When we were sitting at The Eternia, enjoying the roof-top view of Pune, little did we know that we’d be greeted by Chef Sahid, in a way that most people strike off as casual. He talked with us a lot, and he was smiling through the whole discussion.
This week, we got the opportunity to have a Hot Air Chat with Chef Sahid Shaikh, executive chef, Eternia. We could see as much life in his answers as was in his signature recipes. Plus, we get to drool at his various dishes, which are pretty taste-worthy.
1) How do you describe your style of cooking?
Cooking is a very special art and it is best art to make people actually happy, because the hearts’ way starts from our stomach only. I love cooking and to make variety of delicious recipes for my clients’ delight. I try to keep the basic flavors of the dishes intact, with adding a twist of my own.
2) How do you keep the restaurant running in chaotic situations? How do you calm people around you?
It is an important skill to understand the crowd and what they want. I always make sure that my food preparation also has to be so good and the recipe delicious to eat that people fall in love with the recipe after having the first bite. They should feel peaceful and happy. I make food for the soul.
3) How long have you been cooking professionally? How did you start?
It’s been 10 Years since I am working professionally and I have started my carrier from Bangalore. Then I traversed through many other metro cities and big restaurants before coming here to Eternia. I have learnt a lot from my cooking experience.
4) What is your signature dish?
It’s Dal Bhakura, Biryanies and Kebabs. You can make any twisted dish you want, but the basic traditional dishes of India hold so much history and flavor, that no modern dish can beat them.
5) Is there one secret ingredient or spice you love to cook with?
I am specialized in making different types of biryani and I would like to cook Sofiyani Biryani – A delicious, less spicy, low calorie Biryani – It’s basically healthier, and it’s got chicken flavored with mint and coriander. The name itself denotes delicateness and is associated with nobility. The original flavor of the cuisine is kept intact and I always try to keep the famous Hyderabadi biryani as authentic as it was before.
6) What is the most interesting or fun experience you’ve had while in restaurants?
Most fun experience in restaurant is to be with your junior chef and enjoying all the preparation of food before we cook. Working with my team is always a pleasure for me.
7) One cuisine you would love to experiment with?
I’d love to experiment with Nouvelle cuisine. It’s an older French cuisine basically. It stresses freshness, lightness, and clarity of flavor and that’s what I intend to bring to the table, with a renewed look and taste.
8) Name any other chef who inspired you at the start. And who is your best food critic?
Ashraf Ali Malik who is my mentor who made me learn and inspired a lot. His style of cooking is simply delicious and he has the knowledge of perfect spices and their combination which makes the perfect cuisine. His experience speaks a lot. At the end this experience matters.
When we ask him about his choicest food critic, he keeps mum at first. There is a lot of exams in life, food critics are only one of them, he says.
9) Favorite places to eat in Pune?
To this, he shoots back, Of course, it’s Eternia – Hinjewadi. What else could be my favorite? He laughs. And says, of course, there are a lot of places in Pune which offer amazing street food.
10) Who did you experiment your initial recipes on?
My initial recipes were Mutton Korma and different Dals. And I experimented my early recipes on my family and friends.
11) Where do you go when you need to escape for a breather?
When out of my kitchen, I meet up with friends and sometimes visit The Cartel, at Wakad, Pune. The ambiance is cool, helps me relax, and I love the food they serve.
12) Any advice you would give to budding chefs?
It is very important to cook healthy food and hygiene cooking instead of just cooking it tasty. The ingredients should be aromatic and fresh, and there should be clarity of flavors as I told earlier.
Exchanging greetings, he signs off, hurrying into the kitchen as people await for another awesome dish created from his hands.