"Hygiene and Food Safety are Foremost"

Chef Ashutosh had almost decided that he would become an engineer after his school, but hospitality began when he saw an advt. about hotel management entrance one day and stumbled upon a thought that he assuredly cooks well. He went on to join Taj group of hotels after graduating from IHM Bangalore and was fortunate to work with some really professional chefs at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi. Presenting below the excerpts from the interview:

What is your USP which makes you stand out in food industry?

I like to be original and try to focus on simplicity and clean flavors. I believe one has to learn to respect the ingredients and treat cooking as an act of love, there's no need to complicate things by adding too many components to simple dishes. I don't think I stand out in the industry; I just try to be as original and creative as possible and continue to learn.

What is some unique strategy that you follow while playing with your flavours?

When it comes to desserts, I try to strike a balance between the sweet and tart/sour notes, also compliment with contrasting textures so that desserts don’t become monotonous and boring. Sometimes it helps to play with hot and cold combinations. Most importantly I use sugar more as seasoning than an ingredient by itself, as far as possible.

How have you seen Indian food market growing over the past few years?

There has been a plethora of new concepts and food joints flooding the Indian market in the recent past and the customers are really evolving and are willing to experiment. There has been an influx of more and more international food chains. Also, ingredients that used to available only to the food industry are now widely available in super stores and thereby more and more people are getting exposed to a variety of food options.

What is the latest trend hitting the food service sector?

There's not just one trend, but one to look out for is "farm to table" and it’s really catching on in India and a lot of chefs are turning entrepreneurs.

How changing market segments affect food and beverage industry?

With the entry of new segments, the F&B operators should look at opportunities to tap that market and fill the gap by introducing products relevant to that segment and price point. This gives rise to more operators and more eateries, also bigger operators getting creative to lure the customers in those segments. This is ultimately good for the customers.

What do you think builds a brand in this industry?

Customer focus, consistency and trust!

What are the things you look into when it comes to quality?

Hygiene and food safety is something that's most important to me before I look at taste, textures, aroma, etc. It is very difficult to define quality and is not limited to five star hotels or luxury establishments; sometimes some of the most humble food can be the most satisfying.

How do you see maintaining a supply chain to standardise a brand?

Maintaining a supply chain is extremely critical in ensuring consistency in products. A great example in this case would be popular international fast food-chains. If you want the food served in multiple outlets of a specific brand to taste identical, you have to make sure you use the same ingredients, identical facilities and processes.

What are the challenges do you think a layman has to face before setting up a restaurant?

Even after so many years in the industry, I would consider myself a layman when it comes to setting up a restaurant. There is so much to be planned and executed, starting from concept planning, project development, floor plans, licenses, equipment sourcing and commissioning, advertising, recruitment, training, mock runs, etc.

Where do you see yourself in next five years?

I see myself growing with the Hyatt family, travelling more and getting exposed to a wider variety of cuisines!

Can we see you opening a restaurant of your own?

I would love to do that someday, but I don't see that happening anytime soon!

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