“The people of metros are more adventurous as they have more options and more events at their expense. The younger generation likes experimenting a lot more, whereas the older generation likes dishes with preserved taste and tradition,” opines Chef Girish. This time around, we had some delicious talks with Executive Chef Girish Kumar, Courtyard by Marriott Pune Chakan.
Chef Girish Kumar is overseeing all operations related to multi-cuisine restaurants in the property. Having an experience of over 14 years, he mastered the culinary arts from Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) in Chennai. He has prior experience working at Madinat Jumeirah’s specialty restaurant Khaimat-al-Bahar, Dubai.
1) How do you describe your style of cooking?
I believe in simple cooking. Retaining the best flavors in a dish, using fresh ingredients and spice mix. Often too much experimentation spoils the flavors, so making sure the true tastes of the dish is preserved, is not an easy task. Customers are wooed by the plating, aroma and the flavors. So I just try to make sure everything stays perfect.
2) How do you keep the kitchen running in chaotic situations? How do you calm everyone around you?
Often, a leader sets the example himself. In a chaotic kitchen everyone is looking up to you for assistance or guidance, first step is to keep myself calm and the team will follow. Plus, supporting the team at crucial times help me gain their trust, which in turn makes for good team work in crunch situations.
3) What was your inspiration getting into this profession?
To be frank, when I joined hotel management I had no idea I will turn out to be chef, in fact I never knew the world of food and the cooking is so vast. As I got more exposed, I realized the most interesting part of this industry is food and also the place which gives you the maximum freedom to work is kitchen coupled with scope of abundance creativity and every day is a new learning and a new experience inspired me to be a chef.
4) What is your signature dish?
My forte are Western and Italian cuisines. One of my signature dishes is Baby Spinach, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola salad. This is a simple, yet elegant (and carefully made) first course dish with a syrupy glaze that glistens atop. Also there’s the Honey baked Cake, with Fig, Aragula and Blue Cheese.
5) Is there one secret ingredient or spice you love to cook with?
Actually, contrary to popular notions, I don’t have a favorite or secret ingredient I have. I believe each and every spice is very unique in its own characteristics; however I love to cook with homemade kasundi mustard paste. They give a sweet, tangy taste to a dish which is well received by your palettes.
6) What is the most interesting or fun experience you’ve had while in restaurants?
It’s very difficult to pick one experience, as it is real fun to be in the kitchen every moment. When you have a passion for food and cooking, you’re going to love each and every second of the routine.
7) One cuisine you would love to experiment with?
I don’t experiment with any particular cuisine as such; I would rather do that with ingredients and cooking methods, for example, international ingredients cooked in Indian cooking methods like the Tandoor. This denotes a new taste and feel to the dish while still preserving the basic flavor of the dish.
8) Name any other chef who inspired you at the start. And who is your best food critic?
Chef Wolfgang Eberie, my first executive chef, his passion and eye for details and the commitment was very inspirational. He is very open-minded, loves to impart learnings and take suggestions.
With regards to other food critics I would say I am the best critic for myself, I always believed if the chef who cooks the food is 100% sure and confident about his dish and made with high level of passion and love, there is no way it can go wrong. Having said that food is something which is of very personal choice and everyone has got their own opinion.
9) Favorite places to eat when you’re not at the restaurant?
As we are spending most of the time spending in hotels and hotel food, if you ask me favorite place to eat would remain my home food, however I do try out various places to get an idea how the market is doing, no specific places as such, anywhere which serves good food is top my list, and that can even be a packaged lunch tiffin!
I love my mother’s home cooked food, especially South Indian dishes like Appam, Idiappam, Chicken and Seafood dishes and homemade curries. They have an unbeatable flavor and can never be reproduced.
10) Who did you experiment your initial recipes on?
I always taste the food I cook myself first. Then I persuade my team to dive in and do the tasting. Most of the times, I’ve come out unscathed from this tasting process. (And he laughs).
11) Where do you go when you need to escape for a breather?
Sometimes, travelling does help in recharging the mind. Otherwise, it’s always a lot of work that goes into the hotels and restaurants that lives me with feeble spare time. Travelling anywhere with my wife and daughters is always a breather for me. Whenever time permits, I go back to my home town- Gods own Country always remains in my preferred list.
12) One thing unique about your favorite city in India.
Panaji is my favorite city in India, the reason being it’s safe, secure and the people are very accommodative and the place is blessed with natural beauty and it got its own charm. The people will welcome you with open arms, always!
13) Any advice you would give to budding chefs?
The world of cooking is emerging big time and there is going to be tremendous demand for good chefs. Every Chef should be passionate about cooking with a strong focus on minute details. Continuous hard work and commitment attached with real passion is the only secret for success.
Time passed in a jiffy and we had a wonderful chat with the Executive Chef. While he prepares to hurry off for preparing another specialty dish, we bid goodbye and search for our next prized chef!