After graduating from IHM Lucknow in 1994, Chef Pawan Uppal went to work with Hyatt Delhi and Dubai along with Radisson Mahipalpur and Nikko Metropolitan. Chef Uppal is looking after kitchens at Old World Hospitality since 2007 and is currently the Executive Chef In-charge for operations at Habitat World, India Habitat Centre as well as Drift at Epicentre. He juggles the vagaries of day to day administration and his passion for cooking with aplomb. The Kitchens at Habitat World alone serve more than 5000 meals a day and he runs a tight and efficient ship. A winner of “Master Chef International Cuisine” by the Indian Culinary Forum and IFCA, Pawan is an expert in French, western and continental foods. Excerpts from the interview:
Diner was the first restaurant which started the concept of breakfast and the whole day meal in India. What is your view on the growth of such models?
Nowadays breakfasts are doing really good. We are having a lot of competition for breakfast to make new items every day. That certainly describes how this concept is expanding. Not only in eggs but coming up with something new in the vegetarian item list is also very essential now. We have also started serving eggless waffles and eggless pancakes which goes very well with honey, peanut butter, and chocolate.
What are the new innovations with menu happening at Diner?
We have started with new egg preparations of omelette and new types of waffles including the oatmeal waffles and sugar-free waffles. If somebody asks us to prepare a certain dish, then we never turn them down. We take a little time and try to serve them with their desired order. It is really very difficult to prepare something new every day for breakfast as this trend is catching up rapidly. We are trying our best to give all the breakfast items. We also serve bacon and sausages which are being liked by our guests.
Since you do all kinds of breakfast items, how are you actually trying to be different from others in the market that belongs to the same category?
Firstly, we never say no to our guests. Whatever we can do for our guest we try to do for them. If somebody asks for pancakes without oil, I have made a recipe for that also which is very unique. We will also start gluten-free pancakes waffles in some time. It’s all about personalization which stands us apart from our competitors in the market.
You have been known for creating exotic and out of the box recipes. What is your take on that?
We do lots of festivals at Diners with pancakes and waffle sandwiches, Hotdog festival being the oldest. The specialty about the bread of hotdog is that they are all homemade. We try to make all the ingredients over here. We even develop all kind of sausages in-house. In the market, we don’t get the bread without white flour. But we make it using only wheat. They are a little heavier but really tasty.
What according to you is the key essential for a perfect menu?
Knowing your guests and ingredients is very essential.
Who is the regular customer or guest at Diner?
We have a very regular customer who almost visits us 10 times in a week mostly for breakfast. We have also introduced the concept of brunch which we do on Saturdays and Sundays. We keep on changing the menu for our brunch every two months.
Who are these customers?
Indians, foreigners and corporate are the guests which we see dining at Diners.
What is the percentage of the regular versus the new one?
It is 80:20.
How are you trying to in cash on these new customers?
We are trying to in cash on these new customers by changing our menu every now and then. We prefer to have a conversation with our guest trying to know their likes and dislikes. We hold a menu engineering report through which we know the popularity of the items in the restaurant.
What according to you is that one trend which is going to hit the market changing the way we have been eating till now?
It depends on the ingredients for the main recipe. We should know our guests to whom we are serving. We should also be very concerned with the timing of the food preparation as many guests are in a hurry.
Can we see you opening one more Diner in the upcoming time?
Yes, why not? We will plan things like this in the upcoming time. Probably, we would try to come up with something else other than Diner. We already have Diner Lavasa which is doing great in every manner. We would like the old charm going on.