What was in your mind when you were designing the menu for Saints and Sinners? How different is the menu from any other Pub?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- Saints and Sinners happened while I was still freelancing and consulting for new units. I remember while I was planning for Saints and Sinners, there were three or four other projects on, concepts for most of which were predefined.
SnS was different, Mr. Vishal Anand, owner of Saints and Sinners, was open to ideas, still loves creativity and doing thing differently.
Thus the idea was developed to deliver a whole package of experience to the guests. While most pubs focus more on alcohol and music, in SnS the focus was equally on food, live music, and cocktails.
The menu was done to tickle the three (sight, smell, taste) senses of the guests. Idea was to keep it as simple as possible so as to be able to connect to the pub crowd and at the same time keep it very different from the rest. A menu that would be close to authenticity in taste, prepared with a twist and presented in a contemporary way.
We picked some classic dishes; changed the way these dishes are cooked for example we cook our Kung Pao Chicken in the tandoor, we have galouti crostini on the menu. Taste and flavor is something we don’t compromise with, your tongue and nose will second that, while your eyes might have something else to say about a dish -Well we all have a bit of a’ Saint’ and a bit ‘Sinner’ in us.
Please give us some insights in kitchen designing for a restaurant?
Chef Sidharth Sharma :- First and foremost a kitchen should have the right set of equipment required to prepare the dishes on the menu. Modern developed equipments can help in multi-tasking and make a kitchen really smart.
The second important thing is the layout of the kitchen; this is done keeping in mind the flow of work, especially during rush hours. A good kitchen should be work efficient and should have sufficient space for the chefs to work around during peak hours.
With real-estate being costly, every inch of space needs to be planned and utilized to its maximum. Hygiene, pre-preps, storage have to be given equal importance.
It is also essential to install the necessary equipment to ensure that the kitchen is environment-friendly and does not add to pollution.
How much do you think travelling helps in improving the culinary skills and knowledge of different cuisines?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- We all know that the world is shrinking day by day, people travel frequently. The social media has connected different regions of the world, our guests are more aware of what they are eating.
It becomes important for a chef to be aware of the world around him and fulfill the expectations of his guests. Traveling not only helps to refresh one’s body and soul it also helps to understand food from a different prospect.
There is an abundance of flavors, tastes, and recipes in different regions. Most of these are practiced by people in their homes and are thus hidden till someone goes out there and explores them, experiences them in person. It is surprising to see how a single ingredient is used in different cuisines around the world and yet the dishes are so different.
Just like there are a whole lot of places to explore in India and abroad, there is an endless culinary experience waiting out there to be tasted.
Please tell us what kind of research is done before curating a menu?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- Most menus are done keeping in mind the concept of the restaurant. The menu should not only complement the concept, it should also hold true to the type of outlet it is- a specialty, restro-bar, pub, etc. and then the most important it should satisfy the desires of the guests and hence it is important to know the target clientele.
Each menu should have its own individual identity, some specialties and something for guests who like to experiment, needless to say, that a good menu has to be balanced in terms of options, tastes, and variety.
Please give us some insights into food costing. How is it controlled?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- Restaurant, unlike hotels, have to generate their revenue from food and beverage sales. The margins aren’t too great and that is why controlling costs becomes imperative.
Most believe that cost and quality are directly related, low cost means low quality, but that’s not true. Good cost control is like filling a bucket with drops of water. Starting from negotiating for the raw material prices, receiving the right quality, efficient processing, right storage, to predicting the right consumption, all add up to improve the bottom line.
How different it is to be a corporate chef of Restaurant, Hotel and A food Brand?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- The task in hand is more or less the same at the corporate level, though there might be some differenced depending on individuals. Hotels, it’s the master chefs and the chef de cuisines that are more active in kitchens and menu planning. Most corporate chefs are tied down with planning and administrative duties, while there are only a few who are able to take out time to be active in kitchens. In restaurants, the administrative and planning responsibilities are the same but most restaurant corporate chefs are directly responsible for the menu, involved in the day to day operations and seen most often on the floor.
In this era of Gastronomy, how do you manage to prepare delicacies, while innovating them and yet sticking to their authenticity?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- Travelling to the region of origin, especially to the interiors, researching the history of a dish helps me to understand its personality. Once you recognize the roots of a recipe, it becomes easy to keep it authentic in terms of taste. It’s the texture and presentation that I love to play with.
Chef, please tell us about your expertise involved in dishes like Cotes De Porc, Khumb Galouti Crostini, Kandhari Lamb Shanks etc. How is your expertise making them authentic?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- There is something very special and classical about each of these dishes. In Cotes de Porc- Perfectly grilled pork chop is drizzled with this sauce which is about a thousand-year-old recipe from Szechuan region of China.
Khumb Galouti Crostini- Traditional masala mix is used to make this mushroom galouti which is an Awadhi specialty. While the flavors are authentic, smoked with clove and desi ghee, the texture differs to justify a crostini.
The Kandhari Lamb Shank- Research shows that it won’t be wrong to call it as the ancestor of the famous Kashmir specialty Mutton Rogan Josh. It is in central Asia that such a dish was first prepared. The shank is the most meaty and flavorful is marinated and cooked with whole spices (Khada masala) gently over low heat to create this finger-licking dish.
What research and preparations are required at the time of pre-opening of a restaurant?
Chef Sidharth Sharma :- There are primary two ways in which a restaurant comes into existence- First when the concept is pre-defined; in that case it becomes important to find a location or site what justifies the concept. Second is when a site or location is selected and then a concept is developed, such that would complement the location.
In either of the cases there are a whole lot of criteria to be kept in mind while the location is being finalized. The restaurant interiors, kitchen and support area planning are done next. Processing also gets initiated from the legality and licensing point of view.
While the site is under construction, the focus moves to menu planning and staffing followed by sourcing of crockery and glassware. All these have to be strongly connected to the concept. One needs to understand the story behind the concept, dig into the history behind it, this is also when most of the research is done on the food and beverage and a tentative list is prepared for the menus.
Trials begin once the site is semi-finished, free of dust and is relatively workable. All of the listed items are practically prepared, tried and tasted. Finally shortlisting, tweaking, and adjustments result in a final menu. The kitchen and service team is vigorously trained on the standard operating procedures set up during this time. The restaurant is ready to open doors to its guests once the team is ready.
What is the best part of being a Chef?
Chef Sidharth Sharma:- Being able to develop and create is the best part of this passion. Every day is a new day, a different one. Besides, every time a guest is satisfied and happy, you feel blessed.
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