Food is the universal language that unites us all says Chef Jerson Fernandes


What drives you as a chef?

Jerson Fernandes:  Life’s experiences have educated me, shaped me and inspired me, creating opportunities in the direction of my professional development. Food has given me an identity that I would always be indebted to, for it is the universal language that unites us all. Every single plate of food represents my story of experimentation with ingredients, the positivity of my emotions and the need to delight guests with the authenticity of my culinary creations. 

What is the future of Vegan food in India? Please highlight a few challenges you have faced with Vegan guest having executed Goa’s first and best Vegan Chef.

 Jerson Fernandes: The growing awareness of conscious eating and consumer choices transforming the food industry will determine the future of vegan food in India. Much depends on the reasons that individuals choose a vegan lifestyle, whether it is for dietary changes or health concerns or to contribute to reducing the negative impacts on the environment.

Therefore, the key to guest satisfaction, by being Goa’s first vegan chef and executing the Vegan Bar at Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia Resort Hotel, has been to fulfil the range of eating patterns and demands for taste; whether as dietary vegans or as whole-foods vegans. 

What are your initiatives and best practices for promoting local produce and sustainable cooking, as an Executive Chef?

Jerson Fernandes: Sustainable initiatives and practices are a necessity globally, thus creating a consciousness for our everyday food choices. My culinary initiatives extend beyond the Kitchen and my designation – of being an Executive Chef. The efforts are towards strengthening relationships between people and food through regional food networks, fostering mindful eating and empowering individuals with cuisine diversity. 

At Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia Resort Hotel, we recognize the way we produce food, to the way we prepare food to actively champion the cause of healthy and sustainable diets. Collaborating with the stewards of indigenous food ingredients(the local farmers), for setting up Farmers Markets for our Sunday Brunch proves mutually beneficial and further improves the local economy. Additionally, the in-house mini-organic farm makes us environmentally responsible and helps revitalize the menu offerings ranging from vegetables to spices to herbs and fruits, based on seasonal availability. 

While nose-to-tail is not a new concept; embracing this philosophy has been the responsibility of the team of chefs of the Brand to reduce wastage and bring sustainability into the Kitchen. Our committed efforts, actions and projects at Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia Resort Hotel, integrate the values of sustainable gastronomy and are the beginnings of promoting a more equitable ecosystem.

According to you, which are the 3 top trends that the Vegan world will witness in the years to come? What are your plans with Vegan cuisine for the years ahead?

 Jerson Fernandes: Food awareness and education are replacing existing consumption patterns and lifestyles with healthier and sustainable solutions. The food network is highly confronted with excessive change within short periods, and therefore the increased need for healthy eating and reducing the food carbon footprint. 

Thus, integrating a vegan diet as a lifestyle change, reducing food waste, purchasing vegan-based products are tiny steps that the Vegan world will witness.

Being driven by the increased health, environmental and ethical concerns, the transitioning to plant-based diets, sustainable food production and having a planet-friendly plate of food, complimenting the planet 21 initiatives of Accor, remains my plan with Vegan Cuisine. 

Your most sought after cuisine and why? Your most preferred ingredient in Vegan food and why?

Jerson Fernandes: My memorable travel experiences are signified by my professional training with some of the finest European cuisine Masterchefs. With this diaspora of foods and cooking traditions, Trans Atlantic cuisine has left an indelible culinary mark upon me, thus being and becoming my most sought after cuisine. 

With the popularity of Veganism gaining pace, I attempted to take one step at a time and contribute to making socially conscious food choices. While it may not be possible to embrace a fully vegan lifestyle instantly, in Goa, in a land of spicy, flavourful dishes – from meat to pork to seafood, one can try within one’s capability to encourage this. What better way than to personally execute a Vegan Bar and Restaurant at the Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia Resort Hotel, and encourage not just the ethical treatment of animals, but also the mitigating of harm to the environment. 

So while Aquafaba is a trend, it is my vegan and allergy-friendly egg substitute that is my most preferred source; that does not impact the texture and taste of the food. Pairing the right ingredients and flavours make food appetizing, and thus jackfruit; the abundant produce of the region helps me fashion the vegan jackfruit pulled pork for sandwiches and burgers. The next centre-stage ingredient is moringa powder, for its benefits as food and medicine. While not new to Asian homes, the superfood is known for its protein-packed power, and this can be amply used in coconut gravy bases so distinctive of Goan curries.

You were awarded the most creative chef of India by FHRAI in 2015 and 2016. Take us through the journey and the preparation’s involved in winning this back to back.

Jerson Fernandes: Professional development corresponds to one’s current role or aspirations to progress in one’s career. Thus, it is essential to let your personal development take place together with your professional growth. The idea is to accept additional responsibility, take on demanding roles, overcome limiting ideas of oneself and earn success amidst challenges. 

The brand, Accor through its culture of recognition has presented me with autonomy in the application of my culinary skills, artistry and expertise. This has optimised my creativity, allowing me to draw value from the process of the competition and not just focus on the results. 

Plate presentations play an important role in completing a dish. You yourself are a master at plate presentations, would you rate food presentation over taste, technique and authenticity. Your views on the same.

Jerson Fernandes: Classical plating emphasized that the main protein, starch and vegetable are the principles of food presentation and perfection in a plate. After ensuring the quality of the food and techniques of preparation have been taken care of, for traditional, international or contemporary dishes; plate presentations helps Chefs showcase their final creation to the diner. The authenticity of the dish is as crucial to me as is the artistry that is characterized by the plate presentation. Being tagged as the Master Plate Presenter has convinced me of my beliefs that experimentation should never be at the cost of techniques and flavours; as each component brings uniqueness to the dish. With diners being keen observers and food photographers; it has become even more important for me to intertwine the components and bring a sense of composition and harmony to the culinary creation.

Your valuable suggestions/ advise  for the budding chefs. Kindly highlight 5 attributes of a great young chef/ leader.

Jerson Fernandes: Develop a mindset of abundance, become co-creators and curators of value,  empowering the community through sustainable initiatives. You must remain committed to challenging yourself, to face the fears of the profession and of the industry, to take risks and stay as a catalyst for change.

A few inspiring thoughts on your journey from a Dish Busser to an Executive chef. Describe yourself in one word that describes you the best.

Jerson Fernandes: Firstly, having earned designations purely based on being intrinsically motivated required immense justification, to those whose experience was enriched by years of service to the industry. The challenges faced were based on my swift career progression: to prove the uniqueness of my skills, ensure consistency of service, adapt to change: menus, concepts and flavourful plate presentations with financial parameters, lead, manage and inspire teams and therefore to best describe myself with a word would seem incomplete.

My journey has been an inspiration unto myself! And I have lived between the space of perfection- of reaching the ideal and the space of ambivalence -the process and the complexity of professional development, continually learning from the Masters of Excellence.