Q. You are a gold medalist from the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development. How did your culinary journey start?
A. The journey began in 2011 as a Commis (Kitchen Assistant) at Trident, Bandra Kurla, in Mumbai. I worked under some extremely talented pastry chefs. I was then selected to be a part of the prestigious Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development for gaining work exposure at Oberoi Hotels across the country. I was groomed in the best possible way to face the challenges in the hotel industry.
Q. Why did you decide to become a chef? What other back-of-the-house positions have you previously held?
A. It was a very spontaneous decision. Growing up, I always wanted to be a journalist. Cooking at home brought me great joy and worked as a great stress buster. My mother hated the kitchen, which led me to step in and try my hand. I decided to follow my passion and this is where I am. I started off as a Commis, the lowest position in the kitchen hierarchy, got selected and graduated from the Oberoi Centre and later on moved on to open the bakery at the Oberoi Flight Services in Kolkata. I am currently an Assistant Pastry Chef at the Academy of Pastry Arts, Gurgaon.
Q. Except pastry, what do you specialise in?
A. Pastry is my forte, although I love to cook, depending on my mood. I love to experiment in the kitchen. My brother is my guinea pig and biggest critique.
Q. How do you feel about winning the Callebaut Patissier of the Year award?
A. The feeling is great. I never imagined taking part in a competition of this level. If not for Chef Niklesh and the team at the entire academy I would not be where I am. The support has been immense without which any of this would not be possible.
“Pastry is my forte, although I love to cook, depending on my mood.I love to experiment in the kitchen.”
Q. How would you describe the daily life of a chef?
A. It’s a busy day. Back when I was a kitchen assistant, my day would start by 6 a.m. The hospitality industry is such that there is always a time to report on the shift but never a time to leave. It was obviously tough in the beginning, but you get used to it and loving what you do makes it easier. Being a part of operations there is never a dull moment. There is never a day you don’t learn anything and that’s the beauty of being a chef. The guests you meet, the students you teach and the immense room for creativity always keeps you going.
Q. Is there a chef you admire the most? Who would that be, and why?
A. There are many I look up to but I owe a lot to Chef Tanisha Ravindra. She is the one who guided me in my days as a Commis, and pushed me to believe that I had what it takes to make it in the industry.
Q. Pastry art is very difficult to specialise in. How hard was it for you to make perfect pastries?
A. Pastry is both an art and a science, and that’s what makes it amazing. Unlike other cuisines pastry is very precise. Adding a gram or two of baking soda can totally change the final texture of a product. It’s also the most creative visually. The learning never stops and there is always room for perfection and improvement.
Q. Could you describe the relationship between back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations?
A. It is important to have a symbiotic relationship between the two. However, the fights at the pass counter will never stop. It is important to remember that the guest should never suffer. The guest always comes first. No matter what!
Q. What is your favorite cuisine? How many different types of cuisine are you capable of producing?
A. Goan, Thai and Japanese. I am capable of cooking a few cuisines including Indian, continental, Italian and Chinese.
Q. What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
A. As a Chef, there is no such specific cuisine that I love to cook. It all depends on what the mood is like. Generally something that is quick to whip up. Something that friends and family love. I also like exploring and experimenting with new dishes.
Q. Any nutrition advice you would like to give to our readers?
A. It is good to eat everything, but in limitations. Anything in access is bad so it is always advisable to take things in moderation and within limits.