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?
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.