Chef Pallavi is the author of a renowned book The Bhojpuri Kitchen, which celebrates the region's age-old favourite recipes. The chef was also seen on TV show Amma Superstar which was aired on channel Living Foodz. She has been featured in Kissan Tiffin Time Table on India Food Network's YouTube channel. She has also worked with industry's kitchen star Sanjeev Kapoor's YouTube channel. She has lived in Muscat for a certain period during which she worked as a food columnist for the Times Of Oman while also being featured on their YouTube channel.
In an interview with Restaurant India, Chef Pallavi Nigam Sahay speaks about her cookbook and food pairing with tea.
Your contribution to the F&B industry?
Bringing local traditional cuisines to the national as well as the international stage has probably been my greatest contribution till date to the F&B industry. My first book released in 2017, The Bhojpuri Kitchen was well received both in India and abroad. It brought to the front pages of many print and online media the traditional food items from the region and also won the Gourmand Award internationally. I also hosted a 10-day Bhojpuri cuisine fest in Trident BKC that year to further spread awareness of the cuisine which has a wide array of dishes for all kind of audiences – vegetarian, non-vegetarian, for those who have a sweet tooth and also for those who are looking for quick comfort meals as part of their busy weekday menus.
I had a great love for cooking since childhood. I used to lurk around kitchen whole day during Diwali or Holi or someone’s birthday or on days when any kind of special meal being prepared, to watch my mom and my chachis preparing food. I started trying out dishes from the age of 12, my first attempt was trying to prepare Pulao for my cousins, actually me and my cousins were the only ones in the house so it was kind of taking advantage of everyone’s absence. We were in the joint family and my Dadi used to keep all the precious Whole spices in a small room in the house called “kothri” it was a storage room for grains and pulses and pickles etc. we were not allowed in the room. But that day, in order to prepare pulao the way mom does, I took the liberty of going inside that room and taking out the whole spices. I’m glad I did it because pulao came out really well and everyone loved it. Since then there were many trials similar to that. I started cooking more frequently after my wedding, mostly Indian, mainly Bihari dishes after learning from my Saasu ma. At the same time, I was working as research analyst in an Insurance firm, it was my first year and I did not like it a bit. Sitting on those morning meetings I used to think to prepare something special for dinner. I was getting frustrated and finally one day with my family’s support I quit.
Then I decided to pursue my love for cooking. So I went to Italy to pursue a culinary Diploma, after completing the course I worked in a trattoria there as professional training was part of the course. After coming back from Italy, I joined Hyatt for training. Meanwhile, Kunal, my husband, got a job offer in Muscat so we shifted. I started writing a recipe Column for Times of Oman. Then we started doing recipe videos for Times of Oman YouTube channel. That did very well. Enquiries started coming and I also started conducting culinary classes, both at home and at forums. Then we decided to do YouTube videos in India, so I approached Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana channel for YouTube videos, after doing many videos we did a proper show named “working women’s kitchen”.
I got an offer from India Food network to be part of their renowned show named “Kissan Tiffin Time Table” meanwhile I was also working on my book. Book got published by Westland in November and on one very beautiful December morning I woke up and saw the email from Living Foodz. They had contacted for the show. This is how it all happened!
Three interesting findings of the food and beverage industry in your culinary journey so far.
The heavy influence of social media trends on food culture or social media influences on dietary patterns.
Over the past few years, we have also witnessed a rapid rise in health-conscious consumers which in turn has resulted in the rise of healthy food restaurants, salad bars and juice bars across large and small cities. I believe this trend is here to stay and restaurants and brands which are focused on such themes are likely to witness good growth in the foreseeable future.
Rising trend of alcohol consumption in the country with rise in middle-class disposable income. Local wineries and breweries and pubs serving appropriate cuisine are in hot demand among the tier-1 and tier-2 cities in the country. As a culinary consultant, many times I have been asked to design menus that suit the palate of such new generation pub hopping crowds which not only suits their palate but also appeals to them visually.
What is the contribution of a good menu in the restaurant business? How new techniques in food help a restaurant grow?
It is the soul of the restaurant.
Restaurant food quality control is a major issue as India sees a rapid rise of joints. Better hygiene and proper storage and transfer facilities of raw materials help to ensure that quality is well supervised and controlled. In fact, some MNCs and large corporate have also lately talked about how technologies like blockchain can help them to better track and monitor the quality of their poultry supplies. All these also, of course, help to have better control of the entire supply chain, therefore, resulting in lower wastage and in-time delivery to avoid any spoilage.
Who makes the world’s best teas? What sets them apart from other tea makers?
Tea artisans dwelling in remote villages of North-East, with whom I had the opportunity to meet during my research for tea book, makes the world’s best tea. There few ethnic minorities who had been handcrafting tea for two hundred years now. It’s the presence of human touch in every step makes it so special. Since the tea leaves are completely handcrafted and don’t go through the warmth and friction of any machines, the flavours are far better developed and medicinal properties also stay intact.
For a first-time tea taster, what tea would you recommend they try, and why?
For the first time, it has to be Darjeeling Second Flush. The flavours of Darjeeling Second Flush are deeper with a mellowed, sweetish, fruity often peachy undertone. This will be much suitable for the first timer than any tea with strong or grassy flavours.
Your take on fusion cooking?
Fusion is good as long as the soul of the recipe is not tinkered with. Too much fusion where the basic ingredients are changed is not something that I would like to make or serve.
What should be the element of uniqueness in the food menu?
Irrespective of the cuisine, the most unique factor of any food menu is the chef. It’s her character, preferences, emotions and art that should be fully represented in the menu.
What foods pair best with a cup of tea?
Any food which is not overpowering, for example, neither very spicy or nor the chocolate desserts pairs well with tea. Greasy, or heavy food also doesn’t pair well with tea. So, beautifully baked cakes or cookies with subtle flavours like Victoria sponge cake or a pistachio cake or a vanilla cookie will pair very well with tea.
What are the new-age beverage trends?
FnB trends, rise in vegan, gluten-free and keto are trending. People are moving more towards desi food. Restaurant serving authentic traditional food is really doing well. Online delivery platforms are increasing. People are moving more towards fruit-based beverages. Non- alcoholic beverages are trending. Cold-pressed juices are also witnessing a rise.
What do you do to stay abreast about the new trends in the culinary world?