Every Indian state is represented by its own unique cuisine. Food is something that everyone relishes, whether it is out of necessity or taste. Food cuisines like Punjabi, Mughlai, South Indian, Gujarati or Rajasthani has its own fan following. The India Food Industry foresees a huge growth in the coming years and the food sector has emerged as a high income and profit sector because of its frequent value additions.
The food industry is presently placed at US$39.71 billion and is all set to grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11 percent to US$65.4 billion by 2018. Further tingling the taste buds of foodies, with over two decades of experience, Sujan Mukerjee provides mouth watering South Indian delicacies through Southen Spice.
In conversation with Restaurant India, Sujan Mukerjee, Executive Chef, Southern Spice talks about his passion for cooking and various cuisines available at the restaurant.
What inspired you to become a chef? Tell us something about your journey.
I was always passionate about the kitchen at my grandparents’ home. I still recall my sense of happiness when I used to see my grand ma cook in our ancestral home. So, this journey started at a very young age. I started my career 27 years back with Taj Group of Hotels. I had numerous opportunities to learn and grow with the company. I was privileged to be part of the opening team of a few iconic restaurants in the country like Masala Art, Souk, Sonargaon, Chinoiserie, and recently opened Taj International luxury property at Dubai-Taj Dubai. I also received the best chef award in 2010 by the Ministry of Tourism.
What has made Southern Spice one of the favourite customer choice restaurant?
By serving authentic cuisines from the four southern states and a deep connection with the culture, design and décor of the region, this distinctive restaurant has reinvented itself as a ‘culinary destination’ for food connoisseurs and gourmands from across the world. Known as the country’s most iconic South Indian specialty restaurant, Southern Spice’s authentic and inspired cuisine, splendid ambience and warm service ensures the most-genuine culinary experiences for its guests. Authentic ingredients, traditional flavours and homemade recipes come together to ensure that guests are served the most exotic fare that is truly traditional, yet enhanced with a touch of modernity. Southern Spice is an essence of close to two decades of extensive research by the restaurant’s expert Chefs, reflecting the culinary legacy of the four southern states, acquiring knowledge, cooking techniques, compiling family recipes and traditional banana leaf fare.
What menu tweaks are you planning to introduce to stand out from the crowd?
The menu at Southern Spice is a unique compilation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies inspired by the culinary journeys into the interiors of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Southern Spice reinvents tradition with the liberal use of premium ingredients such as asparagus, soft shell crabs and scallops. Unusual to the South Indian palate, these imported ingredients are cooked in authentic South Indian spices to give the meal an interesting twist. Adding an international touch, the menu has been expertly paired with wines and spirits that best complements the meal.
One of the highlights of the meal experience is the special Rasam menu, which gives Southern Spice a contemporary edge, yet keeping the experience rooted in tradition. Rasam, predictably served as an appetiser, , now gets a hint of variance where five different varieties of rasam, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, will be served during the course of the meal.
The Traditional Sadhya – a pure vegetarian 28-course meal – is served in a ritualistic way, exclusively in the three beautifully-designed Private Dining Rooms. These rooms reflect the culture and tradition of the four Southern states through the handcrafted wall and ceiling murals, each with their own distinct style. The silver and gold service-ware are the focal point of the table-top in these rooms, which will prepare guests for the most-sensuous dining experience.
What are the things that you consider while designing your restaurant menu?
Authenticity and traditional cooking method of every dish is the key factor in designing the menu. Our clientelealso play a major role while planning the menu for the restaurant. Their preferences are quite varied and we try to balance the menu as per their likings. Availability of ingredients is also vital and we ensure that we procure the best quality of ingredients for all our dishes. Freshness is the key word and together with the usage of organic elements, the restaurant ensures that for the wellness conscious guests, the magic works not only on the palate, but also on the very core of one’s being. Wealso use English vegetables, which are uniquely spiced with traditional methods of cooking and this is highly appreciated by the guests.
What is the supply chain process in your hotel? Who are the suppliers? Can you please name some?
We understand the criticality of good supply chain management, particularly for perishable ingredients, taking all possible measures to ensure that the food ingredients are well-preserved and don’t lose their freshness and nutrient value while in transit. All our seafood are fresh catch. Farm to Table continues to be a key area of focus for us as we believe in ensuring freshness and high quality of goods from source to our kitchen.
Who is your target customer?
Southern Spice is a destination restaurant and no visit to Chennai is complete without a mealat our restaurant. . With authentic and inspired cuisine, splendid ambience and warm service, Southern Spice has established itself as a world-renowned dining destination and we are committed to deliver the most authentic culinary experiences to our guests from across the country and the world.
What are the different types of cuisines served at your restaurant?
Southern Spice serves authentic South Indian cuisine from four states of India – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. We have selection of dishes ranging from the Tamil Brahmin community to the Malabari Muslims of Kerala. The team of chefs have also done in-depth research into specific regional cuisines of Mudaliar and the Bunt community.
What is the contribution of a well laid menu in restaurant business? How are new techniques in food helping the restaurant grow?
Menu is an integral part of any restaurant business. At Southern Spice, we offer food connoisseurs a luxuriously authentic experience, which allows them a window into the locality’s culture and traditions. Southern Spice is more than just a restaurant, it is a destination. It is the result of contributions from the chefs who have travelled to the interiors of South Indian states and unearthed traditional recipes first hand. We have been instrumental in merging modern culinary techniques with ancient recipes, like the Scallop Sukka, Asparagus Usili and Chocolate Poornam Mousse.
How familiar are you with the legalities involved in opening a restaurant? Are you planning to open up your own restaurant?
Yes, I am very much familiar with the norms. However, I have no plans of opening a restaurant.