Chef Chalapathi Rao, fondly known as Chef Challu, is one of the finest chefs serving South Indian cuisines in Hyderabad and abroad.
In an interview with Restaurant India, Chef Chalapathi Rao, owner of Simply South, talks about the expansion and growth plans of his restaurant.
Food Trends Are Like Fashion
Food trends and food facts are something like fashion. Everything has a shelf life. I started my journey almost two and a half decades back. The trends then were different. After that fusion and molecular food concept came to the fore. Now, again the industry is going back to the ancient grains and foods, and cooking methods also.
In the next few years, I see more of presentations and styling, if I talk about global trends.
'Entrepreneurial Journey is Quite Different from Being a Chef'
I was a chef at ITC hotel for almost two decades; I joined as a management trainee. I sharpened my skills in cooking. What I used to do for my personal growth was to go and visit different places and learn the cuisine from the traditional people of that particular place; this helped me in my personal growth. And if everything permitted, I would invite people, from whom I learnt the cuisine. I would let them taste the food and give me feedback.
Redefining the cuisine happens from what we do at home or at commercial establishments. Five years back, when I started my journey as an entrepreneur, it was very different. In a hotel restaurant, if any of the cooking equipment won’t work, the team will immediately act on it. Even if you want something else, you go straight to the purchasing department and tell them what all is missing; they will get it for you. But when you are an entrepreneur, you are a one-man army. You are the valet to the security guard yourself. It’s a great and challenging role. In a standalone restaurant setup, your mindset has to be different from what you have in a hotel.
Key Accomplishments of Simply South in 2018
In 2018, we were ranked by Conde Nast among the top 50 restaurants. The Week Magazine, which did a survey in various cities, had mentioned Simply South as one of the best South Indian restaurants in Hyderabad. If I talk about the revenue generation, overall, the restaurant has been in profit. When you have multiple ventures, one brand might be doing well and others may not; that balances. Overall the company is in good health.
Presence of Simply South in India and abroad and the expansion plans
Presently, in India, we are only in Hyderabad. We are working to open an outlet in Singapore; we had registered the brand in Singapore already. Our endeavour is to open two outlets in 2019; I cannot tell the locations right now. It might be Singapore and Bengaluru or Singapore and Hyderabad. Our endeavour is to be present in five different countries or cities in the next five years.
Take on Serving Authentic South Indian Dishes at Simply South
When we were opening Simply South, there was a lot of thought process that went into it. If you come to Simply South you won’t find any other food item on the menu except a south Indian, not even paneer. That’s the concept we have faith in and are still serving. It depends on the micro and macro market; demand changes. To give an example, at Hi-tech City which is a business branch, there we had thalis but people were asking for the buffet. Since there were many working professionals and probably they had an hour-break, we did a buffet out there, but maintaining on what we serve - South Indian dishes. We try to innovate within the gamut of South Indian cuisines.
Celebrating Food at Simply South
Food and culture go hand in hand. You cannot separate them. A community plays an important role in treating cuisine. Our focus is to put dishes of various communities or regions. For example, last year we did a food festival at Christmas. We did the regional cuisines from Kerala. Two years back, we had done what Christians eat during Christmas in South. On Eid-ul-Adha, we were probably the first restaurant in Hyderabad to do a dastarkhwan. We did murg shorba, mutton biryani, mutton korma, kaleji fry and more. We try to celebrate all Indian festivals as much as possible.