With over 20 years of industry experience and having excelled in competitive, challenging environments, Chef Himanshu Taneja, Culinary Director – India, Marriott International, is now ready to take on further challenges in the world of food & beverages. This captain of the kitchen, who has worked with legendary brands such as St.Regis, JW Marriott, Taj and Oberoi, talks to The Chef Post about food trends, niche F&B initiatives from Marriott India and the need to have chef workshops.
Excerpts from a conversation…
How important is the Marriott India Chefs Workshop?
We have about 100 chefs participating across venues in Gurgaon, Goa and Hyderabad. Food & beverages is a major segment for our brand and the quality of food & beverages served to guests is extremely important. We are having cooking competitions, chef competitions; we have the best student chefs of catering colleges at the workshop. We are taking the participants to farms, to excursions…in Gurgaon we took them to a vegan restaurant for breakfast, then we went out for fishing in Goa, we took them to a hydroponic farm in Hyderabad. There is knowledge sharing that is happening. Talent sharing and chefs getting to know each other. And it works good for the host hotel as well, as it strengthens its positioning and makes a genuine value addition.
What unique F&B offerings can be expected from Marriott India in 2019?
By the end of this year, we will have atleast 50-60% of our hotels become 100% compliant with organic salad buffets. We are big on sustainability, we are working on cage-free eggs, we are trying hard to remove plastic and moving towards glass bottles and sustainable food containers. Our mobile food truck, which we recently launched, will use eco-friendly containers of bagasse and glass bottles. We are also working on our vegan menus this year and we have already started the same in our coffee shops. Soon we will have a few vegan dishes in our specialty restaurants as well.
How necessary is it to give a contemporary twist to traditional recipes?
You should never deviate from a recipe. What you can do is add a little quirk to it. Dishes like biryani or butter chicken are rituals. We should not deviate from their authenticity. I am against fusion. I feel fusion is confusion. I don’t encourage fusion food. We don’t do it also. You can’t play around with the authenticity of a classical dish. You can’t add chicken tikka instead of prawns to nasi goreng. You can however take some local inspiration. For example…let’s take the eggs benedict. We do give a local inspiration like say in Mumbai, by using a little local masala. A slight local touch is ok.
What about deconstructed food? It’s all over the place…
Noooo. Let’s pick up an example…say the tiramisu. You have coffee, you have lady finger biscuits, you have whipped cream, you have eggs, you have mascarpone. And I give it all in a bowl. See, I am a chef. I will do it right 99% of the time. But if you don’t know really cooking and if you try to do something like this, you might not do it right. And if you don’t do it right, then you will not get the right taste. I would say you can do deconstructed food in bars where food is not really the top priority. You can add a little quirk to it. That’s fine. But in seasoned dining places if you do deconstruction there, I’m not a fan of that. I like to keep things simple.
Kudos to chef talk!