Chef Vineet Bhatia is one of the few chefs who left India in search of better cuisine acceptance and growth. It was way back in 1993 Vineet moved to the global land and today he owns 11 restaurants with 3 Michelin Star in his feather. A firm believer of quality and consistency Vineet loves Indian flavours and ingredients. Read, what he has to say on his journey as a Michelin Star chef turned restaurateur.
Making Indian Food Global
I think Indian restaurants, Indian food is delicious, it’s tasty but the only thing is they are stuck with time. They need to come out of that and look for exposure. I left Indian in 1993 because I was not allowed to grow in the country. There is lots of hurdles involved opening a restaurant in India. They stuck to the ground and they believe in making a difference. We created a small little revolution in a way to create spark and make awareness. Someone needs to let the fire first to keep it growing and I think we set the fire very slowly in a very humble, gentle manner. TV helped a lot on capturing local Indian foods and creating awareness as it spoke for evolution. We saw lots of restaurants opening in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru and suddenly lots of TV shows started happening in India. I still feel it’s still slow and can be little fast.
Changing Face of the Sector
In my days nobody wanted to work in Kitchen but today people want to become a chef, an hotelier and a restaurateur. It’s still considered as glamorous but it’s not. It’s very anti-social life. You need to be very dedicated and professional about it because you need to do lots of sacrifice. If you don’t like it don’t do it. So, the change is coming now. People coming into the industry have that advantage because they already have everything ready for them.
Making Local Food Global
We look at innovation all the time and how we can evolve the cuisine. We focus on authenticity. The flavours of India has to come. The essence is all Indian so it tastes Indian but it doesn’t look Indian as we have played around presentation. We can make the food look as glamorous as it can be but the ‘Swad’ has to come through. One needs to be consistent in whatever he does. Doing consistent products is very important. Also, one need to do things which are still authentic- Indian flavours and tastes. If a Chettinad Masala has to go it needs to have all the ingredients, if a Lucknowi biryani has to be done it needs to have all the spices infused and needs to be maintained else it will be lost. You can do something different but then don’t give the authentic name. No matter what food you do it has to be consistent.
Running Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Running a Michelin star is a tough call as it is based on consistency. We believe in it and for us it is consistency through and through. We don’t cook for the Michelin but we do it for ourselves. It is stressful and then there is lots of cost involved- certain style of food, service has to be done and followed in a certain manner. We are doing it for the experience of the guest and that’s what a guest takes back home. The level has to be the same always.
Opening Restaurant in India
Ziya was a bit different because we were sitting at mainland India. The market is very demanding and ought to cater for what they also like to eat. Unlike Delhi, Mumbai has lots of Jain, Marwari community. The uptake of Indian dishes as compared to western is very higher when compared to Delhi. In Delhi it’s all about ‘Dikhawa’ but Mumbai is mature, they are sensible and they do not splurge too much. They are very particular about what they eat.
Introducing Luxury Dining
Luxury for me is not only the food, but the whole setup. The white kashmiri rugs, the floors, the makrana walls, hangings on the walls, the gold cutlery’s, the gold show plates, the quality of the table tops, napkins, the flowers on the table are all part of the luxury. These all thing the guest do not see important but realise once they dine. And, these are extra layers of thing which you add on create that special guest experience. Also, for me luxury is to show the best product from where you are. Fishes from Cochin, lambs from the Miaji in Mumbai with perfect cuts is all very important and that’s where the luxury comes in. The kind of drinks along with food, the server, the attitude everything clubbed together bring out the best experience.
His Plans for India
There are discussions in pipeline but nothing has been signed as yet so we can’t really say when. We don’t want to do too many for the sake of numbers it has to be a trusted product. Money doesn’t motivate me but the right challenge; if I can deliver it or not. Delhi, Bengaluru, Pondicherry focusing on very regional restaurant from the local ingredients and raw materials. You had to make an impact and create value.