Chef Abhijit Saha talks about his journey to the top and the future of the cooking industry in India
India is known for its cultural diversity and the variety of food we have is probably unique in the world.
Every Indian is attached to food in some way or the other. Bangalore as a city also has various types of food joints and it offers a diverse range of cuisines for its dwellers. From authentic South Indian food to traditional tastes from different parts of India to western platters, Bangalore has it all.
Among some of the stalwarts from the food industry, Bangalore takes pride to have its very own celebrity chef, Abhijit Saha. He is the Founding Director and Chef of Avant Garde Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., which owns and operates premium restaurants in Bangalore namely Caperberry and Fava. He has also opened his signature Indian restaurant, Saha, in Singapore and was awarded the ‘Best Chef of India’ at the Indian Restaurant Congress and Awards, 2013.
Abhijit Saha is one name that cannot be missed when we talk about designer Indian food, lavish representation, and molecular gastronomy. He spoke as the Guest Chef and Speaker at ‘The World of Flavours Conference‘in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Recently, he and his team have participated at the Bocuse D’Or Asia-Pacific 2018 in Guangzhou, China.
The list of his achievements and accolades is a long one, which we will highlight as you read through.
BananiVista got golden opportunity to interact with him and know his views. Our team member, Debolina spoke to him over the phone and we are glad to share some excerpts from the interview.
Caperberry was one of the first restaurants in Bangalore to serve modernistic food and Fava is a premium restaurant for Mediterranean food. On being asked Abhijit about the response of the city to the cuisines served and his early experiences, he mentioned that the trends were something very new to the city but welcomed it with open arms. It was almost 10 years back and they had received an excellent response. They also enjoyed excitement and joy among the customers. The city was somewhat awestruck by the new wave of cuisines being served. The whole team took pride in what they had introduced and it was a pleasure to serve the customers.
Debolina was intrigued to know why he chose to give a twist to our Indian dishes rather than serving them in its true colors. Hence talking on renovating the Indian cuisine Abhijit shared his thoughts like a true master. “There was a time when Indian food was being commercialized with a set formula, which was working but did not explore all the aspects of Indian food. In our country, food has so many aspects of everyday home cooked food, street food, regional and traditional food, etc. However, only some of these have been commercialized till now. I felt there was a lack of creativity and innovation in this industry.
I wanted to create something new, something of my own and innovate Indian food to make it more exciting and presentable for the customer. The status quo was boring for me, and I wanted to change that. I had spent so much time learning about food, so now I wanted to utilize that knowledge to do something that excited me as well. It was a good opportunity to experiment and also the need of the hour. And, the results have been encouraging and fruitful so far. It was like contributing as a whole to different types of cuisines”, the culinary expert vocalised.
Abhijit is a believer in sustainability and wellness when it comes to cooking and serving food. When the whole nation go gaga over mindful eating, Debolina too wanted to know how he supports and ensures good and healthy food is served at his restaurants. Abhijit informed us that he is propagating sustainability and wellness in food for years and they are the central theme of the food he cooks. They are followed diligently in my restaurants as well and look at it from various principles.
First is the ingredient: The raw material used in his restaurants are either local or organic. We ensure that healthy, pure and chemical free raw materials are used in cooking.
Second is wastage: We ensure that there is a minimum wastage of food, water, and raw materials. We ensure that the right amount of food is cooked, served and consumed.
The third is the process of cooking and how it impacts the Nature: We try to use energy efficient types of equipment in cooking, minimum usage of chemicals or ways to source food responsibly. Also, we take special care that plastics are disposed of in a proper way without harming Mother Nature in any way.
“I try to follow all these important principles in all my restaurants because we need to cater to a healthy environment”, he emphasized.
Abhijit owns one of the well-known restaurants in Singapore named Saha. Talking about his experience and kind of food served there, he continued, “Saha opened 4 years ago and we started serving modernist Indian food. Singapore is a wonderful market for food and there is a lot to learn from that place. It is a melting pot of chefs from across the world. We also got the opportunity to take Indian food to a new level and serve the locals and Indians staying there. We received a lot of accolades from the city and its people.
It felt really great to showcase that Indian food can also be different and it was well appreciated. Currently, we need to move to a new place, so we are going to re-open shortly”.
We wish more success and appreciation for Saha in the future. Abhijit has been an inspiration for many budding chefs in the country, We could not help but ask him about his inspiration. “I draw inspiration from almost everything like home cooks, other chefs from across the world, Nature or art itself. It always does not have to be a big name or an idol to get inspired. It can be something very mundane. It can be someone younger, who is doing something in a particular way for years and his/her expertise is something you can learn from. There is no dearth of inspiration around you, you just need to pick up the right ones to get inspired”, the culinary guru advised.
For those who don’t know Abhijit is also a connoisseur of wine, we asked him about how he started and what exactly it entails. “In the earlier part of my career as a chef, I was working for European cuisine restaurants, serving mostly French cuisines. And, French cuisine is incomplete without wine. Though I was a chef cooking in the kitchen, I developed a personal interest in knowing about the different types of wine and what goes well with which food. I felt this was an important aspect to know if I wanted to become a complete chef”, he exclaimed.
In the urge to know more, he did a Scholarship from the University of Johnson and Wales and studied Oenology (the study of wine) extensively. He is the proud member of the Wine Club, The Wine Society of India and many other prestigious Organizations, who promote and specialize in wine in India and abroad.
He is also the President of the Bangalore Wine Club. “The knowledge of wine helped me in my passion for cooking and being a Chef to a great extent”, he added.
Debolina was very keen to know about molecular gastronomy which is one of his expertise. And who better than Chef Saha can give us knowledge about it? He not only spoke about Molecular Gastronomy but also given an insight of the future of cooking as he perceives it as a Chef.
“Molecular gastronomy is a scientific way of cooking involving so many special techniques and processes. It is no longer a novelty, rather an integral part of cooking or how food is presented. There are many chefs in India who are mastering molecular gastronomy and using it. It will keep evolving with time and it is a must-have aspect of any fine dining restaurant in the modern age” the chef informed.
Before wrapping up the interview, how can we not ask about his current endeavors and his future plans? He enthusiastically informed about his 3 businesses – Restaurants in Bangalore, Consulting, and Catering.
“We are planning a Fava Bistro in Koramangala soon. We are also exploring other locations in Bangalore for our new outlets. Right now, we have nothing on our cards for other cities, but we are always open to opportunities and will explore them as and when they come.
In the Consulting and Management sector, we help restaurants to set up their business, educate people about food and cooking from various aspects and offer consultation at various levels. We also have many high-end consulting and management programs.
We are glad to make a good progress and looking forward to many more opportunities”,., the proud chef mentioned.
His advice/message for all the budding chefs and food lovers: It is a wonderful time to be a Chef in India with the food and restaurant industry booming from all aspects. There are a lot of opportunities and one gets a chance to showcase their talent. It is time to show your creativity and be a part a wonderful industry where you get the satisfaction by making people happy.
Being a chef is a wonderful profession. Though it requires a lot of passion and hard work, skill is something that takes you forward in today’s scenario. You need to be passionate as well as skilled in what you do. There will be times when you might feel stressed, disturbed or demotivated, but you need to pursue your passion with commitment, energy, and hard work. There is a lot that you can do as a chef, so be at your best.
We thank him for taking out time to talk to us and we are glad to feature one of the best chefs in the country on our portal. Wishing him many more milestones in his journey ahead and he will continue to inspire many aspiring chefs across the globe.
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