in your kitchen. One of the ground rules irrespective of the kitchen size is that it should be uncluttered and conducive for work. “Everything in its own place” is the golden mantra here. Organized and uncluttered kitchen makes you want to spend time in kitchen instead of stressing you out.

Secondly and most importantly, every corner of the kitchen must be accessible to ease cleaning. Besides, your space must be well lit, not necessarily by sunlight, to enable you to see clearly what you are cooking and the ingredients you are using in your dish. The idea is that you should be able to see your creation. Proper visualization sets a mood and adds to the creative energy needed for any given culinary task.

13 April 2021 Dilip Kumar's Peerless Hospitality

When one thinks seriously about it one realises that the leading men of the cinema industry who became matinee idols during the golden period of Hindi cinema were not admired for their physical fitness or the biceps they possessed. They were admired for their individual screen presence and the magic they created with their histrionic prowess on the screen.

As a result they had no need to follow any diets or exercise routines. There were no gyms to go to. They kept themselves in shape with such enjoyable physical activities as a game of badminton or tennis, swimming, cycling and so on.

Both Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar played football and cricket during their college years and no doubt they were in the forefront when cricket matches were organised by the industry to collect funds in aid of the victims of natural calamities in the country.

Both Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar loved food. The lunch breaks at RK Studios when the Kapoors were shooting in the studio were famous. Food would be laid out like a royal feast and every one in the studio was welcome to enjoy the day's sumptuous menu.

The same excitement was visible when Dilip Saheb was shooting for a film. Food arrived from his residence for the unit. The best of non-vegetarian fare came from the actor's Pali Hill residence prepared under the guidance of Saira Banu's star mother, Beauty Queen Naseem Banu.

The best times were during the shooting of B.R. Chopra's Naya Daur. And that was long before Dilip Kumar married Saira Banu.

Yash Chopra was the director's assistant delegated to take care of Dilip Saheb and, he too being a bachelor then and a food lover, it didn't take long for Dilip Saheb and Yash Chopra to strike a rapport and become friends.

“We would plan each day's breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and one day we made an omelette with 100 or more eggs for the unit. I was the assistant chef and Dilip Saheb was the Chef”. Yash Chopra always remembered with a chuckle.

In fact, Dilip Saheb has a weakness for omelettes which his close friends are aware of. He goes down memory lane often and recalls the taste of the food he relished as a youth when his mother cooked for the family in their house in Mumbai's bustling Nagdevi street.

“Saheb has a great taste for good food which he has acquired from the excellent food his mother prepared lovingly for her family” says Saira. When he wants to savour the same taste he walks into our kitchen and instructs our cook to prepare the dish under his guidance. Sometimes he takes over the entire kitchen and whips up something truly tasty and healthy. He can come up with a variety of soups for example which you won't get anywhere because they are his own original recipes.

In Dilip Kumar's Pali Hill bungalow there are kitchens on every floor. The ground floor has a large kitchen well equipped for cooking on festive occasions when 200 plus invitees are to be served a variety of food preparations. Invariably the menu is decided by Dilip Saheb and it is always a great mix of non-veg and vegetarian items. In the vegetarian section he makes sure that Idli-Sambhar and Dahi Vadas are included because they are his favourites. “In fact, most of Dilip Saheb's friends are vegetarians”, says Saira.

On the first and second floor are kitchens that are more like pantries. They are equipped to cook instant or quick meals and snacks or just tea and coffee.

On the third floor there is no kitchen but a small pantry to cater to Dilip Saheb's and Saira's needs alone.

Saira is very particular about cleanliness and maintenance. All the kitchens are always clean and well maintained. Her kitchen staff has to compulsorily wear gloves and caps and observe personal hygiene.

Saira remembers how Dilip Saheb made it a point to meet and personally compliment the Chefs in the famous hotels they stayed in during their travels for outdoor shootings. “If Saheb liked a meal he never hesitated to express his delight and go to the hotel's kitchen and meet the chef and all the staff. He would give them a splendid surprise and they would be truly surprised when he would talk about the ingredients and blends. I would listen to him and wonder how he acquired all that know how.”

It was usual those days for Saira and Dilip Saheb to have their personal staff accompany them when they traveled to the outdoor locations at their own expense (not the producer's) and Narmada their cook was a compulsory member of the entourage. Narmada was granted special permission by the hotel managements to enter the kitchen and quickly prepare something special for Saheb at odd hours when he returned from a long day of outdoor shooting.

It is a treat to listen to the travel accounts of Narmada and her experiences in the kitchens of reputed hotels in India. Initially it was awesome for Narmada to see the large, clean and hi tech kitchens and be the centre of attention as Dilip Saheb's personal cook. She recalls how on her first day in a 5 star hotel kitchen she asked the Chef: “Aap yahan ke cook hai?”

And the gentleman replied “jee haan” with a mischievous smile. To continue the conversation Narmada toldhim “aap ko itne logon ki madad milti hai. Main akeli 200 logon ke liye biryani banati hoon”.

The gentleman replied “Bahut badiya”. Then he asked her why she didn't ask for assistance in the kitchen and she told him the truth that she was not willing to share the recipes handed down to her from two generations of Saira's family with roots in Himachal Pradesh. “Aap ko bhi nahin bataungi” she remembers to have concluded.

Indeed, Narmada's biryani served to guests on Eid and other festive occasions is famous in the industry. Narmada got to know the importance of the Chef and the qualifications required for attaining the status much later on as she traveled widely in India and the UK with the couple. “Mujhe nahin maloon tha ki chef kya hota hai” she recalls remembering her faux pas.“Bahut padayi karna padta hai aur degree lena padta hai. Baap re. Mujhe kya maloom tha”.

Even though she learned to cook by assisting Naseem Banuji she says it was from Dilip Saheb that she learned to pick genuine ingredients and take the trouble of going to the market herself to select the vegetables, fruits and meats with an eye not on the price tags but on the freshness and wholesomeness.

She has fond memories of her visit to London with the couple. There was no question of eating any instant food when Narmada was around.

Every day Saheb gave her the menu for the main meals and wrote out the list for the purchase from the retail outlets. She has a beautiful anecdote tucked away in her memory of a surprise Saheb gave her in London. One afternoon she did a wonderful job, laying out a gorgeous table with Saheb's favourite dishes for a few friends who were invited by the couple. After the meal all of them were ready to go out for some time. Narmada was going to be alone in the house. Saheb asked her if she would be fine sitting alone in the house and then he gave her a pouch containing 2 video cassettes. He told her she could watch the movies in the cassettes after they left and amuse herself. She asked Saira if she knew what were the films in the cassettes and Saira simply said: “dekhlo tumhare favourites hi honge” After they left, Narmada sat down to watch the movies and lo and behold the movies were Dev Anand starrers. Saheb and Saira knew that Narmada was a fan of Dev Anand!

Saira is not a culinary enthusiast. “I can barely make myself a cup of tea “she confesses. “My mother brought me up like a princess” she laughs. As for making even a cup of tea for the man she adores she has this to say “My husband is very particular that the tea has to be piping hot and have the perfect blend and aroma and served properly. I can serve beautifully with the finesse of a well groomed woman but the making of the perfect tea... well, not my cup of tea”, she laughs.

The Khan household was run gracefully by Naseem Banu at one time. Eid, Diwali, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Wedding Anniversary etc were celebrated with an open house invitation to friends and relatives and colleagues. Saira took over after her mother passed away and she has successfully continued the grand tradition of hospitality Dilip Saheb is known for till the lockdown last year put a bar on social get togethers and visits. The uniqueness of the hospitality in Dilip Saheb's home is that no one is made to feel like a stranger in the house. According to Dharmendra. “I have always felt that I am in the care and love of an elder brother whenever I have visited him” says Dharam ji.

By Udaya Tara Naya,
Advisory Board Member - Better Kitchen
Writer Dilip Kumar - The Substance & The Shadow, An Autobiography
Ex Editor, Screen Weekly

8 March 2016 The Gracious Woman in the Gourmet World

She is six times World Gourmand award winner and author of 37 books and her name is synonymous with good food but she's not a chef. Who else could that be but Rashmi Uday Singh the trailblazing of Food and Health specialist and authority for the last two decades. Having graduated in English Literature (Hons), she went on to do her law (LLB) and management (Masters in Management) from Delhi and Mumbai Universities, respectively. In 2010, Rashmi was conferred the Atout France Best Media Personality Award.

This unique star has many firsts to her credit. She helped create India's first ever city-restaurant guide to Mumbai in 1997, as well as a Nightlife guide to Mumbai followed by a City restaurant guide to Pune. Rashmi has been doing inspiring work in the field of vegetarianism. Her vegetarian cookbook "Around the world in 80 plates" won many international awards. In her shoot with Gordon Ramsay for Channel 4, Rashmi not only convinced Gordon (a confirmed non vegetarian) to try vegetarian food but also to learn how to cook it. The world's first vegetarian guide to Paris made international waves, she has recently partaken of Rene Redzepi's NOMA's 12 course vegetarian meal and is working on the ultimate vegetarian guide to Dubai.

Having trained with the BBC in London, Rashmi was selected to Gordon Ramsay's South India guide and also filmed with Gordon for Channel 4 'Great Escapes'. She also completed a year-long successful TV series on DD Metro, 'Health Today' and the popular food and travel show 'Foodie Fundas with Rashmi Uday Singh'. Her TV show 'Delicious Discoveries with Rashmi Uday Singh' was broadcast on ET NOW and 'Foodie Awards' on TIMES NOW.

She is a regular columnist with The Times of India, Bombay Times and Chennai Times. She also writes regularly for many national and international magazines.

Now that you know a lot about this dynamic personality, it's time to hear more, but straight from the horse's mouth.

Tell us about your journey.
I wrote my IAS exam and worked for 15 years with the Income Tax department and resigned as Commissioner of Income tax in 1990. Right through my administrative services days I wrote about food and restaurants, because I love exploring and that's how I wrote India's first ever city restaurant guide.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word kitchen?
Kitchen brings to my mind a lot of love and care as well as fresh ingredients, warmth and love. It also brings to my mind creativity, that transforms those ingredients into great food.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and your family's reaction after having the dish.
I made my first dish (a dessert of crushed biscuits and cream) when I was five years old. My mother is a great cook, she used to teach cooking and I used to help her, so I learnt a lot from her. Of course, everybody loved the dessert.

What are your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Creating, innovating and improvising is what I love to do in life and in the kitchen. So from baking the “corn on the cob” cake with totally different ingredients than what the recipe book demands to improvising the Mongolian steamboat… that's my idea of fun.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Consciously keeping time free to be with my family, be it visiting my son (he is an actor in Hollywood, LA) or visiting my mother in Delhi (as I live in Mumbai).

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
I don't cook as often as I would like to. We have a super cook and checking out restaurants and eating out is part of my job.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
My better half loves cooking and many a times I help him out.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice?
I don't need to prove my culinary skills… I am not a chef.

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
I hate using ready to use mixes. Wholesome ingredients, always freshly ground, is my mantra.

If and when you cook, do you experiment or do you cook using traditional recipes?
A bit of both.

What's has been your role in planning & designing your Kitchen?
Just guiding the architect on space use and most importantly on being able to reach over to all the shelf space conveniently and quickly.

Does it matter to you to have a modern well equipped kitchen or a simple and convenient kitchen is good enough?
While I do have a modern well equipped kitchen, a convenient one is fine too. It's all about the person who is cooking and not about the appliances.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
Reviewing restaurants is part of my job. So I eat out regularly. I love Japanese and Chinese restaurants as much as I do holes in the wall, tucked away local eateries.

Do you snack while at work?
I do not like to snack.

Are you conscious about calories while eating?
Calorie counting is not my scene at all. I eat everything in moderation. I love dark chocolate and whenever I binge on it, I'm sure to make it up by balancing out my next meal. It's all about moderation.

What's next?
Am working on an international TV show on food and also the ultimate vegetarian guide to Dubai.

2 December 2016 Magic in the Kitchen - Chef Sudhir Pai Reveals His Success Story

Has cooking, which was once the mundane drudgery of the homemaker, come a long way to become a sophisticated art supported by advancing modern technology in the twenty first century? The answer is interestingly and crisply given by seasoned chef Sudhir Pai whose three decades of experience and global exposure makes him an authority and a guru for those who have aspirations of achieving a position of recognition in the hotel industry.

We are meeting him in the spacious and serene coffee shop of Holiday Inn, Saki Naka, Mumbai, a short distance from the Chatrapati Shivaji International airport on a weekday at the start of yet another hectic day for him as the man at the helm of the hotel's hi-tech kitchen.

The soft spoken, unassuming chef unhesitatingly plunges into the interview without wasting time.

As we begin at the beginning, he chuckles and tells us unabashedly that his interest in cooking was stirred at an early age when his mother and grandmother prepared goodies for the festivals the family celebrated together. He was curious like any child at that age to know how the delicacies laid out on those occasions and when guests came home to dinner or lunch were conjured up by the ladies so smartly. He accompanied them to the market when they went out to buy the fish or the meat and the ingredients and observed how they made their choices so carefully and expertly.

“You know those days a boy was either expected to choose a career in engineering or medicine or the government services. Nobody ever expected an adolescent undergrad to say he would like to explore a career in cooking. The word chef was nowhere in the common vocabulary. It was infra dig to even suggest that one would like to go for a career in the hotel industry as an expert cook. However I told my parents that I would like to enroll in the Bombay Catering College as the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, Mumbai, was then known. They were broadminded enough to let me follow my pursuit”, Pai remembers cheerfully.

“We never dined at five star hotels, so my parents did not know what that world was like. I myself did not know what a chef's position was like till I went for the mandatory training at the Taj during the course at the catering Institute. It was such a revelation”.

Chef Pai emerged from the institute with his dreams of making it in a professional world which was just beginning to find its place among the respectable and lucrative professions of the modern world. His summer internship at the Taj sharpened his ambition to make his own mark in the calling he had chosen for himself. He was too young then to realize that he had indeed done the right thing. He had chosen a career to which he was adapted by nature and liking and that by itself was a key to success. He knew that years of hard work lay ahead but it hardly scared him because his love for the work he had chosen would itself take care of the hard work.

At the Taj he found out for himself that his forte would be in the kitchen. “I observed with wonder and awe how the chefs created recipes and skillfully presented and served their creations and earned admiration. In the service department you needed a different kind of ability. You had to speak with confidence and present yourself smartly. That was not my plus point. I was fascinated by the creativity that went into the chef's work and I made up my mind categorically”.

Chef Pai then consciously chose to specialize in the Kitchen rather than in the Service segment and the challenge before him was to make the best of the skill he had chosen to acquire. “It was during my short exposure at the Taj that I saw how a lot of creativity goes into a chef's work. I witnessed how imaginatively the recipes were executed and presented and how a chef dominated the kitchen with the sheer magic of his skill. I also did a training stint at the Ambassador Flight Kitchen, the pioneer in flight catering, and at the ITC. At the college we did a lot of theory and we also got to understand the nuances of cooking both for bulk cooking and limited cooking but the training at the hotels mentioned literally opened my eyes. I knew now that my aptitude was in the area of cooking and not service”, admits Pai.

Pai's first job was at the Hotel Sands, a relatively small hotel at Juhu in Mumbai. He looks back at the experience again with a sense of gratitude because it was the hands on experience at Sands that further sealed his decision to take become a chef.
“You must note that it was not easy for anyone to categorically choose a career in that period. Today you can glean every information you want on internet and there are celebrated chefs and cooking shows on television to give you motivation. I am talking about the pre Sanjeev Kapoor years”, he laughs and goes on to tell us that both he and Sanjeev Kapoor passed out in 1984---Kapoor passed out from Pusa institute Delhi and Pai passed out from Mumbai.

He picked up the finer points of the art from “on the spot exposure”, his own understanding and common sense. Pai elucidates it thus: “When a housewife cooks at home for her guests she is in no position to adhere to the rule that food must be served fresh, hot and attractively. Very rarely you come across a lady who will cook fresh food for her guests because she is the hostess who has the responsibility of conversing with her guests and making them feel welcome and at home as well. So she usually keeps the food ready. She may tend to forget an item in her hurry to serve the food after warming it up. She may not even create a menu that will suit the taste of her guests because she will be focused on making a good impression by preparing what she knows best and what she excels in.
“In our profession as chefs we cannot do that. We have to ensure that the guest gets freshly cooked, hot food made to his taste and comfort level. I enjoy interacting with guests in the hotel to find out what he or she likes to eat . The choice and likes change from individual to individual depending on age, cultural background etc. If a mother is fussy about what her child eats she will be the happiest guest if I find out what her child likes and I give her just that on a plate at the table or in her room. I have conversations with guests and I try to discern what they enjoy. It is a revelation I use to please him during his stay in the hotel. Sometimes a guest tells me about a dish he enjoyed at a restaurant in some other hotel in some other city and I can sense his yearning to savor it again. I quietly try to replicate it and approximate the aroma and taste and I present it before him as a surprise. His happiness becomes my reward”.

Pai makes no mistake when he describes the demands of his occupation as a mix of management skill, creativity, technical expertise, engineering knowledge, IT savvy, worldly wisdom and love for the job. He smiles when he says that ideally a chef should possess all these attributes to be successful and sought after today in a competitive world.

“I would say that a lot of understanding goes into the taste that is given to the food that is beautifully served. When you cook a vegetable for twenty persons and when you cook the same vegetable for 1000 persons the recipe itself changes and along with it the taste also goes through an inevitable change. If you try to cook bhendi for 1000 people the way you would cook it for twenty it will become sticky and disastrous. The recipe has to change and the taste too will change but the chef's skill is to see that the change in taste is minimized. That is the secret of the difference in taste between home cooked food and restaurant food. An expert chef will ensure that the difference is camouflaged by the creation of a brilliant recipe”, Pai reveals.

In a restaurant most diners like an open kitchen where they can watch the cooks toss and whip and fry and grill the food because they enjoy being part of the whole process of creation and presentation. Those restaurants which have the open kitchen service have to meet the challenge of not only making the experience delightful for the diners but also safe for the visitors. As Pai rightly points out the chef's responsibility does not end anymore in the realm of the kitchen. The chef today is expected to take several calls.

He reveals that a chef today has to ensure that expenses are cut wisely because no hotel can afford losses arising from poor management of resources. For instance, when a certain technology is brought in it is mandatory for the chef to have a thorough understanding of its use and maintenance. More than anything else the chef has to know what course of action to take if it fails. Ideally the choice of the technology should be made in consultation with the chef if he is knowledgeable and well acquainted with its strengths and shortcomings. Very often when a new installation fails the shocks come when parts have to be replaced and that involves huge unforeseen expenses. It is always better to prevent such costly breakdowns than go all out to mend the failure. To prevent the mishap the chef should have a complete understanding of the technology and he should instruct and train the hands down the line to use the equipments with care and skill. Induction cooking for instance is not new but it has undergone rapid advancement in its merits and usefulness. An informed and experienced chef will ensure that optimum care is taken in its use to achieve optimum result. An entire line of modern technology is now available for chefs to select from. They involve huge expenses in their installation, use and maintenance. It takes a technologically educated chef to make good use of it.

“I make it a point to participate in exhibitions and attend workshops related to technology because my profession demands constant updating and refinement of knowledge and information. I insist that everybody down the line in any place I work in shows the same enthusiasm to assimilate knowledge and experience”, he says.

To housewives who are kitchen proud and have a flair for trying out new recipes that require the use of modern cooking infrastructure he gives the same advice. “Plan your kitchen according to your comfort level and requirement. And be savvy about the devices and installations in your kitchen in order to keep them for a long time in good shape”, he advises.

1 May 2017 Smile My Favourite Ingredient - Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

He is the author of more than 150 best selling cookbooks; he is a restaurateur, has become a household name with his pathbreaking cuisine show - Khana Khazana and is the first Indian chef to launch his own television food channel - Food Food besides being the winner of several culinary awards. Yes, he is Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who has recently been honoured with the Padma Shri Award by President Pranab Mukherjee for his contribution to the culinary world. In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava of Better Kitchen Chef Sanjeev Kapoor traces the journey of his extraordinary life. Excerpts from the interview.

What was your first reaction on hearing the news that you are one of the recipients of Padam Shri?

I couldn't believe the news initially. I felt somebody was playing a prank. The call came in the morning at 7 A.M. People used to ask every second day why I was not chosen for the honour. So, I thought it was someone pulling my leg. When the news got confirmed I felt great,I felt I did something good in life. I felt the road I took was not understood by many at that time but at the end of the road I got my reward. People think that commercial success is not real success but when something like this happens in some sense it's a national validation of your hard work and sincerity, It's your country which is givingyou recognition.

Entering in to this profession was a deliberate move or was it coincidence?

It was a coincidence. I always wanted to do something different from what my friends and relatives had done. It was sheer chance. I prefer to do what others only dream and think of.

Tell us something about your childhood memories?

I belong to a normal family. Father was a banker and he never nurtured any big aspiration. I had a normal childhood. I was inculcated high value system and I was good in studies and other extracurricular activities. In terms of cooking, my brother was fond of cooking as his hobby in our childhood. I used to practice public speaking but cooking was not in my agenda. In our house, cooking or working in a kitchen was not a big deal for the men. I had a carefree childhood with no stress.

Were your parents happy and supportive in your work?

My parents always supported me and those were the days when parents did not know what kids were doing. Probably sometimes exam dates were known to them. Those days life was so easy. Only one thing mattered and that was whatever you do and the choices you make should make your parents proud. When I took up hotel management my parents never questioned me. My friends thought I was mad. Their thinking was that hotel management was meant for people who are good for nothing and who don't get admission in any good college. I was very good in academics, so they had a point. Nobody thought I would ever become a chef because hotel management doesn't mean only becoming a chef.

How did you start your earlier days and what were the challenges and can you recall any incident?

Naturally when you start anything in this industry it is always normal to start the first day by just cleaning tiles etc. In the training period I came across something disgusting. A chef was cooking chana and he cleaned the table and poured that into the same chana. That was the cook's frustration. Those days nobody ever taught you anything because they did not want to reveal their secret. They wanted to retain their USP. I believed I should change every thing which I always hated. I thought if I will not do something I will be wasting my life. I thought will teach whatever I know. Chefs were treated badly those days. They were people who had to work back stage in the kitchen and not allowed to walk or come out in the lobby of hotels. I always wanted to rebel against this thinking and change the way chefs were treated.

Did that humiliation and no exposure become the motivation for you to come in front of the camera rather be in kitchen?

No, humiliation was not the motivation. It was the eagerness for doing something new. In 1992 when I came to Mumbai, I was 28 years old and I became executive chef of a 400 room hotel. I had received the award for the best executive chef of the country and that bothered me. Had I reached my professional peek so early in 28 years? Now what? So I had to do more. Hence I joined Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Sciences to acquire a master in marketing management. I always tried to find out new things to do because I could not stick with the same thing. I found it a new and happening opportunity to come before camera. I was doing kitchen even that time and I met a guy for lunch. It was Hansal Mehta. It was not that I stopped working in the kitchen. Even today I work in the kitchen and I meet people in the same uniform which I used to wear.

Who was the first person with whom you shot the first show?

Hansal Mehta the famous award winning filmmaker. We shot our first show Khana Khazana with him. The channel wanted a lady host but somehow Hansal wanted me to work with me as he interacted with me and believed that what I could do nobody else could do. I did that for 19 years till I started my own channel. It was just a piece of the cake.

You wrote more than 150 books. How did your journey begin and what were its milestones?

When I first started the show people demanded for recipe books. I thought why do people want a recipe book when the show is for free on television? When the demand increased I thought of writing books. When I wrote my first book it took 22 months to write and I realised that it was more tough to write a recipe than cooking it. This work was hectic and never ending. I took seven days off and went to Khandala as it was not possible to afford a laptop so we settled for a desktop computer there in a friend's hotel. That became an instant hit and became a national best seller. My closest competitor was Arundhati Roy. Even now it is tough.

Are you planning a big book?

Oh yes! We are coming out with a book called“SIGNATURE”. We have a brand of restaurants named Signature. It's about the journey of Signature restaurants, recipes and my journey of starting the idea. So, it a kind of landmark book for us.

You have multiple brands of restaurants? What is the objective behind multiple branding?

We started our first restaurant “KHAZANA” in Dubai and then we opened the same in India, I came from a fancy and expensive five star background but my logic was to go for the masses. So I preferred television medium and people commented that we watch your food show but we can't taste and eat it. Hence I came out with the idea of a brand so that it would be more approachable by masses and affordable and not too expensive. Later on after some ten yearspeople started taking us for granted. I again started “SIGNATURE” in Dubai and it became an award winning restaurant and essentially I wanted to promote Indian food. I understood the need for growing in India alsoso we have a Chinese food chain also which began in India. We still believe more in Yellow Chilly which is casual dining neighbourhood Indian food brand. That's because we want grow more.

What is the future business plan for the restaurants business?

We have around seventy at the moment. We have sixty five around signed restaurants which we have to open.Work is in progress and may be in two years we will plant fifty more restaurants. More will be Yellow Chilly.

Food Food channel a full time food channel and the first started by an Indian chef. What was the idea and experience behind that?

In 2004 I thought that I should have a channel. It came out of an insecurity and I started to build and explore many things which were pivoted with my show. I thought if show stops then what? As it was running on a channel and channel can anytime stop it but if the channel is owned by me who can stop it. It was too early andpeople made fun of it. But I succeeded in 2011 by launching “FOOD FOOD” channel. Now it is six years and we are running the same.

Did you ever feel in your earlier days that there is a lack of kitchen appliances in India market?

India is a developing nation and there is a need for growth in every area and same applies in the case of appliances. We came out with a full fledged company on cookware and appliances named “Wonderchef”. I used to travel overseas and buy appliances and use them in my shows. People used to ask where we can get these things. So we started a company “Wonderchef”. The market is growing and country is developing but do we have everything? No. Can we do something? Yes we can.

You are also on the board of Singapore airlines. What is basic criteria you use to plan a single meal for different people?

This is a scientific process that cannot be done randomly. So when we started we initiated 8 cities people and tried to understand the mind of people and planned accordingly. According to stations where flight used to land we used to combine different food plans in the best possible manner by involving north, south, east and west Indian food. After doing this with time we got the feedbacks from very open and smart people. We understood what needed to be planned in the menu with what food items. We kept on listening, understanding, changing experimenting and working on feedbacks and now we know what is required.

How are you going to plan menu for IRCTC?

Oh we have already sent that plan. I spoke to the chairman yesterday it was for the new train launching “Tejas”. Everything is premium and food should also be premium. We discussed on budget constraints and all other aspects as we believe that if we are doing it we have to take it to next level. It was a whole new concept and now things will take time under new policies etc. We are also suggesting a menu for the Arthur Road prison.

What was your experience for cooking for dignitaries specially for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi? How menu was selected?

Fortunately he tried everything. He was on a fast that day and that disappointed me a lot as I came all the way to make something special. Actually I was invited by UAE government not by Indian government. Our prime minister didn't know I was there but as soon as he came to know he said, tell chef that I will eat and will not proceed with the fast. I have been lucky for it was always my team who cooked in initial years but whether it was the Queen of England, Prime Ministers, Commonwealth Heads of Government. The thrill and satisfaction of cooking for Modiji was phenomenal. I spent one hour fifteen minutes including main dinner and even breakfast.

If you are told to teach one recipe to someone who does not know anything about cooking?

First no matter who is cooking try appreciating whatever is in front of you and when you are eating just find one good thing and tell that good thing to him. If you start doing this cooking will come to you.

What is your favourite ingredient and why?

My favourite ingredient would be the smile you put it in your cooking. It starts tasting better.

What is next in your plate?

Many things! Actually nowadays in the country chefs are recognised as a compatible professional like doctors, artists, film stars etc. Hence I have to push myself, our category to that level. If a cricketer can be awarded with a Bharat Ratna then I desire the same for a food personality not in terms of pay but more in terms of recognition and I want my whole category to do to next level.

How and where you meet Alyona and when did you decide to marry her?

Her sister was a chef with me and we use to meet often. I was in Varanasi when I finished my stint and her sister replaced me. I was an outgoing chef and she was incoming chef. Work load is always more on incoming chef and she came with her sister. The city was new so it was my duty to take her for a city tour and I am doing the same till now. Hehe! We were together for next four years. I decided to come to Mumbai from Delhi and the reason was when I joined hotel industry as a chef I decided a target that I want to be a executive chef within ten years. It was eight years and I was not at close to it and it was damn frustrating because I don't like to fail. Then an opportunity came but it was not for executive chef. Then I thought that she has shifted to Mumbai after her dad's retirement I will work there and she is also there but I was not getting executive chef title. I tried they said, No! you are too young but I said its okay but don't keep somebody above me and you see my performance for a year and then decide as I was still having two years in my hand to achieve the target. Later they made me executive chef within six months after that and everything went as I wanted. Alyona was reason I moved to Mumbai.

13 August 2018 Good Catering Stands on Four Pillars - Food, Service, Presentation & Hygiene

Nikhil Caterers has more than four decades of experience in catering and decorating for weddings and special events. During this period they have had the opportunity and honour of undertaking wedding arrangements for many leading and famous families of Mumbai, Pune & other parts of Maharashtra as well as special events from many corporate bodies like Mastek, Tech Mahindra, Syntel, ICICI Prudential, Tata Consulting Engineers, Datamatics Technologies and Indian Pharmaceutical Association. Their motto is to take away clients' all worries and leave them to enjoy the most important occasions of their life by expertise, personalized and efficient services. Sunil & Sushma Tipnis has started this business named after their loving son, Nikhil, a management graduate and LLB. Nikhil brings his professional management skills to the team but never fails to recognize the importance of goodwill generated from excellent service over decades. In an exclusive interview with Better Kitchen Nikhil Tipnis elaborated the plans and challenges in their kitchen. Excerpts.

Brief us about your company.
Nikhil Caterers is 46 Year old Company founded by my parents who are pioneers in the Outdoor Catering industry since 1971. We specialize in large scale events such as wedding celebrations and corporate conferences. Because of our expertise and efficient services, we have earned ourselves a valuable good will and confidence amongst our clients.

What about your teams?
Our team comprises my father, mother and myself. Father looks after the finances while mother, who is the heart of the business, is the source of all the new innovations in cuisines. I look after the overall execution and management of business. We have different departments which are supported by our able and qualified managers. Our Senior Manager Sanjay Kadam looks after the operations. We associate with a wide range of chefs who help us create a special gastronomical experience for every one of our clients.

What is your USP?
Times have changed and all high end weddings demand Pan Indian & International Cuisines. Hence, we have to keep updating our range of cuisines. Good catering stands strong on four pillars i.e. food, service, presentation & hygiene. To achieve success, we have to make sure all four pillars are taken care of. In Food, we serve international varieties amongst which our Burmese Khaw Suey and Thin Crust Pizzas are very popular. At the same time, there are people who want to experience traditional Indian cuisine. So we try to offer a Puranpoli meets Pasta experience through our Catering.

Do you have a base kitchen or you do everything at the venue?
For large scale weddings we prefer to set up our kitchen at the venue. For smaller parties we prepare the food in our kitchen. In addition to that, we have warehouses where we keep all equipments, utensils etc. required in the Kitchen.

How do you manage the kitchen when you are given an empty space?
It requires a couple of hours for us to set up the kitchen. All we need is electricity and water. Everything else is managed by us. That's the skill set come up with.

Which are the equipments, appliances and utensils you need at the venue? If something is not available how do you manage?
We don't generally need anything at the venue except electricity and water. If the venue provides utensils and equipments we make sure they are up to our standards. However, we prefer carrying our own equipments so as to not compromise on the hygiene.

How do you manage hygiene at the venue?
Our boys wash the kitchen before starting the work. The utensils and equipments are washed at the venue before usage. All our staff is well trained, groomed and provided with clean uniforms. We take extra precautions to maintain strict hygiene standards.

What are the safety measures you take at your venue kitchen?
We carry fire extinguishers and first aid kits along with us. Since the food that we prepare is fresh and not stored, there is no fear of contamination.

How big are catering you have managed till date and where? What were the challenges you had faced to succeed?
We have managed events for a crowd as big as a 10,000 plus. To manage such a big crowd we had to arrange a team of 700. The challenge was to manage such a huge team as once they are managed the crowd manages itself. Another challenge is the space. We needed a huge space to make arrangements as it's mostly a two hour show. For large crowds we have to set up multiple food counters. If the space is small there are chances of it getting chaotic, but we try to maintain decorum no matter what the space is.

Do you do catering in other cities as well?
Yes, In Pune, Nasik, Kolhapur, Sangali etc. In fact, we can cater anywhere our client takes us. We are in the process of starting a branch in Pune.

How do you manage logistics and manpower?
We prefer to buy all groceries and vegetables from our regular vendors and transporting it to the venue. Few items which are perishable, are bought from local vendors near the venues. We prefer taking our usual staff.

Is it feasible to buy things locally?
As mentioned we don't depend on local vendors, as we share a better understanding with our regular vendors.

On what basis is your costing done? In this versatile market the cost of ingredients is very flexible?
Honestly, no caterer in India can get his costing right. It's always estimation. There are times during the wedding season when the labor demands more remuneration. Sometimes, the fluctuations in the prices of ingredients in turn change our rate. But there are times where the rates have been fixed with the customers months in advance. However, we try to cover all parameters before finalizing any deal.

What challenges are you facing for theme catering?
The challenge lies in the selection of menu. In any event you can't push anything down people's throats just because a theme has been set to the event. The menu has to be planned well according to the theme. It has to appeal to all generations. We prefer fusion based themes than going with any one particular theme, unless it is a Regional Indian Cuisine.

What you do with the leftover food?
We generally ask the host to take it or distribute it amongst the labor. We don't trust NGOs as they don't have good refrigeration systems to store the leftovers and hence it is better to throw it than feed stale food. I understand that it is unfortunate, but we as an industry haven't been able to do enough to manage this particular issue.

Do you have a kitchen on wheels?
No.

What messages do you give to our readers?
Keep reading Better Kitchen to understand what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite kitchen!

1 December 2015 Borosil - Moving from Occasion to Everyday Brand

Borosil Glass Works Ltd. is the market leader for microwavable kitchenware in India. Borosil exports their glassware products across the globe starting from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Middle East. Borosil team is dedicated to ensuring that each product lives up to the Borosil standards of quality, performance and dependability. Shreevar Kheruka, Managing Director, Borosil Glass Works Limited discuss the company's future plan and strategy with Ekta Bhargava.

Tell me about the Borosil Products and its future plans to cater to other markets?

Borosil has been in India for the last 53 years. The company started with Glassware, as the expertise. The name is Borosil Glasshouse Ltd., and we make special kind of glass called Borosilicate. This glass has three special properties:

  • It does not expand or contract when it is heated or cooled. You can take it out of the freezer and directly place it in the microwave and it will not break.
  • It has very low leaching, which means it does not release the raw-materials like for example when you heat plastic it expands out and looses some of its key parts and hence gets discoloured with usage. This does not however happen with our glass, so the purity of the food is maintained.
  • It is hard glass. It has raw-materials which are very expensive and makes the glass very hard. So it is not easily breakable.

We have a wide distribution channel and our main emphasis has always been on quality. Most shopkeepers will suggest Borosil because they don't get any complaints from the buyer.

Now we are planning to be closer to our customers irrespective of the material. We want to make and sell products which go into the kitchen and don't have to be glass. We have already launched two or three products, one is dinner sets made of melamine which are very beautifully designed. The second range is the kitchen appliances like mixer-grinder, juicer, toaster, hand-blender and so on. The third range that we have launched is glass tumblers, drinking glasses and storage products with lids. We know that plastic is not healthy and there are lot of chemicals used in plastic and in the long run it is very bad so glass is a very neutral product, there is no discolouration and it is very pure to store food. So we have these three new ranges that we have launched and the objective is how to be in that market which is daily-use market, everyday people should use our products. Now microwave/oven is not used daily by people, it is used may be once in a week or only on special occasions, but we want to move our brand from an occasional brand to a daily use brand, storage is a daily need, appliance is a daily need, so that is our idea for future.

Borosil is generally associated with glassware, how are you going to change the mindset of the people?

In the coming year we are going to do a marketing campaign which will talk about how Borosil is not just a glass company but a kitchen product company. Definitely change of mind set is not easy it requires lot of investment, communication to the customers and we are ready to do that.

Are you targeting both commercial and domestic kitchen for your products?

Right now mainly domestic kitchen, but some products like melamine, we are selling in commercial. At the moment the focus is mainly on domestic, but there are some products in our range that are interesting for commercial. Maybe once we increase the portfolio of the products, we will then start separate marketing for commercial.

Lot of melamine products are available in the market. What is the USP of Borosil?

We have 100% melamine products, there is no urea in the melamine, because, as I said, our company focuses on quality so we will never give our customers a second grade product, infact we will never launch a low quality product in the market and that is a very clear mandate for the company. When we put the Borosil name on something it must live upto a certain standard of quality which our customers expect from us.

Do you have any plan of increasing the range of appliances?

Yes, we have increased the range substantially, now we have atleast 10 to 11 appliances.

Are you giving special/unique proposition in the Borosil brand?

Absolutely yes, we have spoken to many customers to know their problems/ frustrations with the current appliances that they use. According to the feedback, we launched our products. For example we have used Ninja Blades which is stainless steel- SS304 blade which is expensive but long lasting for mixer-grinders while other companies use SS302. This ensures that the appliance is lasting for a longer period of time. You can grind turmeric also in our grinder. In case of toasters you get a chord which is only two feet long but we give a longer chord. So it may not improve the quality of the toast but you can put the appliance anywhere you like. So these are small things that we have done looking at customers' requirements apart from Borosil quality.

Trend of cooking on the dining table is emerging, are you planning to come up with appliances for that?

We already have induction cooker. There are lot of things to do and we are taking one step at a time, so whatever range we have we are going to continue building it based on the trend.

Borosil glass products are thicker and heavier than other similar products. Why?

It is a bit heavy because the glass is dense hence heavier and not thicker. The glass density is higher than the other regular glass which makes it stronger. Also some of the raw-material that we use in making the glass are different than the regular ones and this is what makes it expensive and adds to its properties, like heat resistance, neutral and difficult to break quality.

What is the storage range of Borosil?

We have launched a range called Klip-N-Store, it has got a glass base and a lid of plastic which snaps in place, airtight. This will allow you to store food in the shelf, fridge or you can take it with you as a lunch box as it is spill proof. It is microwaveable and can be directly kept in the microwave. Our main focus has been on storage, either rectangular, square or circular shaped storages. These are basically smaller sized storages, the biggest that we have is with one or one and half litre capacity, in the future we plan to come up with bigger sizes for pulses, rice, and so on. The tumblers are normal glasses without lid. We will also launch a different type of lunchbox, a rectangular lunch box for children to be carried to school. We also have jars to store pickles or chutney.

Plastic storages are avoided for certain food products. How will Borosil penetrate the market which is very competitive?

We are going to have a marketing campaign which is going to highlight the benefits of glass. Next year we will educate the customers as to why they should use glass and not plastic.

So you are concentrating on glass?

We are focusing on glass, for storage and some steel also. We are going to launch a range of bottles thermo-steel types. So, as I said, we are not stuck to glass. In storage we feel glass or steel is better than plastic.

What kind of cooking range does Borosil have and are you making any expansion in that range?

We have been leaders in mixing bowls, casseroles, dishes and these ranges do keep going through some changes, improvements and additions. We keep changing shapes and sizes though not very big changes.

Are you manufacturing all your products in your own factory or are you outsourcing it?

Some are manufactured and some are outsourced within India and from China or Europe or even USA, it depends. Different products have got different requirements and there are many companies in the world that make high quality products. We do all the quality control checks, we specify the raw-material, so it is well controlled and we have a very good engineering team. Manufacturing in India is not very competitive, to be frank, lot of gaps are there whether it is labour, electricity or so on. So till we go up it is not possible to manufacture everything in India, though we would like to.

How do you see Borosil in next five years?

Borosil will keep growing and be a much bigger company from what it is today. We will have an established market leadership in three new categories of consumer products. We will be expanding in the Middle East market also. Today we are present in eight to ten thousand retail outlets and maybe in three to five years we will be double of that. As a company we will grow our distribution, we will grow our product range and definitely we will become a everyday useful brand.

What message you would like to share with our readers in terms of Borosil products and technology that you use?

Our brand name is always associated with quality and we don't believe in compromising, we want the best for our customers. And we hope that our customers also don't compromise on the products that they buy and demand the best. Only then they will get the right things in their house. We work hard and earn money to eat good healthy food, so end of day we should not compromise. So the key message is when you are buying something for your kitchen, think of buying the best rather than saving a few rupees because in the long run this will be beneficial.

1 August 2018 Cooking is an Art & Fun

Anaida was one of India's first pop singers. Over the years she has recorded singles, albums and performed live in many languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Arabic, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Greek and Persian and broke through cultural barriers with her music. She is not only the singer but also an artist, spiritual healer, cuisine innovator, consultant and a social worker. While traveling, Anaida always takes out time to study with spiritual masters looking for the common threads that bind us all together. Her burning desire to share these insights has led to Anaida's daily Podcast show focused on empowerment, mind/body wellness and spiritual growth. She also records meditation related albums for her listeners. She is also the partner in SodaBottleOpenerWala and created the Persian menu for the restaurant. In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, she talks about her kitchen and her journey. Excerpts.

What is your first impression when you hear the word 'kitchen'?
Yummm! Fun! Mom! are the words that immediately come to my mind.

What is the importance of kitchen in your day-to-day life?
A good, well lit, airy kitchen is very important preferably with a view. In India, builders seem to give very little importance to kitchens, apparently they feel maids cook so why bother, often the kitchens are smaller than they could be and not that fun to be in.
But even if you help in cooking, it's important to have a nice feeling kitchen. To me energy is everything. And I like myself or people who cook for me to be in a comfortable kitchen!

How are you maintaining your calorie intake?
That makes me laugh. I do workshops on food and spirituality in which I help people discover it's not the food that makes them put on weight, it is their relationship with the food. Else we are all built of same things, how is it that I can eat a family bar of Lindt chocolate & two ice-creams and not put on weight and a friend looks at the food and puts on weight? In my book calories do not matter, how you think and feel does! But that's a long topic to discuss…

Which are your favourite cuisines? Name couple of dishes you liked the most.
I love Persian food, I find it on a healthier side and very flavourful, I love Malayalam cuisines. Love Japanese too. I love food generally, though I avoid too much spice and oil dripping food because I don't enjoy it. But cook the same butter chicken in loads of ghee or butter and am happy to have a go at it.
I love Appam and stew, butter chicken, sashimi, Italian and I love a good Goan prawn or fish curry. My chef at SBOW Powai makes a parsi version that am totally hooked on.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish. Which dish did you cook? How was that experience? Did you miss anything in the kitchen on that day?
My mom was a super smart lady and very appreciative. She would praise anything you did to glory and that really works with me. She taught me early probably so I could help her, LoL! I enjoyed the creativity. I don't remember the exact first dish, because I was always making stuff that was my own creation and she praised each and every dish. I have no clue if it was as tasty, but she sure made it seem like it was.

Please elaborate the development in your kitchen from then to now.
I have two extra fridges in my kitchen only to store ingredients from all over the place that I constantly experiment with. My kitchen is always well stocked and sometimes with strangest of things. It's fun and creative to cook. Funnily, I thought I could play with multiple ingredients all the time. Most dishes that I finally create have very few ingredients!
To me cooking is an art and a mighty serious one, after all people literally consume your art! You are putting your energy into itand whether they are aware of it consciously or not, they feel it. Everyone feels the energy you put into your food.

How much time you spend in the kitchen? What is your menu like?
I don't have any fixed thing about anything in life. At my restaurant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen at the start, mainly because I wanted to make sure my team knows and understands my command over what I do. It's important to earn the respect of your team. Just because I am the boss I don't expect them to listen, I want them to participate and I wanted them to understand my abilities for themselves. After those initial few months cooking side by side with them I don't really spend that much time now in the kitchen except when am training staff for new dishes or doing something special. But when home, am always cooking something because most my experimenting happens at home, I want my music, my view, my fun and then I can experiment and create what I like. Cooking is supposed to be fun!
My menu is always changing. At Powai we have parsi food, Bombay favourites as well as authentic Persian cuisine which you won't get anywhere else in India for example a riceless Biryani (Oh yes, original biryani is from Persia, only meat and has no rice) that dish came to India during the mughal era and Indians added spice and rice to it to make a wholesome meal for the armies as the story goes. That version became popular with the name Biryani. "Beryani" in Persian means "roasted in fire" or I will serve you a vegetarian Haleem (yes we really do have one) or an oil less mutton Haleem. Or even a vegan Persian bowl. Or a magic soup that is tasty and super healthy. So you will get something for everyone. Only our Persian menu is without chilies, so we make sure weather you are Indian, foreigner, kid or old, there is something for you to enjoy!

During album shooting, have you and/or your team members missed the homemade food? How do you overcome that? Please narrate any funny happening on food/kitchen during shooting location?
Oh my God, when I first moved to India there were hardly any options for food other than Indian and Chindian! (what I call Chinese Indian) and I don't eat pungent and too spicy food. It was so hard, often I would be suffering from stomach aches that lasted all night, that's how I started cooking healing food, using my training in "Tebb 'e' Sonnati" (Iranian traditional medicine, similar to ayurveda) to combine ingredients that are good for a specific reason and then figure out how to make them tasty. That's how "magic soup" was born, it was my solution for not falling sick with constant traveling, shivering on stage from cold in Udaipur one day, next day dehydrated from heat in Cochin, my schedule was crazy. Like this I kept creating healing dishes that became popular with friends. They are the ones who coined some of the names, they call and say, am unwell, please send some of that magic soup you make, and then the name stuck.
I prefer home food any dayandthat's what I try and give you even at my restaurant. My Persian menu is about comfort food!

Who motivated you and how come you entered in the food business?

That happened purely by accident.
Dabbling in new forms of art. Expanding ones skills. Acquiring new ones. Inspiring others by example. Those are the qualifications one could choose to strive for. As an artist, I enjoy creating immensely add to that an insatiable appetite to learn and experiment. From music, art, writing, designing, choreography, singing, directing and painting to carving, it has been a delicious journey already and then, it got more delicious with food!
AD Singh of Olive group has been a friend for long and he asked me to do a Persian food pop up for them. I met with the country head Mohit Balachandran and my only criteria was that the menu be actually authentic (I can firmly say that there is no representation of authentic Persian food and often even when I have gone to pop ups with Iranian chefs flown in, they had still Indianized the food and no one would know better. Even the iconic Berry Polo that you eat in Mumbai is a creation of say Britania cafe, very delicious but not authentic at all) one can also say when you type Iranian food in Zomato, none of the so called restaurants listed serve anything close to actual Iranian food. It always baffles me how anyone can claim anything and they don't even check on authenticity and then claim to be an authority site on food!
To my great happiness, Mohit was very supportive and in fact he said they were interested only in authentic. I mean, think about it, I put a "rice less Beryani" on the pop up menu and he said go for it. In fact he encouraged it. I like people who have a feel for things in their business and he is one. We served a no oil or hot spices Haleem in the Hyderabad pop up and it won in "11 Handi" festival in Ramadan. In Hyderabad, next I did a veg Haleem there. What fun! you have to have guts for that and he has plenty. And each time it was a super hit.
Originally I only took up the pop ups for fun. I had a three month break between two projects and thought why not have fun and add one more thing to Wikipedia? Olive group is respected both for the position in the market and being generally lovely people to work with so why not? And then things took a life of their own. The pop ups that were originally meant for a week/ten days all stretched to one and two months each in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad and one bigger smash hit than the other. So Mohit asked me if I would join and partner with them and start one in Powai. I had enjoyed working with him, I had so loved getting involved with food, it felt right. And that was that.
Cooking is such an art and as Irealised an extremely powerful one. People Literally "consume" your art. It has turned out to be so exciting that I have actually postponed music projects much to my international managers annoyance to focus on this more strongly and catching up with the rocket speed its moving at.
This is one art form in which am getting to use quite a few sides of me. That's the awesome part! It keeps me interested with its variety just like music industry did. From the actual cooking and creation of dishes to presentation, to learning more about the business side of things to marketing, events and so many other things, there is so much scope. It keeps me so busy that has turned my head into a virtual kitchen. It's a seriously powerful medium of art and am so excited it fell into my lap the way it did. Another thing I enjoy immensely is doing projects that gives something back and the group fully supports me on that. That’s the thing, we have an amazing team and we are rocking.

Which are your favourite Restaurants?
I enjoy Olive, our own sodabottleopenerwala because it's quirky and fun. I enjoy specific dishes from different places. Am hooked on lucky biryani from lucky hotel Bandra, love the edamame dumplings at Yauatcha. I enjoy even a Tibbs frankie when in the mood. Certain places get certain dishes really right.

Who is your favourite Chef?
The one who's in a good mood and cooks me a super meal.

My favourite chef is our own chef Hemant Sonar. He is an awesome chef, he is a great leader and a wonderful person to work with. He is an all rounder.

What is your message on kitchen for our readers?
Tune into your heart and follow it. It has all the answers.

20 August 2019 Taste & Looks Add Value to The Dish

Very few people make their passion their profession, Chef Altamsh Patel is one of the few. Altamsh is an alumnus of Rizvi College of Hotel Management, Mumbai and currently heads the culinary brigade as the Executive Chef with The Park Hotel, Mumbai. Despite his father's disapproval he made his career in the kitchen. Chef Altamsh has established himself as a critically acclaimed chef and has received and been honored with numerous awards and accolades. He has risen from the ranks, from a Management Trainee to an Executive chef in just a span of eight years. He has won most of his awards in the Young Chef category. He was awarded the Young Chef of The Year Award in the year 2018. He focuses on the highest quality ingredients, creativity on the plate prepared with clockwork precision and abundant planning and execution. He has also been a consultant for few Pan Asian restaurants. He is also a core committee member of the Western Indian Culinary Association (WICA), Member of Young Chefs Association of India (YCAI), Member of Indian Federation of Culinary Association (IFCA), World Association of Chefs Society (WACS), and is a Halal & HACCP certified chef. In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, Altamsh talks about his professional journey and kitchen.

Tell us about your background and how you have come to the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking.

My Mother is a phenomenal cook and I used to love assisting her in the kitchen since my childhood. However, my father, like any other father wanted me to become a doctor as my elder brother is a Software Engineer. However, I had other plans. I decided to turn my passion into my profession.

Where have you done your training?

I did my internship from Hotel Taj Lands’ End, Mumbai. Again after completing my degree I got placed as a management trainee with Taj group. I had attended the International Sushi Training Workshop organized by All Japan Sushi Association and Indian Federation of Culinary Association. Had also received some training abroad.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?

After completing my hotel management course from Rizvi College, Mumbai. I had started my career with Taj Group as Management Trainee and in a span of eight years I successfully reached the position of Senior Sous Chef. Being a Management Trainee I was indeed lucky enough that I got a chance to work in all the different kitchens. I was involved in the menu planning of various menus for International and Domestic Airlines. Few months back I joined The Park - Mumbai as an Executive Chef.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with Chefs. But from your experience, you talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.

People have now started giving importance to Chefs while planning kitchen, It is of course done by architects, but designs should come from the Chefs always because they can only understand the operational point of view of the kitchen. In the end Kitchen staff should be comfortable while working. If kitchen staff is comfortable delivery of food from kitchen will be much faster.

How do you rate the taste food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table? How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?

Food and Service both are equally important according to me. Guest will be satisfied only, when good quality, hygienic and delectable food is served in a correct way. If any of the factors goes wrong then the guest suffers and is unsatisfied. Chef might cook excellent food but if the server doesn’t do a proper service both Chef and Server fail.

You are giving a lot of stress on presentation. What is the trend going on and how chefs are working on that?

As per my views, the appearance of food on a plate affects how diners perceive taste. The look of the meal is as important as the food itself and presenting food in an appealing way adds to the experience and overall value of the dish. And I believe in one simple thing if you want people to come back to your restaurant and pay to eat your food, they expect to see and taste food they don't get at home. When I plate a dish I give equal importance to all the elements - color, texture, balance, flavor and presentation. Selection of the correct plate is also important even the color of the plate can significantly affect a diner's appetite and perception of taste.

When you are cooking the food for an elderly guest, can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?

We have to take extra care of such guests. We need to check their preferences and if possible chef should meet the guest personally so that the requirements are understood better. Here we have to concentrate more on guest’s requirements and not on what is our standard recipe.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots? Does it make any difference in the taste?

I am lucky that I got an opportunity to work with one of the Asia’s largest kitchen at TajSATS we used to prepare food for 25000 pax. Firstly we have to do lot of R&D and do a standardization of recipe and procedure because if anything goes wrong in small portion you can rectify it or else you can rework on it, but if your food for 1000 people goes wrong then there would be a big problem. We always use to cook in batches and also maintain the records of it so that if anything goes wrong you can trace the batch and discard it out. Each and every batch of food is tasted by the chef before serving.

What about the technology? Are you using latest technology in kitchen or prefer old method of cooking?

I do prefer modern latest technology in kitchen which helps us in giving good productivity, For example almost 80% of cooking part can be done with the help of ovens now a days, Lot of imported equipment’s are easily available in the market.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.

As we all know at present organic food is in demand so we try to source organic ingredients for certain recipes, also in kitchen we have garbage segregation procedure. I don’t allow plastic bags in my kitchen for storage.

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen? What are the hazards of using different fuels?

Fuels play a very important role in kitchens anywhere in the world. We have to use fuel which helps us in controlling pollution and should also be safe. You cannot use 2 different types of fuel in the same machine as it might damage it.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?

Yes, of course. Upgradation of skills, training and technology is a constant and consistent requirement in chef's career but what is paramount is to arrive at training needs of an individual and team at large keeping in mind the culinary vision. Being Executive chef now I have to keep myself updated with the current technologies which are available in the industry so that our final products gets better and the guest gets satisfied.

Now the concept of cooking kitchen and serving kitchen has become a vogue. How you differentiate the appliances in these kitchens?

Cooking kitchen is completely different from serving kitchen; Serving kitchen is more of show kitchen consisting of modern cooking equipment’s which are more presentable. The appliances in the cooking kitchen are much bigger in volume whereas the appliances in serving kitchen are stylish, sleek, smaller and very sophisticated.

Do you have a Disaster Plan in place in case of an emergency?

Yes we do have disaster plan in place and it is must for star hotels, regular trainings are done by our Learning & Development department.

Earlier you people were saying that Chefs don’t disclose their recipes. Now a days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the Chefs can keep their recipe a secret?

I immensely believe in Real Chefs Share and Teach. The consumers of today have vast knowledge of the dishes, their ingredients, preparation and methods of cooking them. I don’t believe in keeping any of my recipes as secret. The more you share your knowledge the more you gain.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?

We do have a feedback system, wherein the guest’s suggestion is very significant for us. It not only motivates us but also helps us give the best of the best to our customers. Yes we do welcome ideas from guests. Their suggestions do act as a source of inspiration to me.

Tell us briefly about your concept of an Ideal Commercial Kitchen.

It starts from the receiving department then followed by stores, processing, cooking and then dispatch/ serving, Kitchen planning plays important role while planning commercial kitchen, you have to practically think about the work flow and same time you have to follow certain procedures set by Food safety bodies, You cannot just have butchery in between your hot kitchen it has to be near receiving department. As now days it’s all about how much space you are able to utilize smartly in your kitchen, using air spaces and putting storage cabinets helps a lot.

Drainage is also very important part of the kitchen planning normally people think of it in the end but trust me i had seen many kitchen planned well but they fail because of wrong drainage plan.

You also have to think about making comfortable atmosphere for staff to work proper ventilation should be their exhaust and free air supply are must in any commercial kitchen.

Last but not the least waste management is also equally important, proper segregation and store of garbage should be done, one particular room should be allocated as Garbage room.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.

Chefs spend more time with their teams than their family so my team is my family, we do party hard whenever we get a chance we also celebrate birthdays in the kitchen, Whenever possible I try to take my team and go for tea break so that we spend some good time together and I make sure no one discusses about work during breaks.

Do you help your better half when she is in the kitchen?

Normally I don’t enter kitchen at home, but I do cook for my two little cute nieces whenever they demand.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?

On TV, in magazines, in books and online, chefs are described as having a glamorous life, which is ridiculous. I normally work for 14 hours minimum. It is really hard to maintain a good work- life balance. A part of striking a better work/ life balance is accepting that being a chef is a way of life - at least to a certain extent. If you don’t take satisfaction and enjoyment from working a busy night then you're possibly in the wrong job.

But still whenever I get an off I try to spend some good time with my family! I hope in future I will maintain proper work life balance.

Who is Current favorite chef and why?

Chef Gaggan Anand and Chef Vineet Bhatia are chefs who inspire me the most. They have raised the Indian flag higher in a unique way, Indian Cuisine is known all around the globe now.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?

I don’t eat out much but whenever I am in some new place I love to try local cuisine of that place,

My favorite restaurants in Mumbai are Wasabi - Taj Mahal Palace, Vista - Taj Land's End, Persian Darbar and The Table.

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?

For me dream kitchen should be something like a Food Lab, fully high tech, all advanced equipment’s and most importantly good staff, You and your staff should feel proud while entering the kitchen. If the work space is good, staff will be happy and it directly gives better output and leads to greater guest satisfaction.

5 February 2016 Cooking from the Heart & Soul

As a small town boy from Ajmer in Rajasthan, never in his wildest dreams did Ashish Bhasin think that his fondness for cooking up his own meals during school camping trips would one day lead to a full-fledged career as a chef. Yet, here he is, cooking up culinary masterpieces one after another as the Executive Chef of Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai. Ekta Bhargava had the pleasure of speaking to this effervescent chef and were given an overview of his beautiful journey to success.

Tell us about your early years…
I participated in various kinds of activities during my school days. I was particularly fond of scouting. We went for many camping trips and would have to make our own food on a chullah. The cooking bit of the trip always left me fascinated, but never once did I think that it would become my profession. In fact, at that point in time, I was sure I would join the Defense Forces. In 1994, as my most of my friends were gearing up for hotel management entrance exams, my inquisitive mind too would wonder if I had an aptitude for working in hotels. This thought led me to sit for the exam. To mine and everybody else's surprise, I cleared the exam and decided to go for the course. On the very first day of college I stood in the middle of the kitchen telling myself that this was the place for me.

Give us a glimpse into your professional journey…
I started my career with Taj Group of hotels and worked there for 2.5 years. My journey with The Oberoi Group started from The Oberoi, New Delhi. In 2006, I got the opportunity to take independent charge of the kitchen at Trident Udaipur. Next, I moved to The Oberoi Rajvilas and was the first Indian to be made an Executive Chef. From there, I got an international posting for 2 years in Egypt on the Red Sea at The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh. Luck has always been on my side and I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry.

What's your strategy in the kitchen?
I don't just cook food, I play with the ingredients. I interact with the spices and feel their aroma & taste.

To you, how important is the design and aesthetic of the kitchen you head?
It's paramount! I like to be very involved in the kitchen planning process even though most of it is done by the architects. Since every inch of space counts, the smallest of aspects are taken into consideration, right from planning whether the door would open from the left or right to determining how the service team will reach the pass. Kitchen operations need to look and feel seamless. The architecture of the kitchen is also influenced by the type of cuisine that will be cooked in it. This is the reason why a senior chef is always involved in the planning process.

As a chef, how difficult is it to cater to different taste buds?
It's easy if you keep an open mind and are willing to customize the food experience for the customer. In hotels, we host people belonging to different nationalities who have varied food preferences. When I'm cooking food for them I try to keep in mind their likes and dislikes. In fact, we are also infants friendly and ensure that babies are given a nutritious & delicious meal after consulting their parents. This is my 18th year in the industry and I have a fair idea now about the kind of food people like. Every day I learn new facts while interacting with guests. Gaining an insight into their preferences enhances my learning process and is extremely enriching. Whether it's a 300 calorie meal or a sugar free desert, I love to have an option for everyone.

What's your kitchen mantra?
I believe that cooking and serving go hand in hand. You can't choose one over the other. Good food served horribly or horrible food served nicely is recipe for disaster. To be successful, everything has to be perfect, from start to end. And in cooking, that “start” means ingredients. If the ingredients are fresh & wholesome, you can easily make it to a person's heart by way of their stomach. That's the philosophy of my food and the mantra in my kitchen.

In a time when induction cooking is the latest trend, are you aboard the bandwagon?
Using induction equipment depends on what I am making. I feel induction is safer than gas and is a revolution in flame-less cooking. I also like how you can control the temperature very easily, and since the heat is spread out well, the chances of food getting burnt are slim.

We hear that you're also a big fan of slow cooking…
Yes, I am a big fan of slow cooking. I feel the technique gives most respect to each and every ingredient being used. On high flame cooking, the chances of the food getting overcooked or staying undercooked are a lot higher. You only have a second or two to take a call on the fate of the dish. But in slow cooking, you can see the colors change, the aromas build and the flavours develop. Vegetables and meats have aromas and juices that come out more beautifully on the slow flame. Overall, food made with this technique has depth that is unparalleled.

People are getting crazier for Chinese, why?
Your question is a very thought-provoking one!

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, in my opinion it is extremely diverse. It is derived from 4 major schools based on their geographical locations - North, South, East & West.

Northern school – The world famous Peking Duck dish hails from this region. It embraces the culinary style of Beijing, Hunan and Shandong provinces. Grains replace rice as the staple food. Due to the extreme cold, fresh vegetables are not available, so locals use a lot of preserved food.

Southern school – Cantonese food is the best known in the west because of its use of plenty of hoisin and soya sauce. The food is also slightly raw in order to preserve its texture and colour. The area is known as the Rice Bowl Of China because rice is the staple food there.

Eastern school – Cooking here features the culinary styles of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jianxi and Shanghai. This region has the most fertile land, so one can find lots of fruits and vegetables. Fresh seafood is also available in abundance.

Western school – This includes the Sichuan and Hunan regions, and predominantly uses ingredients like chilies, Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, onion and garlic. Dishes from this region have a great balance of many flavours.

We also have various versions of Chinese food that took birth in India. An example of one of such dish is Manchurian. This dish, unfortunately, has never crossed the Indian border and been to Manchuria – a region in North-East China. We call it an Indo-Chinese cuisine. This cuisine is one which is very close to the Indian palate as it playfully blends spicy, chatpata & masaledar flavours and is yet very different.

What other cuisine do you think is making its way into the Indian market?
Today's generation is well-travelled and likes to experiment a lot when it comes food and beverage. In 2004, our company was the first to sweep people off their feet with authentic sushi. I remember, there were very few takers for this unique cuisine, so much so, that even I was skeptical about consuming it. However, over the years, the number of Sushi lovers has grown exponentially and it has become one of the most popular cuisines in our country.

Do you practice Go Green?
There are lots of green practices that we follow at Trident, Bandra Kurla.

We practice segregation of dry, wet & chemical garbage separately as a result of which we are able to process wet garbage and make our own manure.

Secondly, we have our own Sewage Treatment Plant at the hotel as a result of which we are able to conserve water.

Thirdly, we make us of LED bulbs which are energy efficient and long-lasting an LED bulb can cut energy consumption over 80% as compared to conventional light bulbs.

Over and above this, the team is trained with regard to equipment handling and knowledge of appliances to prioritize the approach towards saving energy.

How is technology changing the face of commercial kitchens?
Science and technology are playing a very important role in commercial kitchens of today. With the advent of newer and more sophisticated technology making its way into kitchens, we are able to do a lot more in lesser time. We have freezers and chillers that can freeze food in minutes and tools that can chop food in seconds!

However, machines can only expedite the process of cooking; they don't have a brain of their own nor can they innovate and create a delectable masterpiece for the taste buds.

Is it true that most chefs prefer to keep their recipes a secret?
I speak for myself and I am always happy to share my recipes! It's a myth that you will lose your value as a chef if you share your best recipes. I believe that the more I share, the more I grow as a chef. Also, if people could become chefs by merely knowing great recipes, then there are numerous books available in the market to help them. In fact, if it was that easy, I too would have become an Executive Chef straight out of college and not after spending 10 years in the industry. What I am trying to emphasize on is that the fact that “recipes” alone don't make or break a chef. They are just frameworks and cannot determine that the final product will be perfect.

What would you say, is your biggest achievement in life?
In the span of my career, I have done many things to the best of my ability. But my greatest achievement is my family. I am the proud father of two children; one is 12 and the other, 7. The thing that matters the most to me in life, is to be a good father to them and a loving husband to my wife. I try to spend as much quality time with my family as I can, even if that means not having a social life. On my days off from work, I love to cook for my little ones and wife and give them as much happiness as I can.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?
A chef's job requires a lot of time, but I have a lovely and efficient team which helps making work a smooth endeavour. Even in my busy schedule, I always make sure I am available to witness important moments in the life of my children. From attending their annual day functions, to being a supporting parent and encouraging them to pursue their passions. I like to motivate them in every way possible. I dote on my kids and am instantly relieved of the entire day's stress the minute they run over to me and hug me when I get home!

Apart from the above, I am passionate about photography and Scuba Diving and both these activities are a great stress reliever for me!

If you had to give a special message for the readers, what would it be? Food is the best thing that has happened to mankind. Enjoy food, but respect it.

Always remember, numerous people go to bed without a meal every day. So eat to your heart's delight, but never waste an iota of this precious resource. Another thing worth keeping in mind is that food is a very simple thing, don't complicate it. Respect ingredients and cook from your heart.

8 March 2016 Extraordinary in All Facets of Life

As a magazine that caters to a wide demographic spectrum of women, we are blessed with the opportunity to meet with enterprising women from different faculties. We get to peek inside their lives and, many times, inside their kitchens too. Today we will take you for a journey through the life of Dr. Aruna Sharma, Secretary - DeitY, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India. She's a dynamic Madhya Pradesh Cadre IAS officer of 1982 batch.

Tell us about your journey. What made you take up this profession?
I was a very naughty teenager! A neighbour once inquired about my future course of action and I told him that I was in the final year of graduation and had not yet thought about the future. That's when he advised me to take up IAS and introduced me to an IAS couple. That's when I decided on my career path. It was as if an angel had introduced me to my future journey.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Kitchen”?
It is a place that brings joy, both to the cook and the one who eats. It's a fun activity. I really thank my mother who besides, studies did introduce us to good food and cooking, as well as other fine works like embroidery, tatting etc. A very positive thing one imbibes is the tendency to complete any work to perfection, once you have made a beginning. Thus, the moment I hear the word “Kitchen” what comes to my mind is experimentation with logic. In the Kitchen, the focus is to best utilize the resource to optimize the outcomes.

Recall the first time, you made something alone in the Kitchen and how your family reacted after having the dish.
As a college student I had taken a fancy to experiment with recipes that appear in magazines. I tried to make 'Yam steak' that takes hours to make. It was a dish that is very complicated, you cut Yam (suran) into fingers, then cook them in coconut milk (during those days ready-made coconut milk was not available). The spices used were cinnamon, salt and pepper and the dish was garnished with a bit of cream and coriander. The entire kitchen platform had the spread of my activities provoking the wrath of my mother and the cook. Another experiment was when my mother had gone to visit her parents and I attempted 'gulabjamun'. They turned out well (as certified by my father) but the pan in which I made the sugar syrup got burnt, I did not allow the cook to wash it and immersed it in water for three days and cleaned it myself before the return of my mother. But the cook spilled the beans and rest became history.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Well, I am now a systematic cook but I rarely get time. That's why I cook presentable dishes that take the shortest time in the kitchen. My son has recently presented me with an air-fryer so my fun moments are with it. I make kurkure bhindhi, dahi balls (hung curd rolled in corn flour), pizza, stuffed capsicum or tomato, baked vegetable, seek kabab etc. It's quick and oil free. Cooking with an air fryer is my latest craze.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
One has to balance it if he or she wants to be happy in life. Professional life is important. It is my passion and gives me the opportunity to give back to society. But for an efficient professional life, one needs to have equally passionate interests in one's personal life. This enables you to have fresh ideas and peace of mind.

In a busy schedule how often do you cook for your family?
I cook only special meals, not routine food. On a holiday, I cook for all family members and servants. So it's a day when madam cooks for them.

Do you get any help from your better half when you are in the kitchen?
Yes, if we throw a party, we decide the menu together and the dishes are divided between my husband, son, servant and me.

How do you prove your culinary skills while hosting guests at very short notice? Any secret ingredients that you use?
Yes, I do. I like to make sweet pudding by using a few spoons of milk powder-that gives it a creamy texture. If guests show up at short notice, the menu will definitely have one baked dish. The secret is to opt for special cuisines such as Lebanese, Chinese, Italian—few dishes and the job is done.

Do you prepare your own ingredients or do you go for the ready to use ones?
I believe in fresh ingredients. That way, I can be satisfied knowing that the outcome is wholesome and safe for my family.

If and when you cook do you experiment or do you cook traditionally following your mother's recipes?
Like I said before, experimentation is the key, it has to be tasty, well plated and of course made with ingredients that are easily available and quick to make.

What's your role in planning & designing of your Kitchen?
I've stayed in government quarters all my life, hence there hasn't been much of an option in designing the kitchen space. But yes, the modern concept of modular kitchens is wonderful and I like a kitchen that's equipped with all the latest gadgets.

Does it matter to have a modern well equipped kitchen or simply convenient kitchen? What difference does it make in your life?
Modern and well equipped kitchens always have an edge over their traditional counterparts. New age electronic gadgets are making cooking easy and safe. That is one reason I see more men in the kitchen these days, enjoying cooking their special recipes. The well designed kitchen does give more space and ease of navigation within the kitchen. A smart kitchen is the future.

Where do you go when you feel like eating out?
All places where food is tasty, from street food to star hotels. It has to be the perfect taste.

Do you snack while at work - if so what do you prefer?
Well, not much now, used to do a decade back, now it is more of fruits and lunch.

How do you maintain your health through diet? Are you conscious about calories while eating?
I believe in being healthy and energetic, hence no strong diet regime or missing meals. I do eat healthy and home cooked food, and once a week a jaunt out.

Who is your role model?
A committed professional, who does justice to their job and has a vision, is my role model. I believe in doing a job to the best of my abilities, in both professional and personal life. And I do it with honesty and sincerity.

What's next?
Do well in the job at hand. And yes, own a nice modern well equipped kitchen. I am known as a professional, it's not a bad idea to also add a feather in the cap and be known as a good cook.

7 August 2018 Taste & Quality of Food Speak a Lot About the Kitchen it Comes From

Jerson Fernandes, a popular face in Mumbai's newspapers for his food articles, core committee member of Western Indian Culinary Association and a HACCP certified Chef, is currently working as Executive Chef at the Hotel Sea Princes, Mumbai. Jerson has established himself as a critically acclaimed chef and received numerous awards and accolades. He was awarded the youngest most talented Chef de Cuisine in the Middle East for his work at Marriott in the year 2012, The most Creative budding Chef of India award in 2014 and the Youngest best Executive chef award in 2016. In an exclusive interview with Better Kitchen, Jerson takes readers on his culinary journey. Excerpts.

Tell us about your background and how you have come to the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking?
I was always fascinated by food right from the early days. When kids of my age were glued to the television sets watching cartoons and other kids channels, I was into the various recipe shows telecast then. At a very early age, I started working as a casual waiter in some of the top clubs and restaurants of Mumbai to earn some pocket money. My focus was actually in the kitchen, I spoke to chefs and secretly wrote down their recipes watching at them cook and came home and tried the same. I failed more than I succeeded. However, deep down my heart, I knew this was my passion and this was soon going to be my profession. I then joined a cruise line as a dish washer, came back did my B.Sc. in hotel and hospitality administration from IHM-Hyderabad and got selected as one of India's first Kitchen management trainees for Accor (Novotel Hyderabad). It was no looking back since then.

Where you have done your training?
I did my internship at the Taj Lands End, Mumbai. Apart from this, I also worked for my college restaurant kitchen (Chefs court) which used to be open for the masses after college hours. This helped me hone my skills and took me a long way. I believe it doesn't really matter where you train, what matters is how you train and how much efforts you put in. Almost all kitchens would teach you the same, its very imperative to realize and understand in which direction you want to go.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
Very few people actually know that, I started as a dishwasher even before I entered college. I always knew food was my first love and I wanted to make a career out of it. Working on the cruise actually helped me in a big way. It opened the windows of exploring the world of gastronomy through my job. Even though, I was in the dish washing area, my focus was always on the line cooks and I knew I would get there soon.
I was very clear I wanted to be a chef, I worked hard and I believe I achieved quite a lot at a very early age working for some of the top brands like Accor, Marriott, and Taj. I was awarded the youngest best Chef de cuisine in UAE by Marriott. I was awarded the youngest most talented Executive chef in 2016 and the most creative chef award in 2015 to name a few.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with Chefs. But from your experience, you talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.
Yes, that's right! Architects and designers are an integral part of kitchen designing and execution. But, most importantly, it's the chefs brainchild. The chef decides the kitchen layout and flow. He then shares and puts forth his ideas and execution plan to the designers and architects who together work towards this and give the chef what he desires. At the end of the day, it's the chef whose going to be working in the kitchen, so he might as well get what he desires, the architect and designers play the role of an amplifier here where they simply enhance the ideas and suggestions of the chef and turn it into reality.

How do you rate the food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table. How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?
I strongly feel- cooking and serving are two sides of the same coin. It is imperative for the cooking to be of the highest quality, likewise the service to be great. If the cooking is great, and service lacks class, it ruins the entire experience. Similarly, if you provide your guest A class service and your food lacks taste and quality, it would leave a sour impression on the diners mind, maybe you would loose your diner for ever. Its equally important for me to ensure both are top class and hence they deserve equal weightage.

When you are cooking the food, when the guest is of old age, can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?
Oh yes, its very important to know a little bit about your guest before cooking. I love visiting tables and recommending the apt stuff to all my guest. It gives me a broader picture as to what the guest is expecting from your meal. In the case of an old or elderly guest, I would suggest a dish which would be less oily, less spicy, not too hard and soft to chew on. A mashed masala khichdi or a risotto would be great in this case.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots?
The smaller the cooking quantity, the smaller would be the pots and pans. Using smaller pots and pans gives the chef a better control over the heat and hence cooking becomes easy thereby helping in getting the desired textures and flavors. Similarly, for bulk cooking there are bigger utensils and pots used like the lagans, kadhais, brat pan, tilting pans, steaming ovens and even your latest conventional ovens which help you cook food in bulk faster with minimum manpower. I feel, it’s very important to know what vessel/cookware to use when and for what cooking method as it goes a long way with respect to the desired final product.

What about the technology. Like when you are talking about gas, or the induction are you going to use the same thing or it is going to be different?
Depends on the location and the situation to be very honest. If it's a live cooking where there are fire restrictions, I would always prefer an induction, also an induction looks neater and more presentable for cooking live in front of guests. The gas however, can be used wherever there are no fire restrictions as it gives us a better control over heat. Both, have their own pros and cons and have to be used wisely.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.
Caring for the environment is of prime importance. We as chefs do our every bit to ensure the environment is safe guarded by following a few practices such as garbage segregation, minimum use of plastic in the kitchen for storage, calculative cooking to avoid wastage and lastly saving our natural resources like water and electricity. Using a water purification system and recycling water which is later used in the gardens and conserving electricity by being responsible while using our electrical appliance's in the kitchen.

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen. What are the hazards of using different fuels?
We use CNG or piped gas as its commonly known. You wouldn't find a single cylinder in our hotel as a best practice measure followed here. CNG is eco friendly, user friendly and easy to monitor and control. Wherever we cannot use gas, we use induction cookers. It is very important as a chef to use fuel sparingly and understand its importance. Hazards of using different fuels could be many ranging from decreasing the effective running of a machine to permanently damaging it.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?
Oh yes! No doubt about that. With technology advancing and machines replacing man, we are entering an era which is going to be dominated by technology and machines. Cooking, is surely going to be more advanced with technology advancing. Better and more efficient cooking equipments and tools, instant cooking methods and techniques, better technology in cooking equipments will all pave the way to an advanced world of gastronomy.

Now the concept of cooking kitchen and serving kitchen has become a vogue. How do you differentiate the appliances and the technology in these kitchens?
A cooking kitchen primarily will have all advanced cooking equipments and tools required for cooking right from a salamander to a cooking range to a chiller for storage. This kitchen is mainly a kitchen where all your mise en place and cooking would be done. A serving kitchen on the other hand is where you would have minimum cooking or rather just finishing and plating happening. This is a kitchen where you would give the food its finishing touches before its picked up for service. The equipments and tools required here would be lesser and more precise like a micro oven, blow torch, etc.

Do you have a Disaster Plan in place in case of an emergency.
As they say, disaster strikes without warnings and it is imperative to have a plan in place at all given times. We do have several plans and dedicated teams for different types of emergencies be it, medical, fire or a natural emergency like lightning or floods.

Earlier you people were saying that Chefs don't disclose their recipes. Now a days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the Chefs can keep their recipe a secret?
I believe in sharing my knowledge as it helps me grow and learn. Sharing recipes will only make you a better chef as it brings out the best in you. In today's world with live and open kitchens coming up, there is very little scope for such recipes being a secret. However, even if a recipe is shared, it is not easy to execute it at the first attempt as it takes a lot of time to master several techniques and methods of cooking in most of the recipes. When it comes to keeping recipes a secret, I don't think there is any such recipe which is a secret in today's world. If you have the knowledge and experience you can decode any recipe with time and practice.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
Oh yes! A lot of guests today love food and are good cooks. While visiting tables for feedback, I interact with guests who share their ideas, cooking techniques and their knowledge on various ingredients and places visited in search of good food. Every guest has a story to tell and every day is a new learning curve for me. To share an example, I learnt the technique of hand tossing a pizza form a few Italian guests who regularly patronize us at the hotel. Likewise, health conscious guests share their experiences on the new healthy food ingredients and trends which I put to use in my kitchens.

What is the message you are going to give to our readers, as a Chef, about the kitchen. How people can plan their kitchen. Whether it's a domestic kitchen or a commercial kitchen. What points they can keep in mind while designing it, etc.?
Well, a few useful tips as follows:
1) Understand and figure out the need of the kitchen before you design it.
2) Nothing comes free, plan and freeze on a budget to execute the plan effectively.
3) Make sure you have the best exhaust, fresh air and drainage systems incorporated in your plan for a kitchen to last longer in good shape.
4) Make sure your kitchen is eco friendly and adheres to all the environmental policies.
5) Do not overspend on unwanted equipments, start small and go big if required.
6) Always have an emergency plan/door/ way out of your kitchen.

Tell us briefly about your concept of an Ideal Commercial Kitchen.
Well a commercial kitchen should have an effective exhaust/ fresh air and drainage system, it should be energy efficient and have an egronomical kitchen design. It should meet all health, fire, and safety food standards and should be easily to maintain and spaced out effectively. All best practices of the kitchen should be easy to be followed and facilitated in all commercial kitchens.

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?
Certainly! Any kitchen or rather every kitchen is a dream kitchen if its maintained and taken care of well. You need to connect with your kitchen, treat it like the most important part of your home/establishment. Remember- your food speaks a lot about the kitchen it comes from. Feel proud to step into your kitchen and don the cooking apron… the rest will automatically follow!

21 May 2017 My First Love is Food

As for Chef Parimal Sawant, the best possible gig shares his level of passion and provides opportunities to practice it. His role as Executive Chef at Meluha-The Fern and Hotel Rodas is the culmination of a lifetime interest in food, coupled with enthusiasm to create and build from the best of all.

Tell us about your background and how you have come to the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking.
My first love is food and loved to explore new dishes as well, since adolescence.
My grand maa played an important role in choosing this as a career. She had always prepared delicious food and I used to stand by her in the kitchen and saw how she made food and was always amazed of the taste of my favourite dishes cooked by her.
My grand maa was an inspiration and the food I prepare, every time I dedicate it to her.

Where you have done your training?
During my early years I had an interest in the culinary world and soon found myself enrolled in the Hotel Management Diploma program at the Sophia Polytechnic. It was the perfect outlet, offering me the chance to combine my love of creating and building with the zeal for preparing exceptional food.
Upon completion of the program, I joined as Chef-de- Partie at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in 1995. The next 10 years I excelled in being a Team leader, a Trainer and Client Servicing at the property.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
After I worked as a CDP in the Taj, in an effort to gain additional experience, joined The Orchid, where I accepted a position as a Junior Sous Chef. Later honed my culinary skills at The Renaissance Hotel and Convention Centre (Marriott) as Chef-de- Cuisine.
Hired by Courtyard by Marriott Ahmadabad as Executive Sous Chef in December 2012, I was able to put his diverse talents to good use by introducing culinary themes for MoMo Cafe buffet set ups and surprising the patrons of the city with innovative ideas and food festivals.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with Chefs. But from your experience, you talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.
When it comes to kitchen planning, it is usually done by architects, but the whole design comes from the chef's mind because he thinks in an operational point of view. Considering that the chefs would be comfortable working in the kitchen, is there enough space to move around, will the guest be getting a quick service, all such things plays an important role.

How do you rate the food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table. How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?
Well I think both play a very important part at both ends. If your food does not have a great taste then it is worthless, and if the service is not good, it does not leave a good impression.
When it comes to guests, he would be happy to the core only if the food and the service would be great. That is why both have an equal weightage for cooking and serving.

When you are cooking the food, when the guest is of old age, can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?
Yes, every time when we host a guest who is elderly, we suggest them food which is less spicy, or probably easy to consume and process which would be good and suitable to the palate.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots?
Definitely, when it comes to a smaller amount we usually use small pots and pans as it is easier to control the heat and get flavor. But when it comes to a larger number of guests, there are options like brat pans, tilting pans or steam kettles which makes cooking in bulk easier and faster. We also have the technology of Combination ovens which runs on electricity, makes it efficient and even.

What about the technology. Like when you are talking about gas, or the induction thing. Are you going to use the same thing or it is going to be different?
Both are suitable for different places, like a gas is very much suitable for a basic kitchen as it is easier to maintain, you can control the heat and it is user friendly. An induction looks good in a live counter or an open kitchen as it looks good and is less messy.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.
Being an Ecotel hotel, we follow Green practices to a "T". Here we segregate waste, save water as much as possible, do our cooking in small batches to avoid wastage and keep it fresh

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen. What are the hazards of using different fuels?
Fuel plays a vital part in our kitchen operation as it is only thing that gives heat that we are able to produce. We use here CNG as it emits less pollution and is Eco friendly. Shortcomings of using different fuels is that it may damage the machine.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?
I see one should have flare of innovative dishes and presentation skills, Confidence and strong belief to make things work well with perfect planning and understanding the time of action and preference of the food lovers towards their needs and requests.
I think it should always be fresh, simply crafted food and with the new trend of molecular gastronomy, it is time to bring the old classics back.

Do you have a Disaster Plan in place in case of an emergency.
Emergencies and disasters strike quickly and without warning so we are always prepared when a crisis arises, be it a medical emergency or it is guest related service issue.

Earlier people were saying that Chefs don't disclose their recipes. Now a days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the Chefs can keep their recipe a secret?
I don't think nowadays any chef is keeping their recipe a secret, it's all about giving and sharing the knowledge. We Chefs always try to create something new and innovative for new trends which a normal person cannot. That is why we always have something new to share every time

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
I usually get my inspiration from elderly guests with their different knowledge of ingredients which many people don't use nowadays and traditional cooking techniques they used earlier. I also get ideas from fitness freaks how they incorporate healthy ingredients into delicious meals.

What is the message you are going to give to our readers, as a Chef, about the kitchen. How the people can plan their kitchen. Whether it's a domestic kitchen or a commercial kitchen. What points they can keep in mind while designing it, etc.?
Well some points to keep in mind are:
• Set a Budget
• Write Down what Your Current Kitchen Lacks
• Determine Your Wants and Needs
• Analyze the Available Space
• Decide How to Arrange Appliances
• Look at All Your Options

Tell us briefly about your concept of an Ideal Commercial Kitchen.
An ideal commercial kitchen should have an Ergonomical kitchen design, should be energy efficient, have the appropriate size and equipment of the commercial kitchen that meets all the standards of health and safety, good ventilation and easy to maintain.

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?
Never say NO....to anything and that is a secret mantra.

1 November 2017 Quick Bits with Chef Gaurav Chawla

Chef Gaurav Chawla has graduated from IP University, Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology having 10 years of expertise in the culinary field. His focus is to deliver the ace product with the freshest ingredients at source. He handles menu planning, standardization of new recipes, menu engineering, monitoring adherence to good hygiene practices & HACCP Standards in regards with upcoming market trends & guest preferences.

Mentoring under Jiggs Kalra and Zorawar Kalra, he had learned a lot and that period was life changing era for him. He got opportunities to think out of the box and come up with exceptional and never thought of product on the plate.

Indian cuisines are undoubtedly his favourite cuisine as it has so many different flavours from each state. The Indian culinary heritage is extreme rich in spices, herbs and ingredients which brings a number of dishes altogether.

He don't have specialized in any particular cuisine, however his base is Indian cuisine with contemporary plating. At the same time, he specializes in the aspects of molecular gastronomy that transforms the shape & texture of any dish with the application of food grade edible chemicals. He loves to innovate new dishes keeping the original flavour intact with the right technique, adding the right ingredients and not to mess the dish.

He thinks whole grains for promoting good health is the new trend in the market. There are so many ingredients that people are not aware of and haven't used yet. This could be the next big thing to explore & cherish what we have in our country. One can try and innovate with those ingredients, make people aware & educate the same.

Recently he joined Azure Hospitality Private Limited as Head of Cuisine. A quick bits from Chef Gaurav Chawla.

Turning Point

My education in culinary was by chance & not by choice. I was a Medical student at the Intermediate school level, could not appear for medical entrance exams due to some health issues. I have got a couple of options, either to reappear for the next year or to choose one career which I can relate to. Applied the hotel management exam later as I thought I can justify myself getting the knowledge of the nutritional values & techniques of the food; managed to crack the exam with good rank. I got immense respect for the Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology which taught me about the know how of the field, the virtues & vices, basic knowledge of the ingredients, cooking techniques, utensils & equipments used, the focus on plating and presentations. Learning about food and getting the basics right with the science applied inspired me a lot that can satisfy any soul. Gradually, experimenting with different ingredients and cooking techniques convinced me to take this path ahead for my future prospects.

Challenging Task so Far

The most challenging task would be the assignment of the coffee shop kitchen in 2010 Olympics at ITDC, The Ashok Hotel. I used to handle the whole Kitchen operations being a chef understudy at that phase. I had very good mentors throughout who always believed in me & given me the opportunity to prove that I am worth that any task given. I used to come every morning at 5:30 for the breakfast of the international Olympic teams staying in the hotel and go late in the night. Learnt many a things handling this for a stretch of 3 months. I felt a lot more responsible and capable of doing likewise projects.

Funniest Movement in Kitchen

There are not many of these funny moments but I used to enact some of the weird & stubborn chefs I came across. When they got to know about this, they did ask me to do so in front of them, so that turned into quite an embarrassment and fun moment too.

Message for Budding Chefs

My most important message for the budding chefs is to keep your attitude right & positive. It's always attitude not your aptitude which determines your altitude. I would prefer taking a less knowledgeable cook with great attitude and work ethic over a talented prodigy with pissy attitude any day of the week. Get your basics right and don't worry about what you get paid. Don't ever think you are above learning from anyone, I learn from my team as much as they learn from me. Don't be discouraged if things seems to go slow and tedious at the beginning. Flirt with the ingredients and they will be all over you.

30 March 2020 The 3T's of Appetite Stimulating Cooking - Texture, Temperature & Taste

Chef Mangesh Wazarkar did his first graduation in B.Com and his interest in cooking forced him to do the second graduation in Hotel Management and Catering Technology from Nagpur University. During the study he worked part time for caterers to sharpen his skills and understand the industry’s ins and outs. He became an expert by the time he reached the final year. In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, Publisher – Better Kitchen, Mangesh the talented chef talked about his professional journey, kitchen planning, serving a variety of guests and new technologies in the kitchen. He gave us a mouth watering recipe as well. Excerpts.

Tell us about your background and how you entered the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking.
It all started in college practicals where I took my final decision of becoming a chef, which was one of the root causes to take admission for hotel management.

Also my grandfather was a very good cook I often used to see him coking fantastic food during family gatherings and festivals, which used to attract me.

Where you have done your training?
I did my industrial training from Taj Hotel, Khajuraho, MP and ITDC Ashok, New Delhi.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
I prefer a kitchen with modern equipment and machinery, with easy accessibility to ensure smooth operation to enhance quality of food. Also I want to make the most of the stuff in the house like our own regional spices, herb blends, sauces… all of which will give unique taste to the food.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases, it is done by architects and designers in consultation with chefs. But from your experience, you emphasise accessibility. Please elaborate on that.
Yes, I do look out for accessibility because it gives a lot of comfort to the staff in busy kitchens and help in running our operations smoothly. We are continuously monitoring the operations closely and if required we can modify the kitchen according to the needs of staff to put them at ease.

How do you rate the food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table? How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?
Fifty-Fifty. It is similarly important to serve food on time so it doesn’t lose its aroma. It’s all about textures, temperature and freshness of the food so it should go on time to the table for it to taste its best.

When you are cooking the food, when the guest is not so young , can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?
Yes, definitely because at the end of the day it’s all about guests and not what you have listed on your menus. We prefer to meet all kind of guests’ requirements most of the times to cater their needs as per their palate.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots?
Off course!!! Stainless steel pots, combi ovens and tilting pan help a lot in bulk cooking. But for ala carte, I prefer small lagan’s which helps in maintaining right temperature as well as fast pace working. Also you don’t have to worry about burning of dish/product.

What about the technology. Like when you are talking about gas, or the induction thing. Are you going to use the same thing or it is going to be different?
It’s totally depends on the set up but I won’t mind going out and trying new things.

Tell us about the green practices you follow in your kitchen.
There are many ways to go green in the kitchen and this is a constant process of overlooking that the process has been in practice. Such as energy rating appliances, refrigerator door seal, cooking on induction, eco friendly utensils, buy local, use of dish wash machine, low pressure faucet in kitchen tap and many more…

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen? What are the hazards of using different fuels?
Without fuel it is very difficult to cook the food, so obviously fuel is very important. The use of traditional fuels for cooking, heating and lighting is also associated with a high risk of burns like falling into fires, spilled fuel, poisoning ingesting kerosene, etc.

Fuel gathering may take many hours per week, limiting other productive activities.

Reliance on wood as fuel can also contribute to deforestation, especially in areas where fuel wood is scarce. Unsustainable wood harvesting can lead to forest degradation and loss of habitat and biodiversity.

In terms of heating systems, portable kerosene cookers and heaters emit significant particulate matter, including black carbon emissions, directly into the household environment or outdoors, if the system is closed. Portable gas heaters emit comparatively less particulate matter, but can still release excessive quantities of nitrogen into the indoor environment as well as creating risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Central heating systems, whereby fuel is burned in a contained boiler, heating water or another circulation liquid, usually provide a clean indoors environment. However, systems that burn diesel or fuel oil tend to release significant particulate matter outdoors - contributing to ambient air pollution as well as to climate change – through both carbon dioxide and black carbon emissions. Central heating systems that operate on natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas fuels generally emit far less particulate matter, including far less black carbon, as well as lower carbon dioxide emissions.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?
Yes!!! Definitely.

Now the concept of cooking kitchen and serving kitchen has become the vogue. How would you differentiate the appliances and the technology in these kitchens?
No, I don’t differentiate them as they both play a vital role in the use of ingredients, mingling them together and creating something new.

Do you have a disaster plan in place in case of an emergency.
Yes!!! We have and every kitchen must have it to ensure safety of kitchen team. We have fire blankets, sprinklers, extinguishers, fire exits, refuge area, etc.

Earlier chefs didn’t disclose their recipes. Now days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the chefs can keep their recipe a secret?
For me it is not about keeping it secret, rather I love to show and share the secrets. At last, it’s all about your experience and love for food is what displays on your plate. Because of the mentioned mindset we have lost lot of our regional and rich recipes thus we can make our food global.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
Yes, lot of times we come up with new ideas, as every guest comes with his own expectations for the food he likes. So rather than be a naysayer I love to get into it and like to see how it goes.

How can people plan their kitchen. Whether it's a domestic kitchen or a commercial kitchen. What points they can keep in mind while designing it, etc.?

For me it is all about comfort, things should be within the limit of reach, so you don’t have to run all the time and can enjoy cooking. For me music must be available in the kitchen - it can help me to cook better even I am not in mood sometimes.

Tell us briefly about your concept of an ideal commercial kitchen.
Modern kitchen, this is what I would be looking for as it helps in making process easy and gives joy of cooking.

Share your fun moments in the kitchen.
I enjoy every bit of it and always.

Do you help your better half when she is in the kitchen?
Yes I do, when I am at home.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?
It totally depends on kitchen schedule but then I don’t forget to go on an annual trip with family to spend quality time with them.

Who is your current favourite chef and why?
Chef Vineet Bhatia, because of his take on modern Indian cuisine, it inspires me a lot.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
I prefer simple home cooked food, when I am out of kitchen. At the same time I love to try local cuisine as every city has its special food.

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?
My message would be “Always try new food and trends” as it will keep you updated about new ingredients, cuisines, techniques, innovation, etc. This way we can find new cuisines and ideas by which they can merge with local cuisine and help us to keep updated our kitchens.

29 October 2016 Indian Food is a Mix of its Diverse Culture, Tradition and Geography. Let us Preserve it the Way it is

Salil Fadnis has been in the culinary profession for the last 25 years and has worked in different national and international hotel chains. He has been a preopening specialist, having opened hotels in India and overseas. He continued his passion with food as Executive Chef at Hotel Sahara Star and opened nine food and beverage outlets. He has helped his team bag several medals at national level competitions and has led the team to win The Great Indian Culinary Challenge 2011 & 2014. In a chit chat with Better Kitchen Chef Salil Fadnis discusses his life journey. Excerpts.

What made you enter this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
In my case it was my father who suggested that I pursue Hotel Management. Till that time I did not know what a five star hotel looked like as no one from the family was in the profession. Before I could join IHM, I loved food…….. as food… to eat. It was only during my training at the college that I could relate myself with cooking & the kitchen practical sessions enthused me the most but I don't know at what point of time I decided to be a chef. Probably It was just natural for me to get attracted towards the profession.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph. Your contribution to the culinary world. What are the unique achievements in your career?
The journey began in 1988 when I joined IHM Mumbai. My professional career began with OCLD & Oberoi Hotels where I got a deep understanding of the trade. The learning curve got sharper as I grew up the ladder while working with other international hotel chains. I've worked in South Africa opening an Indian restaurant, Marriott hotels while opening the Renaissance at Mumbai, at Marriott Goa, In Kenya as a Group Executive Chef & opened a new property, & now its been 9 years at Hotel Sahara Star since its opening.

I have been in the profession for the past 25 years. Since then, every day I have been a student of the profession and sometimes a teacher too. What skills and knowledge you learn from your seniors, you have to add your experience & that has to be passed ahead to the next generation.

In 2002, I was instrumental in forming the “Western India Culinary Association” & then the in 2003 the national body of Chefs “Indian Federation of Culinary Associations” I am active on both associations & which provides a learning & networking platform for all chef in the country.

Your food ideologies.
I believe that food is essentially a means to live. Over a period of time this has been taken over by an urge for more food, new food, variety in taste, experimentation and today food has become a part of fashion & entertainment giving more exposure and bringing chefs in the limelight. The sad part of evolution of this phenomenon is that the people who have access to food have started disrespecting, wasting & over consuming food whereas a large population still goes to sleep consuming hunger. This needs to change & chefs can take a lead in this cause.

Respect food, respect the farmer and respect mother earth. For these are the three essential elements for our survival.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
The culinary world has always been evolving on its own. There is a lot ofinnovation & excitement in this field which attracts more & more chefs to experiment and to rediscover the age old recipes. The wheel moves both ways… forward as well as backwards digging deep in history, rediscovering and presenting the favorites in modern style. As they say “water always finds its own level”, same goes for the culinary field. No one person can influence the direction, it will take its own direction.

How much focus do you give to health part in your day to day cooking?
With an increase in number of lifestyle diseases and a huge population affected by them it has become imperative that what we consume is monitored for its contents. At Hotel Sahara Star, we recognize the same and have incorporated the principles of healthy living in our cooking. For instance, we encourage patrons to have breads which are made of aata, jowar, bajra, nachni & kuttu. Guests will always find sprouted legumes, green vegetables and unpolished rice on our buffets. The dessert buffet has sugarfree desserts and desserts which are prepared with stevia (it is natural sweetener). Apart from this we have taken a lead and partnered with a institution in the introduction of “blue dot” to mark our menu items which could be consumed by diabetic patients.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
Cooking in itself is a traditional art. Innovative methods have found way in today's kitchen but the base still remain the good old traditions and methods which have been carried through the generations. Modern equipment makes work easy & quick but at the same time it modifies the process a bit. One has to live with the times & In today's fast world, it is difficult to stick to the age old processes.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
We live in a very unique country which has endless things to offer. Our culture and tradition is so deep rooted that every day you discover something new from the age old treasure. Our food is a mix of that culture, tradition and geography which needs to be encouraged & preserved for the future generations and this is possible only when we practice them every day.

Apart from this our guests relate very well with regional food. They feel connected and special when the food from their region is presented.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
There is no better food than home food. However everyone needs a change and something new. It's not the cuisine rather it is the food which matters. Anything, even one of the simplest of things If prepared in right manner could beat an award winning dish. I take inspiration from all mothers, grandmothers, small halwai, the baker around the corner & the chaatwala on the street for they cook only those few items,for their lifetime, which they excel in.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
I don't think profession is hereditary. Kids today have their own thought process & one should allow them and help to develop their own interest, allow them to choose a career of their choice, which they would enjoy. My son is currently pursuing architecture.

How do you like to spend your free time? How do you maintain work life balance?
Relax at home with family, books, good music, and friends is my way of relaxing

You have to give enough time at work to make life easy & enough time at home to make work easy. Fortunately my family understands this and my wife has been very supportive throughout this journey. Work time is work time, I do not take work worries home, holiday time is holiday time and I ensure that I take a long vacation every year & return to with a renewed vigour.

What is your hobby?
I've recently developed a keen interest in food photography and do my own food shots. Takes a lot of patience but is equally satisfying.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
After spending so much time within the hotel restaurants, it is not food which invites you. But my profession requires me to visit various places to understand the market.I am a no fuss eater and would eat at any place which serves good food. I rarely repeat a restaurant and I look for a new place every time.

Your message to readers.
Eat healthy, stay fit, don't waste food.

1 August 2017 Grilling Provides Great Social Bonding

In 1952 in Chicago, George Stephen created a culture and added a new dimension to the culinary experience. By cutting a steel buoy in half to form a unique design, he achieved the ability to control temperature, producing great tasting food. This marked the beginning of the iconic Weber Original Kettle grill and the philosophy, “If you're looking, you ain't cooking,” which embodies the practice of keeping the lid on the grill while cooking. Manish Khandelwal, Managing Director, Weber India is a gourmet lover and passionate about the grilling shares Weber's future plan and grill market in India with Better Kitchen. Excerpts.

Tell us about Weber and its future plan.
Weber is an American brand, established in 1952 and now present across the globe. It is the most premium barbecue brand around the world. Weber is in India for a long haul and at the moment we're busy in two objectives, firstly creating the 'grilling' category which is non-existent at the moment as no organized player is present in this category apart from Weber and people's perception to grilling is essentially limited to the open brazier grills which are locally fabricated and sold on footpath. Weber handles this by the way of experiential marketing by demonstrating the benefits of Weber grill. We educate people about grilling lifestyle which is essentially about social bonding and enjoying great food over the barbecue. It is a lifestyle activity which people are adopting fast. Secondly we're expanding our channel to reach out to customers in a better way. We're currently present through our stand alone Weber stores & Experience center's, traditional retail stores and modern retail channel besides being on the e-commerce as well. Our vision is to have each household own a Weber grill.

What is the size of grill market? At what rate it is growing?
As the category is highly unorganized, it will be difficult to put a number to the market size.

How Indian market is responding to your products?
Indian consumers are highly aware of global trends and look forward in adapting them at the earliest possible moment. Though cooking over fire is not new to Indians and therefore their love for grilled food is catching up very fast. Indian consumer is well-informed and looks at buying only those products which assure of good quality and hassle-free service and that is where Weber fits in perfectly.

How many products you are offering and what is the ratio of sales for commercial kitchen verses domestic kitchen?
Currently India range has charcoal and gas grills. In both the segments we have huge variety to choose from for the consumer. We have portable, compact and large grills depending on the usage pattern and the space availability at consumer's end. The retail business is much bigger as compared to B2B segment. Weber is a preferred brand across all 5 star properties and now is widely being patronized by stand-alone thematic restaurants as well. The ratio of sales will be 4:1 for domestic versus commercial kitchen.

What are the parameters you are distinguish between your grills and Tandoor?
Tandoor is a highly conventional way of cooking as compared to grilling which is far more modern. Tandoor in domestic homes is not possible due to obvious constraints whereas Weber grill can be placed in a small balcony as well. Weber grill is highly versatile as one can bake, roast and smoke besides grilling whereas tandoor has very limited usage. Moreover tandoor is usually operated by unskilled chef's whereas grilling is easy and for everyone.

Grilling is not a daily affair in household kitchen. How you are positioning your products?
Weber grills are highly versatile and besides grilling, these grills can be used for baking, roasting and smoking as well. Which means that a person can make starts, mains to a dessert on a weber grill which makes it highly ideal for Indian homes.

What is the USP of your brand?
Closed-lid grilling is the USP of the brand besides the 60 year old American legacy of the brand. Closed-lid grilling is much superior as compared to the open brazier grills and therefore the flavor coming from a Weber grill is unmatchable. Quality of Weber grills and the generous warranty of upto 10 years speaks volumes about the brand.

Why only grill? Any future plans to increase the product range?
Since 1952 when Weber started business till now, Weber is highly committed to provide the best barbecue grill to the world and therefore focuses on only 1 product rather than diversifying. We're proud that Weber today is the most loved brand across the globe.

How do you see Weber in next five years in India?
In 5 years Weber will be changing the way people perceive grilling. It will be far more preferred way to cook as it is healthy as well as it ensures great social bonding as compared to the conventional cooking over the gas stove in kitchen. Cooking a meal will not be only limited to female member but it will be a fun activity each family will look up to.

What message you would like to share with our readers in terms of Weber products and technology that you use?
Weber is for people who are very particular for their food and don't compromise on the flavor. Eating out has its own hazards to say the least and food grilled on a Weber is far more healthy than most of the cooking methods. Also it gives opportunity to us to step outdoors and appreciate the natural beauty. Moreover, grilling provides great social bonding wherein every member participates and contributes and it leads to great memories.

26 October 2016 I Personally Think I Can Take The Credit For Exciting Over a Million People to Like Cooking

Harpal Singh Sokhi is known as “Energy Chef of India” and “Dancing Chef of India”. Hailing from North India, which, like the rest of India is rich in culture and cuisine, Harpal is a music lover and is fluent in English and five Indian languages, namely Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Oriya and Telugu. His quest for knowledge left him hungering for more, so he undertook some branches of research on Indian food and its implications on health. Harpal was awarded Indo Australian Cultural by the Victorian Council Australia for promoting Indian food and culture in Australia. In a chat with Better Kitchen the multitalented Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi describes his journey.

What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
Having brought up in a small town Kharagpur, West Bengal, knowing for IIT and Railways, I was preparing for my engineering exams, when my elder brother happened to share the hotel management JEE and asked me to give it a try. He believed that the Hospitality industry would grow and if you develop the passion, one would grow. That is how I came into doing Hotel management and developed a passion to become a Chef in the second month of my first year of Hotel Management. There was no looking back every since then, it was only hard work and perseverance that paid of off.

At home my father would cook food especially on Sundays. He would buy groceries, vegetables, meat and then come back home and cook for all of us. He would also do the community annual pickles for everyone in the extended family. So my mother did influence me with her homely cooking skills I also inherited the same from my father too.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
My journey as a Chef began quiet early as I was studying hotel management. I developed a liking towards kitchen very early and pursued the same passionately. I never looked back doing anything else. My early days after passing hotel mgt was in Oberoi Bhubaneswar as a Trainee Cook and from there on I moved to Mumbai to be a Chef in Centaur Hotel Juhu Beach where I become a Banquet Chef and moved to further to get some international exposure which was very short lived though. Worked in a restaurant called Vintage which was a Hyderbadi specialty restaurant where I developed my passion for great Indian food. I went on the work in the Royal Kitchens of Nizams and streets of Hyderabad to acquire the knowledge of great Nizami food. While I was 27 I became Executive Chef of a 5 star hotel in Nagpur called Tuli International. Moved ahead to open the finest Luxury hotel in Mumbai The Regent as a Chef.

My passion for exploring Indian food took to me places. I had the opportunity to travel length and breadth of the country for my Television Show Desh da Swaad on Zee News and Turban Tadka Show on FOODFOOD. To encourage home Chefs I do a very passionate who on PTC Punjabi Television network called Punjab de Super Chefs.

As I began growing my own company Turban Tadka Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. I ventured into restaurant franchising, developed a business vertical called Happy Chef which is my non stick cookware and home appliances, brand. I also manage my food products brand under the umbrella of Capital foods. In digital space we have our very own channel and network which is amongst the top 10 channels in the country.

What are the unique achievements in your career.
The begin with last things first I would say that the recent high points of my career where being awarded the Best Chef of the year 2016 at the National Restaurant Congress. My unique experience of participating in the Dance Reality Show Jhalak Dhiklajaa a popular format of Dancing with the stars.

As a Chef I touched upon the sweet point of brining fun into cooking through my television shows. My shows help in exciting people to cook more at homes. My most popular jingle Namak Shamak Namak Shamak Dal dete hain is a rage in the country and everyone recognizes me by the jingle.

I was amongst the early chefs in the country to do Fusion food and managed to draw lot of attention creating unique recipes which were very popular at The Regent Mumbai.

Have cooked for various dignitaries and delegations and Celebrities during my career.

Your food ideologies.
When one has to excite a million people it is important to keep it simple. I believe that food should be simple, yet authentic.

Your contribution to the culinary world.
Well my biggest contribution in the Culinary world I personally think is that I managed to excite more than million people across the world the develop a liking towards cooking. My recipes have been simple to follow, which excited people from the age group of 10 years to 80 years to cook.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
I always believe that when it comes to Food India is like Amazon still undiscovered and unexplored. There is so much around in the country which we are yet to see. The world talks about Molecular and modern food, which is a great way to move ahead however I still believe that there is still lot of things left to explore from each state in India.

I still believe that Ayurveda is completely unexplored, ancient royal cuisines from various states have been not touched upon. In my pursuit to learn as much of each of these cuisines and share it with the world.

I am trying to create a community of people who can share recipes from across states so that we document more of it.

How much focus do you give on health part of cooking in your day to day cooking?
I think health is wealth. Good food at times might not be healthy hence a lifestyle which supports what you eat in moderation is advised. I strongly believe that you must eat everything and not deprive yourself of good food; indulgence is also okay with me at times however if you don't balance the act rightly then you are calling for trouble.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
I think it is very important not to forget our traditions and ancient ways of cooking. While the world is moving ahead and innovation is the key to success these days, it is important that you recreate traditional methods and give a new appeal to the youngsters. We still follow the traditional way of cook dal at home especially black dal for hours on slow flame what we call as slow cooking, however the medium of cooking has changed. All festival sweets that each of the household makes across the country is very traditional. I personally use earthenware cooking at times to get the great flavours of fish curry. People living in major metros do have a constrain of using traditional formats these days though, however in smaller cities you still have people using traditional methods of pickling, slow cooking of Rajasthan Dal Batis, in Punjabi households you still have dals being left over night on cowdung fire and cook slowly. At home however when you cook Hyderabadi food I follow the traditional method of sealing the vessel and cooking on dum.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
Regional cuisines and street foods are the flavor of the season. This year we have seen lots of restaurants emerge serving traditional and street foods from across the country. India is a vast country and cuisine changes in each state. Every city has something unique to offer, these dishes are being recreated by all Chefs and showcased across in their outlets. Since I get to travel a lot my restaurants Twist of Tadka serves food from across traditional kitchens and streets. BBjaan my five star fine dining restaurants offer cuisine from Royal Kitchens of India, be it Hyderabad, Awadhi, Royal Kitchens of Indore, Jaipur and other states.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Personally there is no second to Indian food. So much to taste and so much of variety, I simply love to indulge each day in different cuisines India has to offer. Even at home we cook Mangalorean fish curries, Maharastrian dishes, Punjabi Dishes, Rajasthani Chillas. At home we also Indulge in Thai food, Mediterranean food. Personally if were to think of one cuisine outside of Indian food then it would be Mediterranean food because of the great offering and grills.

Who is Current favourite chef and why?
When it comes to Television I love to follow Bobby Chin, AInsley Harriot and Emirle Lagasse for their sear comic timings while cooking. They are fun to watch so am I on Indian television history. Professional naming one would be dishonouring loads of people whom I respect be it Chef Satish Arora, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef Manjit Singh Gill and many more. Pick up the best from everyone.

What is your dream job/project?
Dream projects are lined up in my bucket list, owning more restaurants and creating more franchises, spreading my Home Appliances business Happy Chef across the world, reach out to more people and get them hooked on to Indian food.

Have a great resort at the foothills of Himalayas serving rejuvenating food for the soul.
The biggest dream is to keep working for the specially able Girl Child, create things for such communities which can help and serve them.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
Of Course I would encourage more people to pursue career in food and cooking. The hospitality industry has opened up it's door and there are many more career options for everyone, be it making your own YouTube channel, becoming an early entrepreneur, working across fields in Sales as you fit in very well doing such jobs. I think people have started looking at hospitality from various angles and there is a lot the hospitality professionals can do these days.

How do you maintain work life balance?
As I travel across the world a lot, when in Mumbai I ensure that I take time off to spend quality time with family. I enjoy working out, jogging, evening cycling at times. I ensure that I do not miss this at any point of time. In fact keep traveling with my jogging kit too and whenever I get time I move out to jog.

Watching movies with family and dinners are a regular feature when at home. Also helping out in kitchen and cooking for children are part of my routine when at home.

What is your goal in the next five years?
I would wish to see my company grow and share the growth success with all people who have helped me achieve my goals.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I enjoy exercising and watching television. I keep watching travel shows mostly. Love traveling a lot and which happens naturally due to the nature of my job. This helps me build new friends from across the world and stay connected.

What is your hobby?
Just completed a dance realty show Jhalak Dhiklajaa. I was waiting for some years for such an opportunity. The next in line to start learning violin and should begin soon. Reading books specially related to my field is something which I enjoy and go back to my studio kitchen and recreate the great dishes. Would love to visit Malaysia for learning carving of fruits and vegetables and yes spend a week's time enhancing my molecular gastronomy skills in Spain.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Family outing once a week is a must. We keep visiting to various different restaurants across. Most of the time we end up eating Indian food only as the family choice matter first. However when I travel out then indulgence in street foods to the best restaurants is a must for learning.

What's your dream kitchen?
I have my own dream Studio Kitchen called Studio Chopping blocks. Every time I travel and if I get anything of great interest for the studio I keep buying. I have almost everything that I required for cooking great dishes and would love to keep adding modern gadgets that would help me cook new age food. SO in my bucket list is a Sue Vide cooking appliances, a complete molecular gastronomy set.

Your message to readers.
Eat Healthy Stay Wealthy, Stay happy, Happy Cooking to all of you. Namak Shamak Namak Shamak Dal Detey hain.

15 February 2016 Kitchen is the most Important Room in My Home

Former VJ, wife of actor Arshad Warsi, mother to Zeke and Zene and a cook par excellence- that is Maria Goretti. She's the author of a cook book and also has her own cookery show titled I Love Cooking on the Living Foodz channel. She has her cookery blog and online videos of herself cooking up delicious dishes in her kitchen. Pallavi Bhattacharya of Better Kitchen met her and talked to her in detail about her amazing culinary journey.

What is your first impression when you hear the word 'kitchen'?
A lot of buzz, beautiful aromas, smiling faces and great tasting food.

When and how did you enter into the kitchen to make your first meal? How was that experience? Did you miss anything in the kitchen on that day?
I was in Class 6. My parents had gone to drop my sister to boarding school. I was alone at home. So, I thought that I should try something, which is why I made khichdi. It turned out into a cake. It had got over-cooked. So, this is the first thing I did in the kitchen on my own without my parents being around. I missed my mum in the kitchen that day. If she had been there, the khichdi would have turned out to be fine.

Please elaborate the development in your kitchen from then to now.
At that time, my mum used to look after everything. She was somebody who could cook very fast. She never spent much time in the kitchen but her food was still awesome. Today, I stay in the kitchen more often than her, though she does live with me. I still ask her for recipes but I also make what I like.

What are the gadgets and equipments that you are using in your kitchen now?
I use a Vitamix, KitchenAid, a normal mixie, blender and an oven which I really love. My microwave is mainly used to heat water. Then there are hand blenders, spatulas, chopping boards and various kinds of knives.

Which dishes do you cook? Who are your icons in cooking?
I didn't grow up with any real icons in cooking because I wasn't interested in it. I've traveled around the world and have tasted food at various places. What I really love is food that is tasty and made without a fuss. I am really impressed with some of the food that mothers can dish out of their homes, which are so tasty that they seem to be right out of a starred hotel.

As far as icons are concerned, I probably don't have many. I didn't grow up watching too many cooking shows. I like watching food and travel shows now. I love the energy of Jamie Oliver. I think that David Rocco is amazing. At the home front, I'm very fond of Chef Vicky and Ritu Dalmia. I think that they've all carved a niche for themselves, which they've taken further. They are all inspirations to me. I love the way they cook, their food tastes and them as people.

What inspired you to undertake the course at the Tante Marie? Please elaborate your learning experience in the institute.
I realized that besides the education that I had received, I've never had any other kind of qualification. I basically wanted to go back to school whether it meant learning to chop an onion the right way or how to broil, steam, bake and fry professionally. The experience that I acquired was amazing and opened a new world to me. I learned much more than just about food from Tante Marie. If I could have gone back to school, I would have.

There were 65 students in the institute. There were ten in my class. We'd start our classes at nine in the morning. We would get a menu for the afternoon. It was hands on learning. There was a pantry where we would go and measure out everything. By 1 pm, we had finished cooking everything including dessert. Then we'd clean the entire kitchen. We had to wash the utensils, clean the sink, wash the fridge and hobs, dust the place, wipe the floors and put everything back in their correct places. After the kitchen was sparkling clean, we would eat what we had prepared.

What inspired you to write the book My Kitchen To Yours: Food, Love And Other Ingredients? Are you writing any other book on food?
I started my food blog in 2010. This was just an extension of my blog. Two years after having started my blog, I began getting book offers. I was quite surprised about that because I never thought that too many people were reading it. I thought that it would be nice to have a book containing all my favourite recipes. All that I would have to do while making a meal was to open my own book.

I want to write another book. This book won't be a compilation of all my own recipes though. This is because that the book will be a learning process for me. It will basically be an East Indian food book. It will basically be a collaboration of delicious recipes sourced from aunts and uncles. You often hear things like a particular aunt of yours makes a certain dish very well. This will be a book on East Indian food as well as their customs, traditions, clothing and jewellery.

East Indians are a sect native to Bombay. They lived on the seven islands of Bombay before the modern Bombay came into being. They were mostly landowners, fisherfolk and farmers. Our forefathers must have had something to do with the British East Indian company; which is why there's a lot of influence on the food, yet our traditions are very Maharashtrian in soul. It's a small community with a crazy mix; located in small pockets along the coast.

Despite being a good cook and having taken professional training, why have you not chosen your career in the field of cooking?
That is because I have a home to run. As much as I love cooking, my kids are my priority. Also, to run a restaurant, not only do you have to know just about good food but have a good business sense as well. I don't know anything about business. I love my freedom. If I may be a guest, chef and live in a place for two to three months; then I'd love to do that. I'd love to have a career with food but not on the basis in which I am outside my home for 12 hours a day and cannot meet my family.

How much time you spend in the kitchen? What is your menu like?
The amount of time that I spend in the kitchen, depends. We are a family which eats vegetarian in the afternoon and meat in the evening. Vegetarian food is healthier. In the evening; our meal is generally baked chicken, baked vegetables, pastas and a stew. My morning menu is very different. On the weekends, I make plenty of rajma and rice. Then there may be some mutton stew. It depends on what everyone wants to eat.

Does your spouse help in the kitchen? If yes, what does he cook for you? Has he bought any kitchen item for you recently?
Arshad leaves the buying to me. That's because I always know what I want. Before I had taken over the kitchen, he would really enjoy cooking. He makes one of the best biriyanis that I have ever tasted. He can make great Indian food. He can always get various things together to make something yum. He can make great dessert.

What is the importance of kitchen in your day-to-day life?
It's very important in my life. It begins and ends with the kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room in my home. The kitchen isn't your hall, bedroom, living or TV room. You can do without all the other rooms. However, you cannot do without food.

How you are maintaining your family's calorie intake?
It's a fight because the kids want to eat junk food most of the time. That's a struggle. When they return home and are have dinner along with us; I think of options like kebabs with hummus. We make rotis but not with maida. It's not that they don't eat pasta because if they don't get what others eat at home, they will look for the same outside. It's just a balance. The family isn't on a diet. We ensure that what they have is nutritious and well made.

Did you ever cook food for your crew during film shooting?
No, I didn't. However, every time that I would cook something for myself, others would taste it.

What is your message for the readers?
The kitchen needs to be made according to you. I agree that today a whole lot of designs are there. There are many companies which make fancy kitchens. I feel that when it comes to the designing of your kitchen, you need to be involved in it 100%. This is because nobody knows how you run your kitchen except for yourself. So, even when I did my kitchen which was outsourced, I sat and designed the kitchen with utmost ease. Nothing should be put in a place which is difficult for you to find. Don't put in something just because it's fancy and everyone is putting it there but having it makes no sense to you. I think it needs to be designed with the utmost cleverness to detail. Instead of planning your kitchen according to what others prefer, decide on how you'd like the kitchen to be arranged according to your style of cooking. For instance, I have a hob in my kitchen on which there are utensils. It looks pretty but that's not the reason as to why it's there. It's because that's convenient for me. That's why the kitchen needs to be designed by the person who uses it.

Please tell us about your cookery show I Love Cooking on Living Foodz.
I am very passionate about this show. Initially, the team wanted to name the show after me. However, I didn't wish for a show named after me but suggested a title concerning food instead. That's how we zeroed on I Love Cooking. I thought of recipes that may be churned out quickly and easily. They made the set in an easy and breezy manner. The show has been given an Indian twist. I returned to TV after 2003 (I had my own show in that year). After that I've done some smatterings of work here and there but this has been a great experience. I have my blog and my youtube channel, where I have my cooking videos.

30 March 2021 Kitchen Makes you Realize that you are Alive

Chef Siddharth Birendra has started his career as Management Trainee and with his food passion, hard work and innovativeness of over two decades of experience in India and abroad he recently joined as Corporate Chef of Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation which has 68 properties across Madhya Pradesh and Siddharth is responsible for operations of the entire properties kitchen. For the last 12 years he has been based at Bhopal and featured by EPIC Channel for the Lost Recipes of Bhopal. In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, Publisher – Better Kitchen, Siddharth the talented chef talked about his professional journey, kitchen planning, serving a variety of guests and new technologies in the kitchen. He gave us a mouth-watering recipe as well. Excerpts.

Tell us about your background and how you have come to the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking.
I belong to an era where there were only two options after completing 10+2, either you become a Doctor or an Engineer. According to my parents I was supposed to become a Doctor in a family full of Engineers. But my inclination towards Hotel Management received approval from my parents and after two trials in medical entrance exams; I was on my way to Durgapur Society of Management Sciences, Durgapur to do my three years diploma in Hotel Management. While I was a kid, I was quite fond of eating outside. And hotels always fascinated me that might be the reason I joined the Hotel Industry.

Where have you done your training?
I have done my industrial training from The Trident, Ahmedabad. Although I was stationed in the front office for about three fourth of my training period, then also the desire to become a Chef never went off.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
I prefer a small but well laid kitchen with adequate space for movement and the ingredients required for food preparation should be well within reach of the chefs. They don't have to run around for day to day operations. Machines are required but only to ease the work, cooking is totally a matter of experience and feeling, machines can't give that taste what a chef himself can. So machines should only ease the work flow.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with Chefs. But from your experience, you talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.
Not Anymore. This is an old world practice where kitchens were designed and constructed by architects. Now I think no kitchen is made without inputs from a chef. In today's scenario the architects only build what a chef asks for. Well now a days the computer friendly chef even draws the layout and designing of his / her kitchen themselves.

How do you rate the taste of food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table? How much weight age do you to give to both cooking and serving?
Well, I think this question is the most controversial question for the entire hotel industry. If a hotel is a train, then production and service are the two rails of the track. They never meet together but the train can't run even if one rail doesn't support the movement. So is the case with these two departments. Both the departments are equally important for good guest experience.

You are giving a lot of stress on presentation. What is the trend going on and how chefs are working on that?
“Jo Dikhta Hai Wohi Bikta Hai!”, This is a common saying in today's market, and the food is not an exception. Out of the three senses which make a dining experience, the eye comes first then the nose and then the taste buds. So a well presented good food gets more appraisal than an ill presented excellent food. So, food presentation is most important, the plate should be clean, all the elements visible, not over crowded, with relevant garnishes.

When you are cooking the food for an elderly guest, can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?
What does an elderly guest means to you? A guest at 65 can have a good diet where as a guest at 45 might be having dietary restrictions and allergies. Age is just a number! Yes, guest preference should be kept in mind while making any food, but that's a special case. You can't prepare the whole batch keeping one guest in mind. So, my policy is to meet the guest, ask for his preference and get something of his liking on his plate.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots? Does it make any difference in the taste?
Whether it's 10 or 1000, the guest expectation remains the same. But yes, as a chef the total scenario changes. When you are making food for 10, you can be more specific with the quantity of spices, the texture of sauces, the level of doneness. But when you are cooking for 1000, the frame of mind changes. You can concentrate on taste but not up to the level of what you have while cooking for 10. While cooking for bulk, I would need high pressure burners, braising pans, tilting brat pans, etc. while cooking for 10, I would prefer small handis over low flame burners with subtle flames so that I can get the taste out of each ingredient.

What about the technology? Are you using the latest technology in the kitchen or prefer the old method of cooking?
Cooking now a days needs mixing of both the world. As I said earlier, machines can ease the load of work but they can't replace human excellence as far as emotions, feelings and taste is concerned. So use the technology to ease your work load but don't let the technology over rule you. A machine can cut vegetables better than you but no machine can give that taste what you can because you have emotions, which a machines doesn't.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.
Growing organic vegetables in units where ever possible, energy conservation by keeping a tab on electrical equipments, regular gas servicing for gas conservation, avoiding water wastage by recycling water where ever possible.

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen? What are the hazards of using different fuels?
Cooking is impossible without fuel. You can't think of a kitchen without the use of fuel. Directly or indirectly fuel is a must.

Fire is the friendliest enemy for a person. It eases life but is most dangerous if not handled properly. It can cause burns if somebody is not attentive. Improper way of using the non reliable fuel like woods, kerosene etc. can increase the pollution level because of high carbon production.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?
Yes! To some extent. But the final taste and appearance will be in the hands of CHEFS only.

Now the concept of cooking kitchen and serving kitchen has become a vogue. How do you differentiate the appliances in these kitchens?
With the use of modern technology and latest equipments I think all the kitchens are equally good and presentable.

Do you have a Disaster Plan in place in case of an emergency?
My first priority is availability of the fire fighting system and emergency exit in all the kitchen of my units. First aid box is the next important thing in my list.

Earlier you people were saying that Chefs don't disclose their recipes. Now a days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the Chefs can keep their recipe a secret?
Why to keep secrets? Anybody who learns from you only spreads your charisma, he can't take your destiny. What's in the destiny is bound to happen. So chill and keep cool!

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
Many times… I forgot the count…

How can people plan their kitchen. Whether it's a domestic kitchen or a commercial kitchen. What points they can keep in mind while designing it, etc.?
As far as I am concerned, my priority in my kitchen is ease of reach, my kitchen should be a one step kitchen with all the necessary things within my one step reach. Accordingly I would suggest others to fix their priority and plan on site, don't assume anything, be realistic in designing.

Tell us briefly about your concept of an Ideal Commercial Kitchen.
As I mentioned earlier, ease of reach.

Share your fun moments in the Kitchen.
For me work is worship, and I don't make fun of that. Yes I have lots of lighter moments but never when I work in the kitchen.

Do you help your better half when she is in the kitchen?
Never. It's either my way or right way… I hope you understand.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?
The most difficult part is to maintain this balance, I never waste my time trying to do that. It's always imbalanced. How you handle that imbalance is important, and I think I am not so good at that. It's my wife Abhilasha and my two sons Kushagra and Rudraansh who balance it for me.

Who is Current favorite chef and why?
Who else than me… I love myself.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Yes… Any place where ever I get food.

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?
Food is a basic necessity for us. Food can never be bad, and kitchen is the place where this is made. So a dream kitchen is a myth, a kitchen is always what makes you realize the fact that you are alive. If you know how to respect food, any kitchen can be your dream kitchen.

26 October 2017 Kitchen is a Food Theatre to Keep People Happy

Chef Ravinder Singh Panwar’s culinary journey began with an apprenticeship at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi. Later he joined The Oberoi, New Delhi and trained under highly professional chefs in all kitchen core areas including larder, coffee shop, Oriental, French fine dining, Patisserie & Indian cuisine. In 2004, he got an opportunity to go to Tokyo, Japan, as an Indian chef to commence new benchmark Indian restaurants for Oberoi hotels. He then took charge of a flagship Indian restaurant, opened three more Indian restaurants and four Delica shops. He worked under the guidance of Chef Yoshiro Murath (7 Michelin chef) at Michelin star restaurant “Kikunoi” and learned Japanese fine dining food to understand Japanese chef`s philosophy of food and the word “Umami”. In December 2009, he joined the Taj Falaknuma Palace, which belongs to last Nizam of Hyderabad Prince Mukaram Jah Bhadura as Indian chef. There he researched on Hyderabadi food from resourceful royal kitchens, hotels, old city and food connoisseur, Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan. In December 2013, he joined the Bengaluru Marriott, Whitefield where he trained for concept theme break by creating food, theme, and mood as per meeting purpose aimed at enhancing great food experience. In an interview with Better Kitchen Chef Ravinder had discussed his culinary journey. Excerpts.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you come into the hotel industry especially into kitchen?

I am more of a sporty guy from a very young age. I was inspired by my uncle who was then the Principal of a Hotel Management Institute. I had actually enrolled for a CA course and had passed my CA foundation. When I was into the first part of Intermediate CA, I felt that I just had to be in the hotel industry. However, since my parents were totally opposed to it, I joined the Taj Mahal hotel in New Delhi using my own resources. There, I had the opportunity to work as an apprentice with a Michelin chef at the French restaurant where I learnt the hors d'oeuvres, appetizers and soups. I then shifted to The Oberoi, New Delhi where I did a different kitchen course and made the right start as a chef with The Oberoi, New Delhi.

Who has supported you the most? Mom or Dad?

Definitely, Mom always supported me more. Dad is strict like a General or a Commander while mom is cool and calm.

How did you develop this passion for cooking? At what point did you decide that you wanted to be a chef?

I am a very sporty guy and I cannot be confined in a “box” as a Chartered Accountant or a Cost Accountant or a Company Secretary. No boss! I cannot lead that kind of boxed life. I need to travel a lot.

Apart from your training at The Oberoi, did you do a formal training at an Institute of Hotel Management too?

Yes, I did a Craft Course Training in an IHM but I practically moved about in the hotels because it is only here that you get the kind of practical training in terms of operations that you cannot get by reading books. When you compared what you learned in theory with the actual hands-on training in the hotels, you could see the difference that it made, and the training felt really complete.

How do you plan or visualize your kitchen right now?

Visualizing involves everything from recipes to process-setting which involves planning, organization, coordination, making strategies, tactics to execute those strategies and monitoring all of these. It's all about process-setting.

How do you see the role of the executive chef in the planning and designing of the kitchen?

It is very important. I work with reputed Indian and international companies. About 90% of the kitchen planning is very well executed but the 10% which we would change for practical purpose. Planning that is done by the professionals is done so well that more often than not, we do not need to ask for major changes.

Do you prefer to cook in the traditional way or do you like to use technology too?

For me it is very important to maintain the ethnicity.I cannot compromise on the taste and flavours. However, technology is also very important and there are a lot of areas within a kitchen where we can use the available technology. So, it is essentially a combination of both, the traditional and the modern. If you take for example, biryani which is prepared in Hyderabad or Awadh or Delhi, charcoal or wood is used as fuel. It makes a difference to the flavours as compared to the fast-fury cooking methods like using tilting pans even though the recipe used is the same for both.

How do you decide on the cooking methods or type fuels used for a one-person or 10-person or 1000-person service?

If it is going to be a 10-person menu, I can say that it will be very professional and a la carte, from pan to plate. However, for 1000 persons or beyond a certain number, it is going to be in bulk kitchens with larger utensils and appliances like steam boilers and so on. Fuel is a very important aspect for us and we cannot function without fuel. I tend to mix my methods. Some foods need the traditional type of cooking; for example, if it is a wood-fired pizza then I would have to use firewood since there is a special aroma and flavour that is imparted to the pizza. Similarly, for tandoori chicken, you can make it in a combi-oven which is very a modernized appliance, easy to use, time-saving and with safety features but the flavour and aroma obtained by using the traditional method that uses charcoal and clay ovens cannot be replicated by any other method.

Do you believe in slow cooking? What is your secret cooking method?

Yes, I do believe in slow cooking. I don't think anything is a secret nowadays. I don't believe in hiding anything.

Do you have any special ingredients for special dishes?

Yes, we do. For our international foods we have truffles, bonito flakes which we import from Tokyo and sometimes Hokkaido, then, we get the best caviar. We import all these things depending on the requirements of our guests and sometimes, we create our own dining experience here.

What is the relative weightage that you give to cooking and serving? Do you serve as well sometimes?

Yes, cooking and serving are important both at home as well as in commercial establishments. We learn about all aspects from kitchen to service; from raw ingredients to finished products, everything has to be picture perfect. Even the serving has to be done perfectly by prioritizing the tasks of taking different items to the table. It is a team work. So I would give 50 points to the food and 50 to the service.

Do you also suggest dishes to your guests at the hotels depending upon their age and other things?

We always anticipate certain situations whether guests come in with kids or with certain dietary requirements. Kids and senior citizens have the same type of stomach! So the food has to be fresh, with more nutritional value and very easy to digest—that is very important.

What is your advice to guests as to how to satisfy their hunger in a healthy way?

It is very simple. Just have some oriental chicken broth soup in which you take about 350 ml of stock or broth, add lots of vegetables, some noodles and a bit of chicken in it. This way you can go low calories and fill your stomach with food of high nutritional value.

Do you get inspiration from your guests to change your menu or your recipes?

That's been an ongoing process right from the time I joined this industry. Sometimes, we do get suggestions from guests regarding some recipes; like if someone said to me today, “Ravinder, my grandmom makes koftas in this way”, I feel, why not try it out? At times I have found that it turns out really nicely.

Do you allow your guests to visit your kitchen?

Yes, I do. We have some activities for that in our hotel. On a daily basis I moves around, talks to the guests, asks them how they liked the food and makes a personal connect with them. This feedback and personal connect is very important.

What's your opinion about live kitchens?

Live kitchens are very important as with other types of kitchens and they are quite informal. Nowadays, we see that the young generation love to talk, enjoy and watch the action. It is as if the kitchen is not just a kitchen but a food theatre of sorts. They would like to see a lot of stuff happening on the same floor. So, a live kitchen is essential these days.

How do you rate your guests and experiences in Bhopal vis-à-vis Metros?

Bhopal is as important to me as any other city like Delhi or any foreign city. I respect them all. There is much to earn from every city and every guest. This particular city is very important and I would say to you: Keep your food very very ethnic you can't play with it here, “If the chaat has to be like this, it has to be like this”. So, I have brought in all such people who have the exact know-how to make ethnic food here. I can promise you that you can get all good ethnic food in this hotel.

This is a city where you can get the best chai and pakodi & samosa in India, I can say.

What do you think of fusion foods which people are experimenting with?

To some extent, it is fine to have fusion foods but not for all foods. Fusion in terms of ethnicity is not great. If you want to improvise to raise the bar on taste and aroma in a phased manner, it is okay, but the way you are going to cut it down, no way! We must enhance the dining experience by fusion methods and not have it lacking by way of taste. The dish should not lose its originality.

What is your favourite recipe?

It is Bihari Gosht.I love the Awadhi Gosht Nihari and also the Hyderabadi one.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.

That is definitely very important because we have to save the environment and people are really taking it seriously. So, we have segregation of garbage into wet and dry; for the cartons, we have a clean box in which we cut and dry and reuse these things. We use non-toxic chemicals to clean our pots and pans in the kitchen close to the base of plants, and we have an approved vendor who knows how to dispose garbage that goes out of hotels.

Kitchen fuel we need to get an upgrade on that technology to suit our work here which is in bulk and which needs to be faster.

What kind of fuels are you using now in your kitchen?

We are using all kinds of fuels including LPG, electricity, and chafing fuel which is used to keep the food warm in the chafing dishes in the banquet area.

What about the safety?

We are quite strong in safety feature and we are given training in all these matters. So, we are completely safe here.

Do you have any disaster management plans for kitchens and mock drills?

Yes, we do have disaster management plans in place. We gather here for regular fire drills once in two weeks. We also have a Loss Prevention Department.

Do you keep a quality check on your vendor's supplies?

We do it every day. We have our specifications and if we find that things are not up the mark or not compliant with our standards, we reject them.

Any anecdote or memorable moment which you would like to share with our readers.

I was once looking after a flagship restaurant called Sitara in Tokyo, opened by Mr Huroi and a Japanese partner. The Prime Minister of Japan had visited my restaurant to have Indian food. He wanted to have a whale neck-bone dish which is like 3 kgs and he wanted a tandoori one. He said that he also wanted to have tuna fish which had to be raw inside but in tandoori style. I got an inspiration from Tuna Tataki which is fried from the outside; I did a tandoori marination, wrapped it in kadhai masala, put it into a tandoor and made it in the tataki way. From the inside, it was just like a Japanese dish but the outer layer was with typical Indian spice. It took me around 45 minutes to prepare this dish. The Japanese PM appreciated it a lot and also appreciated our efforts at creating this real fusion dish.

What is your idea about your own dream kitchen?

My dream kitchen is one which is complete in terms of equipment, tools, layout and resources. I need a whole cooking range on one side, an oven under the cooking hub, a microwave oven on my right side so that I can work in a flow with perfect coordination rather than have the layout disturbing me. You should not have to run around the kitchen as in a football ground.

Message for students of hotel management courses and aspiring chefs.

Be passionate, a very very important aspect. Be passionate and enjoy cooking because if you enjoy the cooking process, you don't even need to ask for anything else.

What is your message to our readers about the kitchen?

Kitchen is a place where you can create unique culinary experiences and keep people happy. Starting from your mother's kitchen to anywhere in this world, food is one thing that can make you happy. "Goodness Together".

31 October 2018 Gourmet Guests Are my Muse

With both Robin Batra's parents working, he was often left to his own devices post school hours. The consequent improvisation Robin indulged in while drumming up a snack for himself each day, made him realize, early on, his passion for cooking. It also helped that his entire family had roots in Pakistan and he grew up steeped in inspiration derived from his grandmother's traditional recipes.

Robin began his career at the Wildflower Hall, Shimla. Thereafter his hunger for knowledge and love for food took him to the prestigious Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development (OCLD), from where he graduated with a gold medal in 2008. In late 2009, he moved as a pre-opening Kitchen Executive at Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai. Under his leadership the culinary prowess of the hotel strengthened alongside his journey as a chef in the city that never sleeps! In his previous capacity as Senior Executive Sous Chef at Trident, Bandra Kurla he played a critical role in the culinary success of the hotel, especially with restaurants like their all day diningO22, Maya, fine dining modern Indian restaurant and the well-loved Italian restaurant Botticino.

Robin's mantra as a kitchen professional is to learn with keenness, observe with an open mind and cook with all your heart! In an exclusive interview with Ekta Bhargava, Robin talks about his professional journey and kitchen.

Tell us about your background and how you stepped into the hotel industry, especially into your chosen line of cooking.
I come from a Commerce background. Both my parents were working and so I had no option but to get hands on in the kitchen as a young adult. My parents had desired me to pursue Information Technology as a career and I did get a good opportunity to take up the subject as well.

But, a few of my cousins were in the culinary industry. Through them I visited hotels and commercial kitchens too. I realized this, indeed, was my calling. My childhood was spent being self-sufficient in the kitchen and that truly sowed the seeds of me wanting to be a professional chef.

I thus gave up the idea of being a software engineer and joined hotel management and never looked back.I wanted to do something different from the family trade of bankers and IT professionals.

Where did you do your training?
Was in IHM Shimla for hotel management degree and stood first in the batch.

I was an all India topper in hotel accounts / food production examinations.

Later, I got enrolled in the prestigious Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD)

During my post-graduation at OCLD I received a gold medal.

I also won numerous chef competitions during my learning years.

I have also trained with Michelin starred Chef Georges Blanc at Vonnes in France.

Coming to the kitchen side of the hotel industry, how did you plan and visualize it?
Post IHM the plan was to join an international hotel chain gain experience and then travel or immigrate abroad and earn good money like all aspirational young chefs of our time. But, whilst contemplating the same, I got through OCLD and everything changed. My vision towards culinary arts was shaped at OCLD where the focus was on being a perfectionist, endless learning and delighting customers.

With regard to kitchen planning, in most of the cases it is done by architects and designers in consultation with Chefs.But from your experience, you talk about accessibility. Please comment on that.
Plans and designs are done on paper. One can be technically very sound on the same but the concerns of an actual, live and thriving kitchen can only come from chefs who work in that space. Thus, not only senior chefs but all team members need to be consulted whilst designing a kitchen. As real time experience and dealing with different and demanding situations are the greatest influencers of designing a smart, ergonomically efficient kitchen.

How do you rate the food which is going to be cooked in the kitchen and served at the table?How much weightage do you to give to both cooking and serving?
The journey of a great food experience starts from the menu design itself. The way the menu looks, feels and the description of each dish determines the first hook for a diner. Then comes training the serving staff to assist the diner in making the right choice in terms of his / her preference and mood. Then only does the kitchen take over in both the preparation and plating of the food. Post this the finishing touch comes in the server presenting the food with the right panache. Thus, this is a well thought out and well-orchestrated journey that each dish needs to follow. We at The Oberoi take pride in such detailing.

When you are cooking the food, when the guest is a senior citizen, can you suggest something more suitable to his palate?
The first step for a chef is to meet and interact with such a guest. Have a conversation and create a human connect and element of trust. The chef needs to then exercise his experience and creativity both to make something suitable. The concerns can range from low fat, balanced protein, and light on spices to even diners who are lactose intolerant and diabetic.

When you are talking about 10 guests or a thousand guests, the preparation is going to be different. In that case what is your preference for the cookware and the cooking pots?

The approach to such a situation would first vary dependent on the cuisine being cooked. Traditionally in India when we cater to large banquet events cooking mainly Indian food, then we prefer using traditional utensils and cookware as the method of cooking which can be done on these enhances the authenticity of the taste. The same is hard to replicate in automated cookware which may save time but may compromise on taste. But, this may be tweaked dependent on the cuisine being cooked.

What about the technology. Like when you are talking about gas, or induction cooking, are you going to use the same thing or it is going to be different?
Traditionally all kitchens used LPG but now most kitchens are moving to PNG and induction. We surely support the cause of technology which makes cooking more seamless and environment friendly but not at the cost of taste. Thus, I recommend a mix of grills, hot griddles, steamers, sous-vid cooking and use of combination oven that should be looked at. But for example whilst doing a tandoori chicken, having a nice clay tandoor adds best to its taste and authenticity.

Tell us about the Green Practices you follow in your kitchen.
We have an organic waste converter which converts organic waste to manure which we use in our gardens.

Our hotel uses electricity generated from renewable wind energy.

All our walk ins have air curtains to minimize temp loss.

We have CFL power saving lights across the kitchen.

We also use a lot of local produce from small to mid-size farms, thus supporting the local agro-economy and giving fresh food to our diners including indigenous cheese of international quality.

How do you rate the importance of fuel while in the kitchen? What are the hazards of using different fuels?
Most kitchens including ours are moving towards energy efficient fuels but the most important thing is to train the team in using them correctly and with due safety mechanism. Any technique of cooking whether using fuel or not, needs to be handled with due care and caution. This awareness and training needs to be coupled with proper cleaning methods and maintenance of equipment.

With more and more technologies coming up, do you think cooking is going to be more advanced?
Yes, technology will certainly help in making food quick, consistent and of high quality. One can use elements like chicken and turkey timer for a perfect roast or grill. Smart microwaves which work on USB and can be used for elements like on the spot reheating etc. Micro-evaporators which can distill juices from vegetables and fruits which can be used in sauces, dressings and even curries. Smarty pants and smarty grills are connected to an in built app which autocorrects the measurement of ingredients and cooking temperature and length of time too.

Now the concept of cooking kitchen and serving kitchen has become a vogue.How you differentiate the appliances and the technology in these kitchens?
When you have a display or serving kitchen, equipments need to be modern, aesthetically nice looking and easy to use and clean. This is mainly because the interactive element of these kitchens with diners are high and thus, elements need to be controlled and the look and feel matter. Whereas a hard core internal kitchen is more industrial and heavy duty and highly charged too! In certain kinds of culinary output you have to have a solid backend kitchen which can be aesthetically paired with a daintier serving one.

Do you have a Disaster Plan in place in case of an emergency?
Being a part of a 5 star deluxe chain and establishment, we have a well-entrenched and fortified crisis management program with due and regular training conducted on the same as well due support in terms of modern equipment and technology.

Earlier you people were saying that Chefs don't disclose their recipes.Now a days with an open kitchen everybody is seeing what you are mixing. So how do you think the Chefs can keep their recipe a secret?
The whole role and dynamism of chefs have changed. Today's chefs are more interactive with diners, they like speaking to them and even creating dining experiences based on their preferences. Coupled with this is the public side of each chef and his or her talent. With the digital and social media taking on so much importance and influence, chefs are very confident and open in showcasing their talent through visual representation including recipes.

Also, in India specifically, our rich and varied culinary heritage in some parts are under threat if we do not resort to documenting them and sharing them for the next generation to take them through. Thus, this sharing of recipes and knowledge, both are critical to certain wonderful techniques and traditions of Indian cooking being kept alive.

Have you ever got any ideas or inspiration from your guests?
This process starts with interaction. I love speaking and having conversations with my diners. Some of them are vastly traveled and extremely erudite on food. It is such a wonderful exposure to not only cook for them but learn from them. We not only act upon their feedback and create dishes based on them but sometimes we have incorporated dishes in our menu which have been shared by our guests. This is the true joy of being a chef.

What is the message you are going to give to our readers, as a Chef, about the kitchen? How people can plan their kitchen. Whether it's a domestic kitchen or a commercial kitchen. What points they can keep in mind while designing it, etc.?
Think practically, plan efficiently and use your budget to the optimum.

For the home, always start with the budget and cost parameter first. Then evaluate how to optimize the actual space you have for this project. Then, do your research on the optimization end. Today, there are many websites run by professional kitchen equipment companies which give brilliant tips and ideas to make a functional, efficient yet beautiful home kitchen.

Tell us briefly about your concept of an Ideal Commercial Kitchen.
In a commercial establishment, the flow from receipt of ingredients, to processing them and then cooking with them and finallyserving,should have clear demarcations and planned in a strategic way to make it scientific and easy. The equipment also need to be planned as per the space available and the kind of cuisines that need to be catered to.

In the logistical area, working stations should be clearly defined with enough aisle space in between. Storage too is key. Designing modern and multifaceted storage spaces are critical. Physical properties like flooring / cabinets / counter tops / drainage and exhaust come next. These, coupled with waste management system, garbage collection and grease traps. Proper and commercially aided ventilation, air circulation are important to make the space happier to work in. Being aware of local laws. Lastly, always design kitchens which can have scalability and adaptability at a later date.

Please share some of your fun moments in the Kitchen.
Kitchen teams are like family. Each member perhaps spends more time with each other than with their actual families. We start with each member having a 'kitchen-name' which makes it fun and more like family. We crack jokes, listen to music whilst working, go for tea breaks, team outings, picnics and make sure we always support each other both in moments of joy and stress.

Do you help your better half when she is in the kitchen?
We are both working individuals thus we complement each other in terms of kitchen duty. The days we are both off we explore the local culinary landscape and discover new places to eat.

How do you maintain a proper work life balance?
Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. You need to learn to manage and optimize your professional time better in order to make more time for your personal life. Also, training and mentoring an efficient team that supports you, helps.

Who is Current favourite chef and why?
I follow a lot of chefs across the globe. They are all pioneers in their own ways. In today's digital age, it is easy to learn, study and evolve with the world. But, personally, I have been deeply influenced and inspired by the Chefs I have worked with. My true mentors are them. I would particularly like to mention Chef Rohit Gambhir who is the Executive Chef at The Oberoi, New Delhi and Chef Ashish Bhasin who is the Executive Chef at The Leela, Gurgaon (Ambiance Mall).

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Whenever I do get time, I definitely travel for food. My preference is discovering local eateries which service indigenous cuisine. Having recently moved to Bangalore, I am slowly discovering the local restaurants serving a myriad of South Indian food and my trip to Mangalore was a culinary delight. But, this attempt is always not easy as my better half prefers European food and likes to dine at establishments which serve such cuisine. You then win some and loose some

Any message you want to give to our readers about the kitchen. How can they make their dream kitchen?
Thumb rule is 10-15% is space to be utilized for the kitchen, the rest is to be support space for the cooking. It should look and feel like a welcome space. Do not clutter the same with too many elements.

Work areas to be plenty. Use of built in and pull put chopping boards with trash bin below is great, all storage area to be smartly designed visa vis the actual cooking area. Some kind of dry store is important. Use of integrated appliances, induction cook tops and a refrigerator are also good. Use energy saving, yet warm lighting to set the mood and ensure there is good ventilation including a proper kitchen chimney and exhaust. Last but not the least, don't forget to create the Chef's secret spice draw.