Vivanta by Taj President has always been known to the world for their extremely efficient culinary experts who have created dining experiences that are remembered and spoken about for years. One of the fine choices made by them was to bring aboard Chef Uddipan Chakravarthy who carries with him over 22 years of culinary experience and whose philosophy lies in working his magic around quality ingredients, drawing inspiration from the locally sourced, seasonal, fresh produce and his undying passion towards food styling.
Having trained under some of the finest Indian chefs like Chef Ananda Solomon, Satish Arora and Hemant Oberoi, he has managed to sketch a fine line between tradition and innovation during his culinary journey.
Know more about the young and talented Culinary Star, Chef Uddipan Chakravarthy as we interview him here.
What has inspired you to become a Chef?
I grew up in a family where food and family meals were a major focal point, so cooking has always been a part of me. I have always loved food and grew up in a very strong bong food culture, where my mom used to make everything from scratch. I remember helping my mother in those days. Although, I learned to appreciate good food from an early age but I was being groomed to attend an engineering school or perhaps become a doctor. I got into engineering college, did my first semester but didn’t enjoy the stint post which I appeared for the hotel management entrance and got through. I left the engineering college overnight and returned home. My parents were upset but eventually succumbed to my decision. Now, I can see the spark in my parent’s eyes and them taking pride in my decision.
When it comes to my professional life, I don’t like doing monotonous things. As an Arian, I like challenges and with every challenge I learn something new. It's been a culinary education for me. What's kept me in this industry for over 22 years, is that you just keep on learning. I love travelling and I have travelled through many parts of India and the world, visiting many places, their cultures and eating a thousand new dishes. I feel these experiences were just the tip of the iceberg as there’s still a lot to be discovered.
How long does it take to get the perfect menu planned for the restaurant?
It’s an on-going process. The day I say it’s a perfect menu, the restaurant stops growing. One always needs to be inspired when they work in such restaurants. Inspiration gives one ideas. The word inspiration is always associated with creativity. It’s a part of my career. We need to evolve with each day and every moment because any good place remains in the race when you are part of the evolution. And, to evolve one needs to change.
Can you share your contribution towards the famous in house restaurant ‘Thai Pavilion’ at Vivanta by Taj President?
I have worked for 4 years in the old version of Thai Pavilion. The new avatar of the Thai Pavilion came up in 2007. I have been a part of it since then, from concept, renovation, sourcing, menu, plating dishes to recipe changes.
Are you planning any special innovations during the next anniversary of Thai Pavilion?
We have a whole one year planned out, because 25 years is a big time. And just introducing 2 or 3 dishes won’t do justice. We have to celebrate the 25th Anniversary by making the experience special. Food is the key, but experience is a package.
Do you face any challenges when it comes to the customizing preparation to suit the Indian taste preferences? If yes, how do you overcome these challenges?
We don’t customize food as per the Indian taste. The major challenge what I think is that, there is a growing conscious awareness by the guests about the sources of food produce. Guests are becoming more aware of issues such as sustainability, responsible farming, fishing as well as the advantages of locally sourced produce.
We are basically spoilt by choice when we shop in the super market. As a kid I remember oranges used to only be available during winters. In my time, a simple orange was fascinating as they were so rare. Now days, I eat an orange a day, and I expect it to be in the supermarket when I shop regardless of the season, otherwise I’ll just go to another supermarket that sells them. This creates a major dilemma and challenge for chefs in fine dining restaurants. They must decide on how to provide a variety of top quality ingredients in a dish while trying to adhere to the code of social responsibility.
What is your style of cooking?
My restaurants are really relaxed and straightforward. That enables me to do a bit of home-cooking in the restaurant. This is for people who want to eat everyday. It's not intimidating, it's straightforward food. That's what I do.The beauty of cooking is no matter how accomplished you become, there is always something to learn in the most humble of places. It is always a reality check.
What challenges have you faced to reach this position in your life?
I always enjoyed my work. I am happy in every circumstance. I don’t remember anything major which was a challenge in my entire career. God was kind enough to give me supportive parents, a lovely and understanding wife and I always worked with fantastic bosses. I will be always grateful to God as he has always been with me.
How important is Food plating and presentation when it comes to your customers?
It is as essential to the success of a dish as its taste and flavor. The way the food looks on the plate is what tempts our eyes and makes you want to taste it. It is just as true with food presentation and how the elements are arranged on the plate, since an artful plating indicates higher effort was put into the dish. Diners recognize this attention to detail and are willing to pay a premium price for it.
Visual appeal is just as important as the tasting experience of the food. Before you even take that first bite, you’ve already judged the meal in front of you. The presentation of the plating makes an impression, even a promise, with the viewer. If the foodie is intrigued by the food, the artistic plating has done its job. If it looks good, you will want to have it.
What trends do you foresee in the near future that would change the way the culinary world operates?
I think we will go back to our roots because for the planet to survive we have to have sustainable farming and eat less meat. We are consuming the planet.
What’s that one thing that brings a smile to your face?
I always like to see customers leaving the restaurant with a big smile on their face. My day is perfect when customers tell me that they had a great experience at my restaurant.
What’s your favorite cuisine and why?
Every cuisine is great and each has its own charm, intricacy and celebration. I think for a chef, he loves cooking. It has to be challenging, and the idea to hone the skill is the most satisfying part of cooking any dish or cuisine.
What message would you like to give other aspiring Chefs?
This is very simple – food is with the heart. Everything people do has to be done with passion. Cooking, music, architecture, sports, and politics – you can’t do anything without passion. The photographer takes the picture using his own sense and with passion comes energy. My mother cooked with her heart – she always tried to keep us healthy and strong and this is a mother’s passion. You have to put your passion into the food and that’s the story and success of a successful chef.
Join Thai Pavilion this year as they complete 25 years and book your table with them today to experience the authentic feast by Chef Uddipan Chakravarthy.