Amit Chakraborti, the Executive Chef at Banjara Mumbai, studied from the Rizvi College of Hotel Management. He was then selected as a management trainee in the on-campus recruitment drive for The Lalit. Amit Chakraborti has worked with chefs Subhash Joshi, Javed and Salil Fadnis. He had previously worked with Intercontinental Marine Drive, Sahara Star, Courtyard Marriott and Hyatt Ahmedabad.
In an interview with Restaurant India, Executive Chef at Banjara Mumbai Amit Chakraborti shares his views on the food trends that will rule 2019 and talks about restaurant operations.
The most important thing you learnt in your culinary journey so far?
Chef Subhash Joshi was Masterchef of the then The Grand, which is now The Lalit. He taught us to cook food with heart and not follow brain. When we follow our brains, we start taking shortcuts, and when we cook from the heart the food will definitely be good in taste - this is something that Chef Subhash taught me.
Chef Javed and Chef Salil were my mentors too. I learnt Arabic cuisines from Chef Javed while working with Sahara Star. I would watch Chef Salil Fadnis managing the kitchen; he was well-composed. I had never seen him angry. He was a calm person.
Describe your role as Executive Chef at the Banjara, Mumbai.
As the Executive Chef, my role is to coordinate with the guests and work on the innovative dishes. People are addicted to trying new things continuously, and that’s where innovation takes place.
Your Signature Dishes?
Prawn Ghee Roast and Chicken Ghee Roast are the signature dishes at Banjara Mumbai. Besides, we have Pomfret Tawa Fry. My signature dish is Chicken Zaitooni, Paneer Jalapeno Tikka, Lahsoon ki Kheer and Mirchi Ka Halwa.
What according to you are the top trends that will drive the industry in 2019?
Live Kitchen, Fusion Food, Presentation of the Food and Chefs going directly to the Customers’ Tables.
How would you define your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is fusion and Indian-continental. In the early part of my career, I was trained in Indian and tandoor cooking styles. Continental is something which goes with the Indian palate. Everyone likes chatpata food. I just match the Indian palate with continental style. Like I make tandoori vol-au-vent. The vol-au-vents are similar to puff pastries and the stuffing is usually of spinach, corn, mushrooms and white sauce. But at Banjara restaurant, we stuff it with tandoori masala. People like such fusion food.
What is your unique approach to recipe development?
Do something different, that people may like, but don’t change the authenticity.
The secret lies in how well you keep the authenticity portion in the cuisines. Your dish needs to have that distinct flavour that resembles the base of the cuisines. For example, when we would make Mani Chow in the Hyatt, we used to stuff it with Chicken Makhni for non-vegetarians and Paneer Makhni for vegetarians. Maintaining the authenticity of the flavours we kept the paneer/chicken makhni as it is but we added the twist by serving it in the rolled buns - Mani Chow.
What is the average footfall at Banjara Mumbai?
We see 125-135 people every day; the Banjara restaurant had hosted a maximum of 145 people during and post festive season.
Banjara is a multi-cuisine restaurant. You serve Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean. What do people look for more when it comes to the flavours and cuisines from the menu?
People are very keen to have Mangalorean curries. If you go to other restaurants, you will find more Indian and Chinese cuisines. At Banjara, we have coastal and Mangalorean cuisines on our menu. We have a separate Mangalorean kitchen at Banjara.
What do you suggest to stay ahead of the competitors?
I suggest the restaurants should do something different. The guests will certainly go out and try at your competitors’. The food is the key product. Maintain the taste and authenticity in the dishes you serve.
How do you see the future in fine dining, especially in India?
With concepts like buffet, barbecue and molecule, fine-dining is a hit among people right now.
If you are in the fine-dining restaurant industry, be sure to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene – it gives a tough fight.
How would you Banjara’s approach to festive season?
We organized a GTR food fest. The Grand Trunk Road (GTR) is from Chittagong in Bangladesh to Kabul in Afghanistan. That road comes all through Kabul, Lahore, Delhi, Punjab and goes till Chittagong. It was a different kind of fest where you could find food from all around these areas - right from Bengali, Punjabi to Delhi chaat. Restricting yourself to a regional food fest is like focusing on a few cuisines. But with food fests like GTR, we organized a variety of cuisines bringing various cultures together.
And, if you speak about festivals in India, there are unique dishes related to them. We showcase those dishes separately and prominently on our menu during the festivals.