A journey full of rich experiences and learnings is something that every Chef desires and if that journey creates multiple opportunities it only makes the ride sweeter. Chef Onkar Samarth, currently the Corporate Chef at Bombay Coffee House has crafted a path where he has worked with the best in the Culinary world and now dons multiple hats – Chef, Business Owner, Manager and Menu consultant.
His culinary journey kick started with an internship at the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai followed by Hyatt in USA, post which he become a commie at La Trompette London, CDP at Butlers Warf Chophouse. He then moved on to the position of Junior Sous Chef at Corinthia Hotel London. After all these travels, he joined ITC Maratha in Mumbai as the Kitchen executive and then moved to SK restaurants (Sanjeev Kapoor Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. ) as the Senior Sous Chef, after this whirlwind journey led him to become the Chef Patron at Bombay Coffee House (Bandra West, Ballard Estate and Phoenix Marketcity Kurla) and the erstwhile Spanish tapas bar called El Toro, located at Bandra Reclamation.
Let’s get to know a little more about Chef Onkar Samarth as we feature him in his interview here.
Can you define your role at Bombay Coffee House?
Bombay Coffee House was founded in 2016 and I have been the Corporate Chef at Bombay Coffee House ever since. My key responsibilities include management of operations and maintaining efficiency.
What has inspired you to become a Chef and when did you know you wanted to become a Chef?
My father was very fond of food and loved to eat. My mother is an excellent cook and she introduced me to various kinds of food at a very young age. Thus began my affinity towards food. I used to watch my mother cook using old and authentic methods and family recipes passed down via generations. By the adolescent age of 14, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to be a part of the food industry.
Share some interesting facts that you would want others/fellow Chefs to know about your experience in this journey that could inspire them.
The Food industry is one which will surely pay you back and reward you for all the perseverance and smart work you put into working towards it. A hands-on and practical knowledge is everything in this industry.
The industry is not for the weak, you have to be determined to be on your feet for 10 hours straight. But in the end when you see people brighten up after eating your food, it is all worth it.
What’s your philosophy on food and cooking?
The base of cooking is not based on how fancy your cooking methods are or how fancy the food looks. Mere basics are essential to soulful cooking. A cook should never give up his or her fundamentals as they are indeed what set chefs apart.
What challenges have you faced to reach this position in your life?
A fact I love about the food industry is that at each and every step one must prove himself. One must be willing to give up or at least compromise on their social or family life during the first few years of their career. I have worked in the kitchen for 12-14 hours straight for days while missing important events in my social life. There comes many times in your life where you have to decide what is important - your career or your personal life.
I stayed in London for the former part of my career and I was the only Indian working there. I faced and fought a lot of criticism. But I was always aware of what I need to take with me and what I need to leave there in order to grow.
Have you served any power icons or celebrities during your culinary career? If yes, do specify along with your experience.
I was privileged to be in the culinary team cooking for the Queen’s 75th birthday. I have also cooked for the Manchester United Football Club. Another highlight has been cooking at the Corinthia Hotel in London for none other than Rihanna.
What trends do you foresee in the near future that would change the way the culinary world operates?
The culinary world is a dynamic one - constantly changing and evolving. We witness a lot of trends that come and go. What I foresee in the near future is a comeback of the old school food trends. The use of ingredients like barley, rye, and millet among others are all now trending as consumers are now increasingly becoming health conscious.
What are the qualities you feel that define you as a chef?
The qualities that define me as a chef are my learning ability and capability, willingness to try and experiment with things, my passion for food, being a team player and multitasking. Such are the virtues that define me for who I am, personally and professionally.
What is your favourite go to restaurant in Mumbai?
It's really tough for me to pick one. I have multiple go-to restaurants in the city - Nawab seekh paratha - Grant Road, Deluxe - Fort, Gomantak – Mahim, Ram Ashray - Matunga, Maji Sagar - Haji Ali, Vig - Chembur Camp, Manjeet – Sion, Kebabs & Curries - ITC, Yauatcha, Pizza Express, Noor Mohammadi - Nal Baazar, Kofuku - Bandra, 12 handi - Bohri mohalla, Olympia - Colaba.
What’s that one dish that brings a smile to your face?
Having eaten multiple dishes from various cuisines, this one is a bit tough. But the one dish which will always bring a smile to my face is the Rabdi falooda from Baba Falooda, Mahim.
What’s your favourite cuisine and why?
Japanese – I believe it's the most refined and elegant yet difficult cuisine with pure flavours. They believe in heroing the ingredients and that according to me, is what makes it my favourite cuisine.
Your Signature Dish that would like customers to try? Share pictures of those Signature Dishes too.
12-hour braised lamb shank, fish and chips, and meat balls.
Would you like to give a message to other aspiring Chefs?
Keep working without any mental blocks, and with a free mind. Always have an open mind when it comes to learning as there no age and for learning and no particular person to learn from. You can learn even when you are 60 and even from people 20 years younger than you.