Featured People

Smitha Pinto – Culinary Artist

Smitha is a food lover who enjoys creating new recipes and cooking them, then styling and photographing the food she prepared. At the same time Smitha is also an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Breastfeeding Specialist. while also being a Registered Nurse (RN) and Midwife (RM). Currently, she is the Chief Lactation Consultant at MilkyWays.

Smitha’s Instagram feed is an enviable collection of the most beautifully styled and clicked pictures of food that you’re sure to love! Click here to check out her Facebook page. In case you’re interested in checking out Smitha’s professional credentials, here’s the Facebook page.

Featured People

New, Low Calorie Beverages by PepsiCo

Sid Khullar in conversation with Mr. Vipul Prakash, the man leading Pepsi’s beverage business in India. He shares some exciting news about Pepsi’s commitment towards reducing sugar across their products as well as the launch of a delicious low calorie beverage for nutrition and hydration.

Featured People

Does Jack Daniel’s go with Tandoori Food?

Here’s Cam Dawson, UK Brand Ambassador for Jack Daniel’s, chatting with Sid Khullar about Jack Daniel’s, India’s love for whiskey and the biggest question of all – will a glass of JD get along well with a platter of tandoori foods?! What’s your guess?


Featured People

A Tale from the North East

Sneha Saikia is a talented Assamese cook who has a wide repertoire in her arsenal and  awide range of culinary interests. She enjoys experiencing and learning about foods from all across the world, in addition to interacting with culinary professionals from different disciplines. An inveterate cook who is equally comfortable cooking for two and she is for two hundred, Sneha is a gracious host who enjoys hosting popups, especially featuring food from her native land- Assam, which she is particularly passionate about promoting. Sneha Saikia recently spoke to Sid Khullar and we believe that Chef at Large readers might find some useful insights regarding North Eastern Cuisine.

Sid Khullar(SK):You’ve been in north India for a while. What are the main differences you’ve found between north and north east Indian food?
Sneha Saikia(SS): Personally, I believe there is a lot of difference between cuisines of Northeast India with rest of the Indian states. The main difference lies in the ingredients used, for example, cuisines of North India are spice based and with bhuno of the curry as a common technique, whereas our cuisine is herb based with use of different kinds of leaves or herbs.

SK: Do you believe there are any similarities in the food cultures of Assam, Orissa and West Bengal?
SS: The Central part of Assam has some similarity with Bengal.

Boiled dry fish with green brinjals.

SK:While the food of the north east is certainly quite different from that of the rest of the country, do the cooking methods differ too?
SS: Yes, the cooking process is quite different than other part of Indian states. We do not bhuno our ingredients and also do not believe in bringing artificial color to our dishes. Our dishes are always natural in color. Food wise, Assam can be divided into three parts, Upper Assam, Central and Lower Assam. The cooking techniques from Upper Assam and Lower Assam are water based and that from Central Assam being developed and exposed, has been influenced by the neighbouring states and tea garden workers from Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. Most also have influences from Bangladesh who saute in mustard oil and tempering is done with onions and garlic. One can go a step further and say that we have learned cooking with mustard oil from Bangladesh.

Boiled fish with local herbs.

SK:I know you’re an awesome cook. Still, there will be times you feel like having home food, but do not feel like cooking. Is there a friend’s house you visit during such times, or a restaurant that meets with your approval?
SS: Whenever I feel like eating a home cooked meal or my cuisine from my part of the world, I land up at Nagaland Kitchen at Green Park or Dzukou, Hauz khas Market. The food there always is refreshing and a reminder of home.

SK:You’re a prominent member of many food communities, online and offline. Has awareness and understanding of north eastern food and cooking increased in the past few years? Why do you feel so?
SS:It is very sad that even in this day and age, people of Delhi, are hesitant to try Northeastern cuisine. The ratio is very less who are keen to know more about our cuisine. Nevertheless, I keep posting my food and get appreciation from few. Sometimes, I do get comments that are somewhat unpalatable and offensive on some posts but I plod along.

Mustard leaves Khar.

SK: Are all the required ingredients for say, Naga cooking, available in Delhi? What can be found here and where and what have you been unable to find?
SS: I mostly source my ingredients from back home and store it safely for months. Some ingredients are available in INA Market as Thai and Japanese ingredients are almost same with our cuisine. These days we get some stuff on online stores too. But, mostly we get our ingredients from home via relatives or postal services.

SK:While north eastern main courses are somewhat known here, most of us do not know much about desserts from that part of the country. Could you enlighten us please?
SS:Frankly there is no dessert concept in our cuisine. We are more into tea and drink Laal Saah which is tea without milk or green tea. We do have sweets like pitha and payoxh which is kheer, but we eat it as jolpan or in festive occasions . These days people have started making kheer as dessert.But people mostly prefer paan and tea after a meal.

Koni Saul r Pyaox (Kheer made with various types of millets).

SK: How about sharing a breakfast dish’s name from each of the north Eastern states? That’s another area many of us could do with more information.
SS: The sunrise is at 4 am so day starts very early and there is no breakfast concept in the region. People eat their heavy meal by 8 am and go for work and come back early and have dinner at 7 pm. City life has changed this a bit and in cities people have started eating breakfast. Instead of breakfast, we have afternoon tea concept. We have light snacks with tea during 2-4 pm. Luci bhaaji (poori and aloo subzi) is very common dish for guests which is served with omelette and tea.

SK: I find most people I’ve met from the north east love their pork! Are there are cultural reasons for this?
SS: Pork is mostly consumed in Nagaland and Mizoram. But in Assam, not all the caste eat pork. Pork is only consumed by Tribals of Assam. In villages of other castes, It is still a taboo and not allowed in the kitchen. City life is completely different than rural areas. People strictly follow rules of eating. In Assamese cuisine, Pigeon and Duck meat are mostly served dishes and prestigious for guests.

Sneha Saikia in conversation with Sid Khullar.

Featured People

The Woman Who Turned Dreams Into Reality!

Many of us begin our  journey, go through the tick boxes of life one after the other and settle into the comfort of having achieved the materialistic check list of life. We suppress our desires and many dreams that we may have envisioned for our personal growth. However, there are some who have crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s and then forayed into a journey – a personal journey of fulfilment of all the dreams they have conjured, and proceed to give it life. Meet Kiran Padsala Amin, a home maker who over the last few years began her journey into the world of professional baking, with Cherry on the Top, her baking enterprise, with much gusto, learning the tricks of the trade, especially with a keen eye to the needs of the market, especially mindful of those with allergies; something that was an issue with her own daughter. With a quiet confidence Kiran is going from strength to strength.

Kiran recently spoke to Sid Khullar about her experiences with commercial baking and how she has earned a name for herself in her home city of Ahmedabad.

Sid Khullar (SK): You’re a baker and going by those lovely banana muffins I tried, a fine one too! How long have you been baking and how did it all begin?
Kiran Padsala Amin (KPA): Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed the muffins. Yes, I’m a home baker and I have been so for nearly three years now, although the first steps of my baking journey began when I was in college. To cut a long story short, my recent foray into baking would be what most people would call as second innings. The journey began with my joining CaL FB group, observing various posts, nuances of the ingredients, graduating to interacting, asking questions and learning from several members and finally jumping in with my first batch of banana cupcakes and posting on CaL.

The words of encouragement from members, especially learning interesting new tricks, getting my queries answered by Blessy Bless, enhanced my confidence and I was well and truly entrenched into the world of baking for good! Another crucial reason for me to become a home baker was my daughter is allergic to dairy. This meant that for her to enjoy her treats safely, I had to experiment with several ingredients. This gave me the freedom and confidence that I could do something for my daughter to enjoy baked foods without having to worry about the medical repercussions.

SK: With baking for friends and family. You chose to take the next step and become an entrepreneur. Why?
KPA: A couple of years ago, on my husband’s birthday we invited his friends and their families for dinner. Whilst they had sampled my cooking in the past they commented on the huge improvement in the presentation and variety that evening. This built my confidence and the constant encouragement from friends and family made me take the leap into baking professionally. I have always enjoyed making rustic, fuss-free, no-frills cakes and with ideas pouring in especially from my daughter, Nitika, I began experimenting with various ingredients and also, began cake decoration, using ganache which was hugely appreciated.

I have always wanted to do something of my own. Wondering whether to open a nursery or a boutique or some such, I finally gave in to my passion for baking and Cherry on the Top was born! To quote the Instagram account,  Millenial Entrepreneurs, “Doing what you are afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that – that is what life is” became my motto.

SK: Did you have to change anything about your methods, recipe or style once you began baking professionally?
KPA: My learning continued, as the orders poured in! So I evolved as a home baker, using new skills and methods on my orders. I  had the concept that a cake is a cake only if it is made with eggs, and of course, butter. I began replacing  butter with light flavoured cooking oil,  making egg-less cakes was like cheating on the whole idea of baking. However, my clients are mostly Jain, so eggs were out of the question. I used coconut milk, Hersheys cocoa powder, organic all purpose flour, vanilla extract and sometimes olive oil too. This caused costs to rise and commercially it was not very viable.

Never one to give up, I made further changes, went with the bulk Malaysian cocoa powder instead of coconut milk and began using milk for my regular clients whose needs were contrasting to my own children’s needs (no eggs,but dairy inclusive). Eventually, I became more versatile in baking with different mediums, and went ahead to bake without eggs, without dairy, without sugar, and could replace all purpose flour with whole wheat flour, mix and match almond milk, and create healthier bakes. I’ve never ever used a pre-mix and my motto is “Keep baking from scratch and with Love”.

SK: Can you share two things about baking for customers – one that you love and one that you absolutely dislike?
KPA: I absolutely adore those customers who trust me and allow me the creative freedom once the basic premise, the idea and their preference has been provided. I am not so fond of clients who bargain regarding costing and relate home baking charges to bakery goods price. Also, those clients who do not pick the deliveries on time do irritate me!

SK:There’s a trend towards egg-less baked products visible these days, with even non-vegetarians preferring egg-less versions. Why do you think this is happening and what do you feel about it?
KPA: There is a rise in food allergies these days, also being vegan is here to stay! Besides, I live in Gujarat, where mostly people follow a vegetarian diet. Even non-vegetarians prefer egg-less versions as they can freely share with vegetarian friends. For me, as a professional baker, it is safer to use less allergens in my cakes, an example being not using peanut butter for those who have peanut allergy. Moreover, egg less cakes do taste good and are pretty cost effective too.

SK: When you made the move towards professional baking, what extra stuff did you need to purchase and what sort of additional expenditure was involved?
KPA: I already had one 35 Litre OTG oven, and bought a new and bigger one almost instantly when I realised I could not bake 300 cupcakes in a single oven. I purchased my extra stuff as and when needed, and I did shop impulsively too. Of course, there was additional expenditure and sometimes I used to wonder if I was on the right track!

I took part in a Women’s Entrepreneur fair, after 3 months of baking professionally. I had a fair amount of investment in creating a website, logo, visiting cards, brochures, the stall, and lots of other things like packing material, gift bags, etc. I am not a marketing or finance person at all which meant I had to learn everything from scratch and considered all the cost as a soft launch investment. However,  it did help me to get a brand name very early. The pride I felt in holding my visiting card, I can never forget that feeling. It was huge learning experience and a deeply satisfying one at that!

SK: Home makers usually have much higher standards than commercial enterprises. Did your customers pay the higher prices or did you have to bring down your personal standards to public levels?
KPA: I believe in quality first, and can never compromise on the taste, or look of the product, which does translate into not compromising on the pricing front. Yes, my customers have paid the higher prices when I have made them aware of what they are getting in comparison to outside products. It is a different story of baking from scratch with love, with the best of ingredients and utmost importance given to hygiene, all of which shows in the end product and the taste and the smile on the clients face.

SK: What do you produce mostly – sweets or savouries?
KPA: I produce sweets only, but will be doing savouries too in future. I plan to cater for a few salons and offices in near future.

SK: There’s a wide range of artificial flavours available for baked products. Do your customers prefer fresh, local and natural flavours or exotic, artificial flavours?
KPA: Personally, I prefer not to use artificial flavours and essence. Keeping that in mind, I guide my clients to use more fresh, local and natural flavours. I use Ameri colours if a client is particularly insistent. However, by and large my clients are on the same page as me, which makes life easy!

SK: If there was one piece of advice you’d give home bakers aspiring towards entrepreneurship, what would it be?
KPA: Never ever give up. It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.

Sid Khullar in conversation with Kiran Padsala Amin.


Featured People

A Woman of Steel

When one thinks of Rhea Mitra-Dalal, one quickly conjures up an image of a no-nonsense, matronly lady, one of the oldest members and moderators of the Chef at Large Facebook group. However, behind that stately demeanour, is a lady with the kindest of hearts, a love for food which replaces her usual stern look when a plate of delectable food lands in front of her. A brilliant writer on all things food especially Parsi and Bengali cuisines, not to mention everything porcine. Her extensive knowledge on food and quick wit make her delightful company with whom one can carry on conversations for hours on end. Needless to say, whilst she and her beloved husband Kurush F. Dalal have been successfully running Katy’s Kitchen in Mumbai for years, Rhea has recently reached new heights by being a successful and an important part of Hokus Porkus, by bringing in innovative pork recipes to the lucky people of Mumbai. Sid Khullar recently spoke to Rhea Mitra-Dalal and you will find this an interesting read. 

Parsi Food, the words evoke images of Dhansakh and Patra ni Machhi in most people’s minds. But there’s much more to the cuisine of this much beloved community epitomised by philanthropy and eccentricity in equal measure. The Parsis arrived in India as refugees from Iran, a little more than a thousand years ago and first settled on the Gujarat coast. Legend has it that the leader of the earliest groups went to meet a local chieftain to seek asylum. The chieftain showed him a bowl brimming with milk and said his land was like that bowl, with no room for more. The leader of the refugees sprinkled sugar into the milk and said, like the sugar, he and his people would not only blend into the milk but would improve it too. And thus the Parsis remained in India, and not only did they blend in, they certainly added plenty of sweetness to the land.Rhea Mitra-Dalal

Sid Khullar (SK): You’re a Bengali, a culture with a prominent role for food. Yet, you appear to be more enamoured with Parsi food. How did Parsi cuisine win your heart?
Rhea Mitra- Dalal (RMD):
My exposure to Bengali food was relatively limited and I wasn’t that interested in food as a kid. I just preferred non vegetarian over vegetarian and since I liked a very limited range of vegetables and ate no fruit, meals were something to get through. My mother was a good cook but she didn’t like cooking so her repertoire was also limited. The fact that she was a single working mom also made the elaborate multi-course Bengali meals impractical.

Though I started cooking when I was around 12 years old to help her, I only did the simpler stuff like boiling the daal and rice in the pressure cooker, prepping vegetables, etc. I became quite fond of baking as mom used to bake a lot, and took greater interest in cakes and cookies than in the daal, chawal, roti, subzi side of food. My real hands on cooking started when I moved to Pune to pursue an MA degree and began hostel life. That’s where I met my husband and my real interest in food started as we cooked with friends and ate out on a budget.

After I married into a Parsi family I was exposed to Parsi food every day. The fact that the family ran a well-known catering business only increased my exposure and as I joined the business I learned more and more about the cuisine. My mother in law, Katy Dalal, was a walking encyclopedia and she was always happy to explain nuances of a dish, recipes, preparations, and she also shared many of her own food memories with me. It’s not surprising at all that I’m so enamoured with Parsi cuisine!

Rhea in her cooking avatar!

SK: How would you describe Parsi food to someone who hasn’t the faintest idea?
  Meals are simple, in that, there will be one main dish accompanied by rice, bread, or rotlis (rotis), a simple side dish, an occasional kachumber depending on the main dish of the meal, and dessert. Like Bengalis, most Parsis like a little bit of something sweet at the end of every meal. Eggs are a huge favorite and there’s probably no other Indian cuisine that has so many egg based dishes like Parsi cuisine.

Parsi cuisine is a robust and joyful cuisine. Even everyday food seems celebratory – elaborate, somewhat rich, and predominantly meat-based. But don’t assume that there’s no vegetarian element to this cuisine – there’s plenty!Rhea Mitra-Dalal


SK: We know a few iconic Parsi dishes like Dhansak, Salli Murgi and so on. Did these exist initially or did they evolve due to Indian influences?
Versions of these dishes exist in Persian cuisine even today – aab gosht (meat cooked with chick peas) can be identified as the original idea from where Dhansakh came about. The two are quite distinct but the similarities are very much there. Sali Marghi also has its roots in Persian food where the use of dry fruit is very common. Dried apricots or jardaloo are an important ingredient in Sali Marghi.

A typical Parsi meal that Rhea whips up for her clients!

SK: You and your spouse run Katy’s Kitchen, a well-known, even beloved caterer of Parsi food. Have you found many non Parsi folks ordering in? Is this number increasing? How about those from conservative or orthodox non Parsi cultures? While they’ve adopted some international cuisines in the form of fast foods like burgers, pizzas, pastas and the like, have they also moved towards experimenting with Parsi food?
Katy’s Kitchen has been around for nearly 40 years now and we’ve seen many changes in the client demographic. Initially we had nearly exclusively Parsi clients but even 20 years ago we had non Parsi clients on numerous occasions. Barring weddings and events that mark religious sacraments people are generally open to exploring different foods. We’ve catered innumerable birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations for non Parsi clients, and as of the last 10 years we’re doing corporate catering, film catering and all manner of events too. Exploring new cuisines is the in thing these days and Parsi cuisine is very popular so yes, the number of non Parsi clients has definitely increased.

As far as conservative non Parsi clients are concerned we have a few of those too. Since there is a significant vegetarian clientele out there we have a substantial vegetarian menu that includes Parsi vegetarian dishes and a wider non Parsi selection. Having Jain clients who place their confidence in us has certainly been a big feather in our cap. These days everyone experiments with food and we do too. We have adapted quite a few standard Parsi dishes to suit clients’ needs. One of the most successful experiments has been the ‘mini farcha’ where we adapted a classic farcha – a spiced fried chicken (on the bone) – into a bite sized boneless version. This is one of our most popular party snacks.

SK: Which Indian cuisine would you find Parsi food most comparable to and why?
I think the closest ties are to coastal Gujarati cuisines because that’s where the Parsis first landed and settled before their numbers grew and they started spreading further out. Since the deal was to blend in without disturbing the people of their adopted country, the immigrant Parsis adopted the language, dress, and food of their hosts and these initial adaptations form the foundation of Parsi cuisine as we know it today.

SK: Is there a street food menu component in Parsi food?
Not really.

SK:What do you believe Parsi food has acquired after its arrival and subsequent stay in India? Or to rephrase, what would we find different about Parsi food in its earliest avatar and its contemporary version?
Parsi cuisine as we know it was born in India after groups of Zoroastrians fled Iran around the 8th Century and arrived on the western coast of India. Every cuisine adapts and changes as the influences around it change – initially the cuisine would have been influenced by coastal Gujarati food and as the Parsis travelled and spread they picked up influences from Maharashtrian and Goan food. Since the Parsis consorted with the British and other foreigners with ease thanks to the absence of any taboos, they also adapted many European foods into their repertoire. While there are vestiges of Persian cuisine still visible in the form of pullaos, the use of dry fruit, the fondness for barista or fried onions, Parsi cuisine in its current form has flavours from the entire western coast (the use of coconut, local produce, dishes like Parsi curry, Umbariyu, the use of souring agents like kokum, etc.) and influences from Europe seen in dishes like lagan nu Custard, Sahs, the variety of cutlets, etc.

So, for example, before the Europeans arrived the cuisine wouldn’t have had cutlets or lagan nu custard, but probably had ravo, the Parsi version of sooji ka halwa, a dish that is present in some form or other in nearly every cuisine in this country.

SK: Would it be fair and accurate to describe Parsi food as an Indian cuisine?
Yes absolutely! Parsi cuisine was born here in India and has been around for more than a thousand years. It is quite different from Persian food though some influences do remain.

SK: Does Parsi food use any hard to find ingredients?
Not really. There are a few things that are laborious to make – like wheat milk  which is used in falooda. In the old days some ingredients like rose water were a little hard to procure but not anymore.

SK: Please share a recipe?
This easy to make Parsi Prawn Curry makes for a delicious recipe to try for beginners to Parsi cuisine.

[ultimate-recipe id=”83202″ template=”default”]

Rhea Mitra-Dalal in conversation with Sid Khullar.

Featured People

The Woman who took the Road, less Travelled!

When I spoke to Trishna Wahengbam of ‘Chaminnasi’, an entrepreneur foraying into North Eastern cuisine for the patrons in Delhi, I couldn’t stop myself from reminiscing of Frost’s, ‘The Road Not Taken’. Whilst many take great comfort in sticking to the rigmarole of routine, Trishna Wahengbam found solace in stepping into uncharted territories. Creating recipes from the Seven Sister states for the people of Delhi who, believe you me, can often be myopic towards new cuisines, Trishna Wahengbam is going strong. A few nuggets of our conversation for the readers of Chef at Large which we think makes for an interesting read. We wish Trishna Wahengam and her team the very best in all their endeavors.

Sid Khullar (SK): Why not a straight, simple and well paying job instead of entrepreneurship with one of the world’s toughest ventures?
Trishna Wahengbam (TW): It is indeed true that the food industry is one of the world’s toughest industries, but I am also a firm believer of the entrepreneurial spirit that I am driven by. And the work I do, I do every inch of it with great gusto and care because Chaminnasi is something I and my team are passionately creating every step of the way and I hope to carve a bright future for a niche cuisine like North-Eastern food.

It would definitely have been extremely comfortable without a doubt, to have a high paying regular job, but for me, that would have never given me true happiness like how I feel when I work for Chaminnasi as at the end of the day it is a very short life to be doing something that you don’t love.

SK: Given Delhi’s conservative palate, how did the decision to serve north eastern food come about?
TW: We believe that Delhi is a constantly evolving city, and along with every other social and economic factor, food is also an important part of this process. We, at Chaminnasi feel that the onus is on us to assist this evolution of the Delhiites’ palate by exposing the myriad flavors of North-Eastern cuisine to North Indian taste buds.

Another reason is that a couple of years ago, during the midst of my Masters degree exams, I often longed for some comforting food that would remind me of home and help recuperate after long hours of study. However, there were hardly any restaurants serving affordable and good quality North-Eastern food. That being the case, after the completion of my course, I and my team decided to come to the rescue of every North-Eastern student or working professional living in North Delhi.

Mashor Tenga Thali

SK: It’s been a few months since you started up. What has been your most significant learning?
TW: It is too soon to say what has been our most important learning, since we still have so much to learn going forward. All we know is that we have to grow organically and keep things interesting by constantly executing new ideas.

So far, we have learnt that it is a must to work towards building strong bonds with each and every one of our customers so they feel a more personal connection with the brand. In this highly digital world, we strive to establish a sense of real human relationships by emanating it through our food and brand personality.

Mangal Ooti Thali

SK: How did you prepare for Chaminnasi as in any special education, courses etc.?
TW: I feel I have been preparing for Chaminnasi since I was quite young. I learnt how to cook at nine and had experimented with cooking different and complex cuisines before I was 15. Since my days in school, I have always turned to cooking in my free time and nothing gives me more happiness than being able to turn cooking into my profession and improve each day.

SK: Who set up Chaminnasi? Did you do everything yourself or did you hire consultants for the different jobs involved?
TW: Chaminnasi was set up by me. Regarding the work involved, I and our core team handle the culinary and the business aspects on our own. But to get here we have consulted several business and restaurant consultants.

Pork Fermented Soya Bean

SK: How have your patrons responded to your venture and food?
TW: We have garnered a very positive response from our patrons regarding the quality of our food, the quantity served, the packaging used and our customer and delivery service. It is highly encouraging and keeps us constantly motivated to do better each day.

SK: Where did your recipes come from? Did you develop them for Chaminnasi or were they sourced from family and friends?
TW: Our recipes came together through multiple sources. First and foremost, it was procured through our travels and understanding of local cuisines in several parts of the North-Eastern states. Many of the recipes are age old shared by professional cooks and elderly experts from North-Eastern cities and villages both. And lastly, our friends and family have also helped guide us in creating Chaminnasi’s menu.

Mashor Tenga

SK: Who are your customers, largely – students, working professionals or families? Further, are they from all over or mostly from north eastern states?
TW: Right now, our customers are predominantly North-Eastern students and working professionals living in North Delhi.

SK: What are the challenges you’re facing and how are you working your way through it all?
TW: Our main challenge is with hiring and training a team of people who can understand and execute our vision. We are constantly on the lookout for people who would be suitable to work with us.

Trishna and team

SK: What are your future plans? Chaminnasi or more? Franchises perhaps? More outlets? What are you planning?
TW: Currently, we are aiming at expanding our menu and hope to inculcate more cultures into our cuisine in the future. We are also hoping to branch out by opening new outlets in relevant parts of the city and the country.

Sid Khullar in conversation with Trishna Wahengbam of Chaminnasi.

Featured People

A Woman of Substance

Most individuals and particularly women, multitask in the myriad roles they play, be it at home or at work or even if it is just another pit stop. One could argue that many of us are Jack of all, and perhaps Master of none and, yet, getting by fine in this journey of life. However, there are some women who don’t beg to differ but politely and most strikingly shine in every stop they make and the multiple hats they don! Sumedha Chaudhary is one such lady who strives for excellence at every step. Sumedha Chaudhary shares her journey so far, which has useful insights for our Chef at Large readers.

Sid Khullar (SK): Did your entry into brand communications happen in a planned manner or did one thing lead to another? Tell us your story.
Sumedha Chaudhary (SC): I’m an MBA in Marketing and my stint started with a travel e-commerce portal. I entered into Hospitality Industry as Corporate Mar Comm for Mid Scale Brand and have worked with one of the leading 5 Star properties in NCR. After eight years into hospitality industry, I’ve now moved into a corporate role wherein hospitality is part of the portfolio. But there is much more to manage/explore across multiple sectors including Education, Real Estate and Retail. I have also worked with a leading GDS brand and every assignment has imparted new learning.

SK: What do you think this profession demands from it’s constituents? What should a youngster know before joining the ranks?
SC: Each brand has specific KRAs (Key Result Areas) and sometimes few functionalities are predominant and rest others are minimal. If learning is restricted to one or two constituents, then professional longevity gets affected. Corporate Communications, Alliances, Public Relations, Advertising, Coordination, Social Media Management, Event Management and Team Management are the important KRAs.


SK: Earlier, media largely consisted of print, radio and television. Today, all three are largely ignored by the hospitality industry for routine purposes, in favor of digital marketing and online properties. What worked better – traditional media then or new media today?
SC: As a brand person, I always endorse balanced media mix. For me, each media type has pros when used in a specific way and one needs to implement a marketing plan post proper analysis. Radio & Print media still stand useful for specific campaigns wherein, television is not every brand’s cup of tea. Digital Marketing has created great ROIs for hospitality industry and thus its allocation is supported strongly.

SK: Tell us a little about your journey to where you stand today?
SC: After 13 years, having worked with one of the best brands and resources across Delhi NCR, it feels great when your management values the efforts put in by your team. I’m strategically placed under the office of top management and the part of core team meetings where strategic business decisions are made.

SK: The hospitality industry is known for it’s long hours. Do these hours apply to your department too? How do you manage to juggle work and family and do justice to both?
SC: I try to maintain work-life balance as much as possible. However, we work harder during pre-openings, etc to support the brand success in all possible manners. Since, in my current role I operate under diverse verticals, something or the other keeps happening round the year.

SK: Given the profusion of restaurants and hospitality establishments around, how do you keep the attention and business of your patrons?
SC: We always draw a comp set for each business function, keep a close track of the best practices cross distinct industries and try to imbibe these practices for our functionalities and thus obtaining great results.

SK: Where can a communication professional in your industry hope to move on, after a position such as yours, i.e. heading brand communications for a 5-star establishments?
SC: It truly depends on the opportunity and how you plan your career. After spending a decade in hospitality industry, I recently got the opportunity to represent the corporate role at MBD Group. It’s a complex job profile which gives me the opportunity to explore the diverse business sets.

SK: How do you relax after a hard week at work?
SC: Everything revolves around my 5 year old daughter and I always prefer to spend as much time as I can with her. Also, I try exploring new places with friends and loved ones.

SK: Had you not entered brand communications, what do you think you’d have been doing today?
SC: Initially, as a career choice, I wanted to pursue Marketing Research. I did my internship with International Data Corporation, IDC, the premier global market intelligence firm. If this wouldn’t have happened, then I would have pursued Advisory Services. However, B2C marketing was so fascinating, rewarding and satisfying, that I chose this career and now I love being part of it every single day.

SK: What are the parameters by which success is measured in your line of work?
SC: The success derived is based on the brand and core team you worked in all these years and how successful you are in terms of relationship building. Also, success is measured on the basis of how strong is your media networking and the exceptional marketing campaigns under your belt.

Sumedha Chaudhary in conversation with Sid Khullar

Featured People

A tete-a-tete with Suprabhath RoyChowdhury

It has been an interesting experience knowing Suprabhath RoyChoudhury, the F&B Director at the Holiday Inn New Delhi/Mayur Vihar, formerly the Executive Chef at Le Meridien, Gurgaon. A man who has donned many hats and now has taken management tasks to task. Here are a few questions he recently answered for Chef at Large readers giving us a sneak peak into what makes him tick.

Sid Khullar (SK): You’ve been a professional cook for the duration of your career until now, your last position being the Executive Chef at Le Meridien, Gurgaon. How has the experience been so far?
Suprabhath RoyChowdhury (SRC): I have been cooking professionally for the last 17 years. It has been my time working in some of the finest kitchens in India and overseas that prepared me for my current role. Every day in the kitchen has been an enriching experience and though it was never a childhood passion for me to cook, I cannot think of any other way in which I would have wanted to grow professionally.

SK:  Why did you choose to shift to management, from the kitchen?
SRC: During my first industrial exposure in the hotels, I was very clear that it is the kitchens where I belong. I had a natural instinct which guided me all these years to excel in various facets of culinary management. However, with each passing year, as I grew in responsibilities, it became more and more difficult to spend real time in the kitchens and the job role involved more of the management tasks. It was hence a natural progression from kitchens to more generic food and beverage management.

Suprabhat, in a very different avatar.

SK: What’s the biggest difference you’ve found between wearing whites and wearing a suit?
SRC: The difference is only in the perception of the people we deal with from day to day. Being in food and beverage operations the passion and attitude required are more or less the same.

SK: When was the last time you actually professionally cooked? For whom?
SRC: It would be the New Year’s eve of 2017 when I last wore my chef’s whites professionally and cooked for the hotel guests.

SK: What would you like to be remembered for – culinary or management expertise?
SRC: Both. My culinary expertise is the reason, I am where I am, and my food and beverage management skills are going to take me where I want to be.

SK: What has been your biggest challenge in managing F&B thus far?
SRC: The biggest challenge in today’s time is the human resource. Skilled and passionate individuals are becoming a scarcity and an industry heavily dependent on the human touch like ours is facing the brunt of it.

SK: Would you rather visit a fine dining restaurant with a great wine list and view or spend the day with family in a park with home cooked food?
SRC: I would rather enjoy the best of both worlds. A luncheon at a park with home cooked meal followed by a fine wine dinner sounds like a plan…

SK: What’s the surest dish one can order from any 5-star kitchen and be assured of a great result?
SRC: The chef’s signature.

SK: Which is your all-time favourite dish?
SRC: Being an avid carnivore, a good piece of meat or seafood roasted, grilled, tandoori or fried in no particular order.

SK: A bowlful of what will make your forget the rigours of the day?
SRC: Mishti Doi.

SK: Which is your favourite restaurant in Delhi?
SRC: With so many restaurants opening every other day I usually don’t visit a restaurant more than once. However, the eateries at Purani Dilli would be an exception to this rule and I would happily eat there, at quite a few places, repeatedly.

SK: Who is your favourite Indian chef?
SRC: Though I have had quite a few mentors from the industry who have been an inspiration and a number of fellow chefs whose work I admire, naming favourites would be highly unfair.

SK: Sweet or savoury?
SRC: Little bit of both!!!

SK: Which do you think is the most underrated restaurant in Delhi. Why?
SRC: I can think of many overrated restaurants in Delhi but in a city known for its food and beverage and its foodies most restaurants get their fair share of patrons. However, a number of small restaurants fuelled by the operator’s passion can do better with a little more recognition.

Sid Khullar in conversation with Suprabhath RoyChoudhury.