Originally from Saint Cloud, Paris Chef Alexis Gielbaum enrolled into culinary school after completing his graduation. With a vision of presenting French cuisine to a global audience, Chef Gielbaum has lived and worked in countries like Italy, Japan and India. He has mastered the kitchen across small bistros, large brasseries and five star hotels. Of which one of his most exciting stints was being a chef on The Orient Express. He thinks French cuisine is all about keeping the original tastes rather than taking away from the essence of the actual ingredients of a dish.
After a brief stay and professional assignment in India 2015, Chef Alexis Gielbaum decided to stay and make India his new home and soon moved to Mumbai to dabble in fresh local ingredients and bring the best French dishes to the fore. He recently opened Slink & Bardot in Mumbai in partnership with chef Nick Harrison and Riyaaz Amlani. Excerpts from the interview:
How Slink and Bardot happened?
I have always wanted to have my own restaurant. I have worked in this industry for more than 17 years and the idea has always been in my head. Even back in Paris, I have twice tried to open a bistro. Then, I met Nick Harrison in Delhi. When I arrived in India in 2014, he was the floor manager of the restaurant ‘Le bistro du Parc’, I was the head chef. We quickly became friends and realised the potential of French cuisine in India. And, decided to try our luck in Mumbai.
Tell us something about your journey.
I arrived in this country with absolutely no idea what India was. I have always loved to travel. I have worked in Tokyo for a year, in Venice in the Orient Express for another one and travelled to many countries. So, when I hear the opportunity to come to a new country to be a head chef at a cosy French bistro, I have accepted straight away.
What’s the story behind naming it Slink and Bardot?
If you have come to our restaurant you see that we have two very different ambiences. One is the lounge/bar with a beautiful décor; the other is the restaurant part, soberer. Slink is from Slinking in, entering a place without being seen. This represents the restaurant part and also the restaurant location, a little bit out of the roads, discreet. Bardot is after Brigit Bardot, the famous French actress/singer/model from the 70’s. It represents the bar, more vibrant and colourful.
What are the design elements that popped up in your mind while setting up your venture?
We had the chance to work with Pavitra Rajaram who was in charge of the interior. She is a brilliant artist with a lot of taste and she helped us create a unique atmosphere for Slink and Bardot.
How do you see the trend of f&b industry changing with time?
With the entire restaurant scenario popping in all over the country, I can tell that the F&B industry in India has a great future. The restaurants are getting better and better in term of quality and professionalism, demanding better products that will open a better market for suppliers who care about their productions and better ingredients will result in an even better restaurant, demanding even better quality, etc. This is an endless circle of improvement that will make India at the same level that any country in the world.
The menu looks as if it has a variety of things to offer. Tell us something about it.
I always try to keep my menu small but every single dish has to have a very unique flavour profile. The concept of our restaurant is to serve small plates that allow our customers to make their way through the menu and try a little bit of everything. This is, I think a good way to allow customers to discover French cuisine.
What is your take on the rise of so many theme restaurants in the current time?
I think that’s a great thing. People have more and more exposure to authentic cuisine from all over the world; educate their palate for a better appreciation for good quality ingredients and techniques.
What are the various kinds of challenges you face while being in this industry?
Variety of the products. Especially in India, it is very difficult to source products that are “out of the box”. At Slink and Bardot, we have rhubarb, sunchocks, celeriacs, parsnips, turnips, artichokes, black current tomatoes etc. And we are always looking for more to improve our menu and make it special.
What are the expansion plans?
No plan so far. Slink and Bardot is almost a year old and we still have a lot of work to improve it to make sure that our customers are happy.
What is your take on the presence of French cuisines in India and how are they different or similar to the Indian cuisines?
French cuisine has unfortunately a reputation of being expensive, fancy and protocol. Here we try to break all of those concepts. And that is the similarity we want with Indian restaurant. People here like to share and have a warm ambience. We are doing French cuisine, but yet all our small plates are placed in the middle of the table, we play cosy jazz music and always make sure that our staff are friendly and professional.