Key To Menu Planning: Keep the Local Essence in Food, Suggests Chef Vivek Swamy

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In an interview with Restaurant India, Chef Vivek Swamy talks about how a menu plays an important role in driving the growth of restaurant businesses.
  • SARA KHAN Feature Editor
Restaurant India

Vivek Swamy always knew his first love was the kitchen. Born and brought up in the fast-paced city of Mumbai, Chef Vivek Swamy has worked in India and in Canada, showcasing world-class experience; he had spent time learning various gastronomic skills in India and abroad.

Graduated from the renowned culinary school - Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology (IHM), Mumbai, Chef Vivek Swamy first worked at a five-star hotel in Kerala for two years, at the butchery, to hone his skills as a young commis cook. Eager to learn more, he moved to Canada for further studies and pursued Artisanal Culinary Arts from Fanshawe College, London, Ontario. He had also worked at a classic fine-dine Italian restaurant and he was chef-de-partie and then moved to a 4-diamond “Relais Chateaux” restaurant in Quebec, Canada. Starting as a pantry head, he made it all the way to being the Sous Chef of the restaurant.

When he moved back to India, Chef Vivek Swamy was impressed with the culinary culture in India and was then hired at Out Of The Blue restaurant. At Out Of The Blue, Chef Vivek introduced gluten-free millet and grain-based pizza with vegan sauce.  

In an interview with Restaurant India, Chef Vivek Swamy talks about how a menu plays an important role in driving the growth of restaurant businesses.

What does the new menu at Out Of The Blue restaurant look like? How healthy it is?

The new menu has nuances of the current culinary trends while still keeping it very clean, local and sustainable.

The health quotient of the menu is on the higher side as compared to what one would expect to find on a regular Out of The Blue menu, this is mainly keeping in mind, how the current trends are, where everyone is trying to follow a healthier-yet-tastier lifestyle, to this aspect we have introduced several new pizzas which have gluten-free and healthy bases viz, Jowar, Bajra, black rice, Ragi, and the keto versions of broccoli and cauliflower.

Could you define your previous menu? Why did you change it?

The previous menu at Out of the Blue was slightly outdated in terms of how long the menu was running for. Although there were no shortcomings what so ever since the menu covered each and every crowd that is the favourite of this 19-year-old restaurant in the heart of Bandra.

What is your key to planning a successful menu?

The key to any menu planning is sourcing of ingredients and keeping the local essence in the food, while as a cook I always aspire to use the best of the ingredients in the world, during the course of etching this new menu down, I constantly reminded and pushed myself to find local substitutes for these world-class ingredients without compromising on the quality of the final product for e.g., instead of using a pure mustard essence for an Italian variation of meatballs, I use the kacchi Ghani mustard oil from West Bengal which my staff helps me source. 

What role does a menu play in driving business growth?

Restaurant menus are possibly the most pivotal part of continual business development. The reason is as simple as the fact that the change is inevitable and extremely important. Since the restaurant ambience is set and being a crowd favourite will pull regular patronage but food menus need to evolve to keep the patronage happy and craving for more. This is something I have learnt from chefs under whom I was trained in Canada. This, in turn, promotes locally sustainable and organic produce.

What new ingredient you are using in your cuisine/s and why?

I have been exploring a lot of new ingredients millet and grain-based mainly to be able to cater to a niche market, however, different forms of mustard have definitely been on top of my priority list, I have probably eight different mustards dishes in the two outlets together.

How do you see the food trends in the next two years?

Food trends in India have changed considerably from the time I have joined the hospitality sector and I see this change being continual, but we need to start thinking about food as an experience and not as a means to an end. The passion and dedication that cooks have can only be justified then.

Although as I mentioned there is a substantial change, for a bigger and better change we need to start exploring and start believing in local produce that they can stand up to the world standards.

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