Chef Varun Inamdar is regarded as one of the TOP 10 celebrity chefs in India with 16 years of work experience as a trained chef, chocolatier, food stylist, author and an ex-top rank executive at Oberoi Hotels and Resorts, India. He has served Barack Obama, Nicholas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Richard Branson in the West; Ambanis, Tendulkars, Khans, Bachchans and Kapoors in India along with Queen Rania of Jordan, The Royal family of Al Sabah, Al Khalifa and Al Saud in the Arabian Gulf, amongst many others. He has been gifted a rosary by The Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis for his contribution to Indian culture through a culinary book by Bloomsbury USA.
Awards ‘Chef Varun Inamdar’ :
Recipient of the National Award for The Best Chocolatier of the year at the hands of Mr. Nilesh Gabral, Chairman of Goa Tourism and Development Corporation in August 2017. Chef recently won an award for ‘The Best Cookery Show on the Web’
Guinness World Record 2018 holder for ‘The World’s largest Chocolate Mud Pie’ weighing 1346 kgs.
• Representing India as a chef is one of the most distinguishing features of my work as a chef. 2018 has seen many highlights in my growth as a chef. Here is the tip of the iceberg:
• Visiting Guatemala, Latin America on the invitation on The Indian Embassy as an Indian Chef to host a 12 day long Indian Food festival to packed houses was indeed a proud moment.
• Visit to Vietnam as a Chocolatier, representing India and its facets in the world of cocoa has been quiet a responsibility where only 15 best from the cocoa industry were invited as speakers.
• Invitation to Abu Dhabi to celebrate India’s Independence with our brethren in The Emirates alongside Actor Shilpa Shetty and Music wizard Kailash Kher was elevating, an experience to re-create Indian food for the Indian diaspora.
• Breaking Guinness World Record with a 1346 kgs Chocolate Mud Pie was exhilarating and taking India’s name higher yet again is a proud feeling always.
• Being appointed as the ambassador for ‘The Eat Right Movement’ by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, FSSAI, FDA and AFSTI along with Actor Rajkumar Rao is an honour.
- What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef? Give us a brief outline of your culinary career so far.
Representing India as a chef is one of the most distinguishing features of my work as a chef. 2018 has seen many highlights in my growth as a chef. Here is the tip of the iceberg:
- Visiting Guatemala, Latin America on the invitation on The Indian Embassy as an Indian Chef to host a 12 day long Indian Food festival to packed houses was indeed a proud moment.
- Visit to Vietnam as a Chocolatier, representing India and its facets in the world of cocoa has been quiet a responsibility where only 15 best from the cocoa industry were invited as speakers.
- Invitation to Abu Dhabi to celebrate India’s Independence with our bretheren in The Emirates alongside Actor Shilpa Shetty and Music wizard Kailash Kher was elevating, an experience to re-create Indian food for the Indian diaspora.
- Breaking Guinness World Record with a 1346 kgs Chocolate Mud Pie was exhilarating and taking India’s name higher yet again is a proud feeling always.
- Being appointed as the ambassador for ‘The Eat Right Movement’ by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, FSSAI, FDA and AFSTI alongwith Actor Rajkummar Rao is an honour.
- Which culinary styles have influenced your career? Name a few chefs you have sought inspiration from.
The one. The only – Chef Martin Yan who influenced me as a child, even continues to and will do so forever.
- Which are your signature recipes and preferred cuisines? Which ingredients do you like working with? Please offer us some examples of innovative F&B ideas that you have implemented in your menu development and engineering.
I love recreating old classics and simplifying them for my patrons like a recently created Charcoal Butter Quail on the lines of Butter Chicken ( the recipe of which, from my show ‘The Bombay Chef’, by the way, is a rage and amongst the highest viewed in the world at 11 Million + in 2 years) but with blackened quail. I recently did a 5 minute Lucknowi Galaoti Kebab in a naan bowl in Abu Dhabi and you couldn’t guess that it wasn’t made using labour intensive methods. That’s my style and that’s what my people expect from me. More than ingredients I am someone who likes working with flavours. I love an explosion of flavours in my mouth and that’s what I do with food and its flavours. An instant Kalakhatta Granita that I recently made for one of my finale acts of stage was received with a standing ovation amidst crackers, fireworks and smoke on stage.
- Chef the success is not overnight, your hard work and passion is behind your achievement. We want to share that sacrifices you took. Chefs of this generation need to understand the pain behind this success.
Sacrifices and pains, well not many apart from not getting the kind of support from my seniors. Not one person from the community stood with me. Considering I was a complete outsider, I needed a lot of handholding and guidance, but very initially I took it in my stride and started carving my own niche. Slowly, media started calling me my own Godfather. Early on I took it with a pinch of salt, but today I understand the gravity of that statement. Yes, after I got married, we missed celebrating a lot of landmark days together like festivals, birthdays and anniversaries, but I wouldn’t say that I went through it because as an industry we all go through it. We are there to make others’ special days extra special. Whatever I am today, I am on my own and I am super proud of that. I am happy no one guided me because that gave me opportunities to weigh the brands, situations, projections and the likes and make my own decisions. I wouldn.t have liked it any other way.
- How you become a chef and why?
I became one because as a child it was my sole aim. Yes, most give stories of how they started cooking at an early age, of were influenced by their grandmother and/or mother. Well nothing different happened. The only thing is I cooked a lot for my neighbours. I had and still have a habit of taking something hand-cookedif invited home for a meet, greet, or a meal. I personally believe it is a better way to break the ice rather than handing over some gift that would be forgotten in the long run. I believe that food has the strongest memory JLike I said earlier, Chef Martin Yan was a very big early influence.
- What message do you want to give to young chefs out there?
The only advice would be to stay true to your chef coat. The moment you keep that in your mind all the decision you would take after that would be in respect of the uniform, and you can then never go wrong. Do not find easy ways to succeeding as there are none. Question any shortcuts that come your way, there are often honey coated.
My cooking again depends on the kind of audience. When I am conducting a master class for professionals you will hear a lot of technical, with aam junta; I get to home basics so that they can churn the most complicated recipe in their home kitchen using simple ingredients. To sum it up, the style is Simple and I do not get into techniques and complicated ingredients just for effect. I do that where it is required.
- What is your memorable achievement in your professional life?
Why it was important for you?
My most memorable achievement was to serve The Obamas. Barack Obama was the most powerful President in the world. I had the fortune of serving him and Michelle Obama twice in my carrier. One of the most genuine, honest and humble humans. The first meet was a chance visit, where we weren’t allowed to meet the man, but I happened to breach American security innocently and the rest was history. He called me to meet him, and asked me about the special that I had planned for him. I took him through the entire menu, when he asked me if I would like to work with him. I was shocked, shook my head and said, “No”. He laughed and said that it was America’s loss. We both smiled and I bowed out of the conversation. It off course became memorable and that did not require a reason. But history went on to repeat itself when he visited India the second time serving his term as The President of the United States of America, he remembered me by my name and sent his assistants to look for me. We had a long 3-minute chat that afternoon and parted ways. 3 minutes with the world’s most powerful man seemed like a lifetime.
- What is your concept of writing a menu for your Restaurant and how a new dish makes to the menu list?
It is often dependent on the style of any restaurant. I was handheld 450 restaurants in the last 5 years, which is as many as 90 a year. Writing a menu, its features and that too within the framework of the guidelines and concept is quite a thing. For me that is the beginning of any restaurant, followed up with training, which my boys are experts at. I find local talent wherever I go, which are helmed by my boys and girls. They know my style by know and exactly follow the recipes crafted by me. They exactly know my likes and dislikes by now. I am possibly the only chef who argues with the investor on credentials of dishes and the research behind them. I know a lot of chefs who succumb to the choices of the investors’ wife, mother, grandmother and/or children. I do not fall for it. I believe that if you have taken an expert to guide you, one must listen! (Period)
- How you develop your team, what responsibilities and freedom you give to your juniors?
My team has been with me for several years. By now they know what I would like and what I wouldn’t. Infact even my photographer, Piyush Singh, has been with me for years. He does all my work. However busy they are, we still find time for my work. One important thing is that I do not tie anybody down with contracts and papers. They are all with me on moral grounds. And that speaks a lot. Freedom, offcourse, as much as my toe nail is not stepped on. I often nip issues in the bud and am a crisis-chef. People often remember me when others raise their hands in the industry.
- How you keep up to date with a constantly evolving world’s culinary scene?
I do not follow anybody on social media because I am too consumed with what I do. I am constantly on the move and am constantly planning my next project. I am literally making checklist even while bathing. But, having said that, I am completely abreast with the industry news and trends. Which could be difficult, considering my lifestyle and work pattern but I believe that is also a very part of my job.
- One of your worst food critic or comment you received and how you dealt with it?
I was once told I am over ambitious. I smiled at him the. Today, I continue to smile with the kind of work I have behind me.
- What would you like to do more for a chef support system in helping each other in achieving success? Cross promotion?
I am working on a project that I would be announced by the end of 2019. I am in the middle of it and constantly polishing it. I am an undercurrent. I am working on multiple projects simultaneously and I am thankful to The Almighty that I can do it mellifluously. So wait and watch as it is going to soon get the chef’s universe closer.
Music and Cinema is my lifeline. I find time to watch movies in cinema houses amidst all the professional chaos. That keeps me sane, grounded and inspired.
- How you judge a young chef and how you test him for the long term?
The way he/she would salt to his/her food or hold his/her knife for that matter, the way he/she would set his/her cutting board. The way he/she would dress the coat. A pastry chef by the way he would hold his whisk. Well, these little speak a lot. Long-term is purely on his /her loyalty and discipline over the years. Discipline is ingrained, you cannot cultivate it overnight and hence of paramount importance to me. Skills are not always important, they can be developed along the way.
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