Sandeep Biswas is the executive chef at Ananda, he has previously worked with some of the big names of the industry including Hyatt. His work has received lots of praises across the world. In U.K. while working for Amaya he and his team received the prestigious Michelin Award in the very first year. We discussed with him lots of things including his view on Indian as well as western cuisine and many more things.
Sir what attracted you to cooking? What according to you is the unique things about the Indian cuisine?
Cooking is something which has been inherited to me since my childhood days, so I used to cook a lot with my parents. Going out to the market buying fresh vegetables and identifying fresh vegetables and then preparing it at home and cooking it using various methods. I had a unique advantage because the place where I used to live had families from different parts of India, there were family from Bihar, Kerala , Rajasthan, Assam, so lot people used to live there and once in a month we used to eat together like a family so that gave me opportunity to eat food of different regions. Let me tell you, what you are getting at restaurant is not nearby authentic at all, many hotels and chef are trying to present authentic foods to its customers but when you look at the cooking done by housewives at home for ages, they have perfected the recipe and they have brought down the recipe from their grandmother and mother. If you look at India probably among all the cuisine across the world you can’t find such a huge variety of cuisine within the same country itself, the cuisine changes from every state to state or you can say within every state you will find a traditional cooking, so that attribute of Indian cuisine attracted me the most. Indian cooking has always been cataloged in various principal cooking, cooking methods or you can say different recipe but it has never been compiled as a whole, if you go to french cuisine you will find that everything there is compiled and English or American cooking at the moment is based on French cooking but if you look at Indian cooking there is lots of variation, similar is the case with all Arabic cooking or south Asian cooking and that is why Indian cuisine has been very intriguing and I think even the life time is very less to know all the different Indian cuisine very well and compile them together is a mammoth task. This is something which I intend to do later.
Tell us something about your educational background?
Most of education has been in place called Rourkela, Orissa and after that I went to IHM Kolkata. My work has taken me various places across the world going from India to Maldives, from Maldives to Sri Lanka and from there to UK and then to Channel Islands then back to UK and then coming back to India. My work in India has taken me to various Indian cities like Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata and various other cities.
While you were at college did you went for any internship? While I was doing my Hotel Management whenever I get chance I used to go to the kitchen of Taj Bengal Kolkata or to Oberoi Grand, at that time they were the most iconic hotels of eastern India. So I used to work for short term or long term, even for a week. I used to go there and tried to learn whatever I can.
Do you take interns?
Yes, we do have interns throughout the year. We have summer internship, winter internship. There are people who come only for Indian kitchen or bakery section. So we do get interns for specific section or we also take interns for across the section.
What are the qualities that you look for in interns?
I think the first and foremost quality what I look for when I do interview or even for internships is the attitude of the intern or candidate. Attitude is something which do not come overnight, this is something which a person has built from the childhood. If you do not have a right attitude, you wont be able to stay here for a long time. People see the glamour and limelight related to this industry, they see that lot of celebrities come and enjoy the meal prepared the chef, but to serve them you need right kind of attitude, there has to be serving attitude within yourself, if that is not there then nothing could happen.
You have worked on different cuisine, which cuisine is you specialty?
To tell you frankly, I did a lot of extensive work on Indian and western cuisine and little bit on oriental and bakery as well. But Indian cuisine is something in which I am really strong at because working in India for most of my career had made a strong impression on my style of cooking, right now I am working at Ananda and I do quite a lot of Indian cooking there, from there I moved on to the western cuisine, in western cuisine I worked in both hot and cold. I think for a person to work well in western cuisine there are four areas in which the person has to be strong at, first is western hot, second is western cold, third is bakery and the fourth is butchery, all of these 4 things are interrelated to each other and you have to do it all in a series, unless and until you dont do that you wont be able to master western cuisine. When I went to U.K. I worked at Amaya restaurant, and there we received Michelin Award in the very first year, which is very rare considering we were selling Indian cuisine, so from there I developed an eye for detail or you can exactness.After that I started working with some European kitchen as well and being in Europe and working in European cuisine was a completely different ball game. So after working there for long time I realized that Indian cooking is something which I like the most, I rejoined Ananda and here we work with local farmers, we work with local supplier, we build supplier and here we get everyday everything fresh, here we do not stock anything or we do not use anything which is not fresh, what we cook in the morning we do not use that in the evening. So that is why I decided to work with Ananda, in Ananda we focus on fresh ingredients, and here we also work on Ayurvedic cuisine, this is something which you wont get anywhere else.
What according to you are the factors which determine the authenticity of Indian cuisine?
There are lot of factors which determine the authenticity of the Indian food, firstly you have to learn the nuance of the cooking,you have to learn how does the food smells when it reaches a particular stage, how does it looks and the texture of the food, you have to know the amount of spices and salts that you have to put in order to make great dish, so all these factors determine the authenticity of Indian food. Above all you have to cook the food with your heart, if you dont do that you wont be able to add authenticity to your dish.If you want to do something innovative in Indian cuisine, firstly you need to the basics, once the basics is perfected rest of the things come on their own.
Today we see lots of western based franchise expanding their web, but Indian food is unable attain that popularity. What according to do is the reason behind this?
I would say Indian food is much superior than western cuisine, when you see western cuisine you will see that it does not change, it keeps on to stay the same, but when you look at Indian cuisine you will see the diversity. Even chefs in western world have started to use some kind of Indian spices in their food, but we do not recognize that Indian cuisine is truly great cuisine and a varied cuisine. Indian cuisine is very healthy cuisine, lots of spices that we use have a some sort of medicinal value, so when you look Indian cuisine in that way you will realize that Indian cuisine is much more ahead than the western cuisine. The only thing that is happening now, is that we start to follow certain trend without knowing the pros and cons of it, just blindly following something does not means that the stuff is the best, we have to analyse things. For example, pizza that most of the people eat in Dominos and Pizza Hut are in reality are absolute uneatable, if you eat simple authentic pizza made up of the tomato sauce which is made up tomato which are full bodied, fresh and sweet and served with freshly cut garlic, that would have a complete different taste and better taste as compared to that of pizza you eat at Dominos or Pizza Hut. If I see people go in there I absolutely think that these people do not have any taste of food or do not appreciate good food at all. When these Pizza Hut and Dominos came to India there was a huge rush to go those places and eat but now they are also facing quiet a lot of customer loss the reason being people are more aware now, they see that there are chances of health deterioration, or there are better things to eat. In no way Indian food is lacking or behind the western food. It is much more superior than western food, nowadays even in the people in west are realizing that Indian food is very wholesome and healthy, that is the reason why Indian food is winning a lot of accolades these days.
Where you did your first job? What kind of question you faced in your job interview?
Ananda Himalaya was the place where I did my first job. We had our interview. The selection process was very long, I remember once I had cleared my interview they called me for group discussion, I still remember the topic of the group discussion, it was “Indian food is unhealthy”, and I remember everybody was saying Indian food has got lots of fat, oil and cholesterol but I was the only one who contradicted, I said that whoever says that Indian food is unhealthy does not knows about Indian food at all. I said that Indian cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisine in the world, how much you eat and how you cook thats makes the difference, you can go to Gujarati restaurant and have food which is full of ghee, similar is the case with the marwari food but then that kind of food is suitable for the people who are living in dry and arid state, it is not applicable to somebody who is living in Kerala. So I think one should eat food which is local and fresh and something which is nourishing and something in which you are grown up. So I did my first job at Ananda then I left it and worked at various hotels including Hyatt, then I rejoined Ananda as Executive Chef.
You have worked with some big names of the industry, what makes Ananda unique?
In Ananda we encourage a lot of participative cooking, in traditional kitchen where the chef is shouting on his team but in Ananda we encourage participation and experimentation but that is also within some parameters. That is why people in Ananada work for very long time, the average tenure of the person here lasts from 3 to 4 year minimum.
What would be your parting message to the students who are pursuing a career in hotel management?
Its very important that person should have the attitude and we should think of this as a career and not as job. Just because you could not get a job anywhere else then you joined hotel management, this thing should not be there. There has to be a serving attitude within you because we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. We should also remember that this industry requires lot of hard work, you will not get much money in beginning but if you will patient then success is definitely going to be yours
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