Akshay Malhotra is the Executive Chef at ITC Welcome Hotel, Dwarka. Prior to working at Welcome Hotel, he had contributed towards the opening of the ITC Grand Bharat in Manesar and was the Executive Chef at Mughal, Agra. Chef Akshay has been associated with the ITC Group for eight years now. Speaking about his early journey, Chef Akshay reveals he never knew that his passion lay in food. He was studying to become a hardware engineer.
Chef Akshay tells Restaurant India, “I was studying to become a hardware engineer but midway plans changed. I was doing summer school at Carnegie Mellon in the US and one day while crossing the Pittsburg culinary Institute, I got off and asked the people wearing white (chef) hats and uniform about their profession. I, then, checked which the best culinary institute is. I came to know about the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park; I went there, gave my interviews and entrance, and got admitted. It was a big jump for me.” Akshay is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, New York.
When asked about how he sees the restaurant industry in India vs restaurant industry abroad, Chef Akshay tells Restaurant India, “The industry is a little different because of the culture and demands. The diners’ choices are different there. At the end of the day, it is the cultural difference. India is a more culture-driven place. We have a civilization which ages 5000 years back, hence, the effects of that is visible. Our food is deep. America as a country is around 350 years old, hence, their cuisines is kind of new to the world. What we had already done in the past, they are doing now – trying out different flavours and foods.”
Speaking about the hotel vs standalone restaurants, Chef Akshay Malhotra told, earlier, the hotel restaurants were the only fine-dining option for the diners. “When I came back to India, the only option was to eat in a good fine-dining hotel restaurant. It has been changing and evolving slowly now; standalone restaurants with fine-dining concepts are now successfully running in the country. There are a lot more options now. The market has exploded with similar concepts. Thanks to the eating habits of the people,” he says.
“People are exposed to the food during their travels outside India; they had seen food, so there is a demand for global food. There used to be a time when hotel restaurants would be the only ones to serve such cuisines. Now standalones have come forward and giving a tough fight for the money and they also have a product which they could boast of. Being a standalone restaurant, it’s easier to bring along a change. It’s easier for them to incorporate the menu changes,” Chef Akshay adds.
The whole industry in India has changed. It seems that standalone restaurants will continue to grow at a faster pace.
When asked about the food trends in the industry, Chef Akshay replies, “Millets, of course, have come to the mainstream!”
“Fermented foods will be there. A lot of pickling will happen in either western or eastern way. There’s going to be the comeback of the food that our grandparents used to have. Organic and sustainably grown grains are going to come to the forefront,” he further adds.