In Conversation with Chef Pratap Chahal


“Genius can’t be contained”, a famous saying in Da Vinci’s ‘Demons’ fits very well on Chef Pratap Chahal, a culinary genius whose passion about food has already driven his young career to enviable success. After graduating with a B.A. in English Literature from the prestigious St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, he decided to pursue his passion as a foodie and become a chef.

On our hot seat today, we have Chef Pratap Chahal, a master of his game who has proved that if you are passionate about something, it’s just a matter of time before you end up realizing your dream. Let’s take some meaningful insights from his career and experiences that have brought him success and acclaim.

HospiBuz: After completing your B.A in English literature, you decided to pursue a culinary career. What made you do so, and where did you train?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal: I’ve always been interested in food since the age of 7 and when it came time to think about a career path after my BA, I didn’t want to go down any of the traditional routes of MBA, Civil Service, Teaching etc….so my parents were the ones who suggested I take up my passion for cooking and food and turn it into a career.

I did most of my early training with Gordon Ramsay at his Claridge’s restaurant and also at the Cinnamon Club.

HospiBuz: You have worked with some highly-acclaimed chefs in their kitchens, such as Gordon Ramsay at the Claridge’s, and at Michelin starred restaurants such as Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club, The Orrery and Galvin Bistro. How did this experience teach you, and how did it influence you to take your career to a higher level?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  These restaurants taught me not only how to cook, but also how to run a kitchen and work under immense pressure. After being able to work 100 hours every week, I felt I could take anything on and wanted to keep pushing myself towards more challenges.

HospiBuz: After working in highly reputed kitchens, you decided to take a year off just to travel and understand more about different cultures and cuisines. How did travelling inspire you to open a café that received a tremendous response from the media? What was so unique about this café?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  During my travels I ate at some temples of gastronomy but also discovered the joys of local and street food across the world. Till today I draw inspiration from my travels and all the various flavours and techniques I encountered and try to work them into my dishes. I was approached by the owner of the café (Greenberry Café) to create a menu that was healthy, exciting and inspired by my travels – we had dishes that had flavours from Japan to India to Turkey and the Caribbean. We were constantly busy as we also served breakfast and food all day, so there was always something for everyone.

HospiBuz: In your travels, you must have encountered a number of techniques, spices, ingredients and flavours. Which ones have inspired your cooking and have added extra dimension to your style?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  It’s hard to pinpoint exact ones, but I became very taken in by foraged ingredients – finding food growing in the wild in cities and the countryside and playing around with it to create dishes was and still is incredibly exciting. In Argentina I discovered their way of grilling and cooking with fire, whilst in Japan I learnt a lot about presentation. Travelling through Europe and eating at some of the world’s best restaurants I learnt about different flavour combinations.

HospiBuz: After reading about your journey, we personally feel that you have been a risk taker in your career and a tough decision maker about your choices. How do you think toughness, both physical and emotional, plays a role in a chef’s career?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  It’s something that every chef has. To work in high pressure environments with no sleep and in hot, cramped spaces is no easy feat. You have to learn to sleep 4 hours a night, not take breaks and keep pushing yourself. It’s not always good as you often collapse and fall ill, but even then you have to keep going. Emotional strength is equally important as kitchens are emotionally draining – from racism, to aggression to humiliation, it’s all part of a days work.

HospiBuz: A master stroke of yours has been starting a personalised catering service and launching ‘That Hungry Chef’. Tell us a bit about the idea and the inspiration behind it.

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  When I got married in 2013, my wife Nikhat said she wasn’t happy with the hours I worked and that a part-time husband was not what she had in mind. She teased me that she would run away to Brazil if I didn’t do something about it./ Whilst we were on honeymoon, we decided to start a catering and supperclub service and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

HospiBuz: To all the aspiring chefs and to our readers, what sort of advice would you like to give about following their dream and passion, and about how to overcome the difficult times while working towards their goals?

Related imageChef Pratap Chahal:  To follow one’s dreams, you have to first understand that 98% of that journey is not going to be easy. You will be knocked down from every angle but also have the most incredible highs, then just when you think you’re on track, something else will come along and knock you out. You just have to keep getting up and going at it. It’s always good to have someone in your life you can talk to and someone who can console you when you’re stressed and can’t see the light – that’s most important and helps you get back up. More than anything else, you should always make sure you know what lies ahead by knowing your goal and understanding the journey and studying it.

But most importantly, always remember to take a break – even soldiers need to sleep and party or you’ll burn out and your personal life will suffer. In the early days Nikhat used to make me stop working at 9pm much to my protest, but looking back I’m glad she did so I could relax, energise and take a break.

Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!