There’s very little glamour in the restaurant business.
The competition is usually intense, the costs, high, good staff members hard to come by and harder to replace, good chefs even more so, vendors who need constant looking at and talking to, fussy diners, the overhead of unorganised government regulations, the ‘handling’ of employees from various branches of the government who visit from time to time, hands outstretched, hygiene considerations, certifications, special promotions to rekindle press and consumer interest, strict accounting due to the dozens of ways a restaurant can bleed away its profits, early mornings, late nights and more.
Yup, there’s very little glamour in the restaurant business.
There are however, to my mind, three moments in the professional lives of restaurateurs and chefs, when they look to the heavens and mouth a word of thanks.
- When a new restaurant breaks even
- When a second outlet is opened, especially in a different city/country, and
- When their efforts are publicly recognised.
Given individuals with mettle, the first two are largely bound to happen some time or the other. There is however no guarantee of the third, even during the course of an entire lifetime. Which is why awards like Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants are awaited with baited breath by those in the restaurant business, not only for the satisfaction of a job well done, but also for the likely surge in public perception and business resulting in recognition on such platforms.
Chef Manish Mehrotra, the man behind Indian Accent believes such awards help motivate a restaurant’s team, chefs, line cooks, wait staff et. al., and raised morale is always a good thing. “International platforms like Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants are great places to be showcased at, given their reach and high standing with consumer and professional communities.”
This year, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, which notably covers China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam among others, chose to host the awards at the W Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.
As with all revered platforms, these awards stand for the highest standards in quality, innovation and customer satisfaction – an ideal match for Miele, a co-sponsor of the event and a firm believer in the same values since 1899.
Miele, a household name worldwide for home appliances with the highest standards in technology, aesthetics and longevity, also sponsored an award category – Miele – One to Watch. The restaurant awarded this recognition isn’t included in the top 50 list, but is tagged as one who is likely to make it into the final list very shortly. This prestigious category and certainly a very encouraging one, was won by South Korean restaurant TocToc, accepted by owner-chef Kim Dae-chun and presented by Mr. Mario Miranda, Regional Managing Director – Asia, for Miele. The Managing Director for Miele India, Mr. Rana Pratap Singh travelled from Delhi to attend the awards ceremony, who I accompanied for the occasion.
For anyone who cooks, the sheer amount of talent in the room was overwhelming.
The best of the best chefs in Asia, all gathered in one room, all approachable and each one anxious to know where they placed, if they did. Think of all the different specialisations and you might just be overwhelmed too! Think pastry, sauces, breads, desserts, chocolate, meat, vegetables, local produce, molecular, grills, plating and I haven’t even named any regional specialisations yet or gone deeper into the subject of production cooking.
Landing in Bangkok the morning of the 21st of February, the day of the awards ceremony, the day was slated to be flurry of activity, each one an event to look forward to. There was the awards reception, the awards ceremony and then the after party for all of us to look forward to. True to its provenance and in tribute to the host country, the awards reception as well as the Chef’s Feast the day before was all about Thai food, which is startling in its variety, flavours and simplicity.
One particularly persistent memory is that of the cheese room, which one could smell from quite a distance away. A cheese fanatic’s dream, it was a room filled with all manner of cheeses and accompaniments – stinky, aromatic, soft, smooth, hard, crumbly. An interesting part of the Awards Reception was the Miele counter that featured hundreds of embedded test tubes, each capped with a red plug and each one containing a scroll on which was printed a recipe from a prominent chef.
Talking of Miele, have you had a chance to check out their range? Likely the most expensive brand in India, Miele appliances come with one accessory no other brand is likely to provide – a virtual 20 year guarantee by the company.
During the ceremony, watching the reactions of those who were named, the importance of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was obvious. Chefs of all shapes and sizes, age and experience, nationalities and cultures – each easily a well known name in their home countries if not outright celebrities, responded in much the same manner – with exuberance, exhilaration and emotion. Chef Nitin Jain, Executive Sous Chef at the Radisson Blu MBD, NOIDA says, “It’s a great feeling! Chefs love the fact that there’s a growing appreciation for their cooking technique. For us more than the recipes, it’s our sensibility and creativity which is admired. Rather than chasing every new food trend, ultimately our unique touches and innovations while creating or presenting a dish, stand out.”
Chef Mehrotra, whose Indian Accent was at #29 in 2015, then #9 in 2016 and #30 in 2017 believes such shuffling happens quite naturally and is based on the overall levels of innovation encountered by the evaluation panels among those assessed.
It might also be worthwhile noting that Chef Mehrotra’s restaurant has been judged India’s #1 for three years in a row and also has a place in the coveted World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. “Consistency in a menu is great for business and diner satisfaction, while innovation bags awards. Ideally, aiming at a sensible mixture of the two works for most establishments”, he smiles. He has reason to smile, being recently invited to Buckingham Palace at the invitation of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, one of a select few culinary professionals in the country to do so.
After an inspiring series of events, people and awards, I can’t wait to see who continues to stay in the list and what superb innovations they come up with to do so.
All images used are copyright Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.