My mother taught me all the basics of cooking: Chef Bikram Das


HospiBuz:- Chef, please tell us, what inspired you to enter the culinary world?

Chef Bikram Das:- Both my parents being teachers, I always inspired to become an engineer or a doctor. But God had something different planned for me. It was during my school days that we had a cooking club and I was a star performer in the club as I was the one who could roll out somewhat round puris while rest of my club members rolled out maps of the world(LOL). From there my interest in cooking grew. I started to help my mother in her kitchen and she taught me all the basics. I still remember the days when my father used to make cakes at home in a pressure cooker and the taste still lingers on my palate. and slowly started cooking especially by following a recipe book(which at that point in time used to be a free recipe book that we used to get on buying a pressure cooker). After my +2 exams, I decided that Bikram has to be a chef. That how the journey started.

HospiBuz:- Chef, please tell us about your work cycle at Raajkutir Swabhumi?

Chef Bikram Das:-  If you think that a chef’s life is full of cooking day in and day out, you may be surprised to learn what a typical day for a chef is actually like. And especially for a resort property like Raajkutir, I definitely spend time cooking but it involves much more than the culinary arts. After the morning meeting, I generally to the herb garden and veg garden to check the fresh produce of the day. Then I pick up some fresh vegetables from the garden and plan the carte de jour(Menu of the day). They along with my team we get ready for lunch and dinner operations. When operations are busy, I toss up my apron and help clear all backlog orders. The busiest time of day for most chefs is the dinner service. This may last anywhere from three to five hours, and it can be an exhausting shift. Checking emails, reverting to them, getting in touch with all guests, sampling food, etc are a part of daily life. There are days wherein we organize a cooking class and those days are really fun when we have guests across the hotel who join in for these sessions.

HospiBuz:- Different cuisines require different temperature regulation and different infrastructure. Therefore the luxurious hotels have varieties of kitchen regulated by a major kitchen. Please tell us how many kitchens does a hotel generally have and how are they regulated?

Chef Bikram Das:-  A large hotel generally has the following kitchens:

  • All day dining kitchen
  • A Garde Manger Kitchen/ a pantry
  • A couple of specialty cuisine kitchen: For the specialty restaurants that the hotel has
  • In-room dining kitchen
  • Banquet Kitchen: Usually the largest one
  • Lounge Kitchen: Which caters to the executive lounge in the hotel
  • Bakery and Pastry Kitchen
  • A staff cafeteria Kitchen: where the employee meals are prepared
  • A butchery: where all processing of nonveg items takes place
  • A commissary: where all processing of vegetables and fruits take place.

These are the basic requirement for a large hotel and it might increase depending on the type of operations or number of outlets that the hotel has.

Following points are kept in mind while we design kitchen:

  • Flooring: Floors should have adequate drainage with an appropriate slope that is easy to clean and disinfect. The drainage flow should be in a direction opposite to the food preparation area to avoid contamination. The gradient of the drainage is 1 ft for every 100 ft.
  • Lighting: All food preparation areas and food pick up counters should have a minimum suggested level of luminance that is no less than 500 lux
  • Air quality and ventilation: The suggested air change per hour in the kitchens should be no less than 20.
  • Water Supply: Only potable water in all kitchens which shall be tested according to ISO:10500 requirements.
  • Apart from this, there are a lot more SOPs in terms of operations.

HospiBuz:- Luxurious hotels have extravagant breakfast menus. Please tell us how these menus are designed and what steps are taken to avoid food wastage?

Chef Bikram Das:- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s worth the effort to eat a healthy one! We’re here to inspire you to eat a good breakfast every day with this list of our best, yummiest, healthy breakfast items that pack in plenty of great flavors, along with good nutrition. An ideal breakfast usually has the following components:

• Fresh juices:2 fresh fruit juice, 1 citrus juice 

• Flavored water

• Drink of the day: Buttermilk/lassi/cold coffee etc.

• Variety of cut  fruits

• Cheeseboard

• Cereals

• Condiments: dry fruits and nuts,

• Variety of milk: Full fat, skimmed, soy, etc

• Morning bakeries: Toast, croissants, muffins, Danish pastries, doughnuts, etc.

• Cold cut platters

• Yogurts

• North Indian hot dishes: poori sabzi, paratha, aloo bonda, mirchi vada, etc

• SouthIndian hot dishes: A dosa and uttapam station, Idli, upma,pesarattu, etc

• Western Hot dishes: Porridge, baked beans, Accompaniments for egg(tomato, mushroom, potato, spinach, etc)

• Omelet Station

• Waffle and Pancake Station

Points to keep in mind to avoid wastage: 

1. Produce according to house count for breakfast and according to reservations for lunch and dinner

2. Display food in the desired temperature so that if it is left over, it can be reused.

3. Avoid clutter in fridges and rotate stock

4. Smart Menu planning

5. Be smart about serving sizes

HospiBuz:-  Chef, please tell us how important is teamwork in a hotel kitchen?

Chef Bikram Das:-  In the Kitchen Teamwork in the kitchen is a basic requirement as it is the main key of successful performance for anyone who is, going to or will join this most important department of hospitality. Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the team breaks… Each person who is part of the kitchen team is important to the success of the organization. The challenge for a chef is not only to attract young, energetic, talented and focused cooks and support staff but also to identify those who want to work as a cohesive unit and are aligned with the chef’s or restaurant’s philosophy. There are no tasks more important than identifying, selecting, training and building a team of kitchen workers ready to win as a collective unit.

HospiBuz:-  Chef, please tell us, how hotels train the new people in the industry to make them flexible enough to handle various situations?

Chef Bikram Das:-Flexibility has to be constant in all team players and here I mean the chefs. The best are never satisfied to say that they are as good as they can be. Great teams and the individuals who are part of the team are always striving to improve. Even the best cricket teams practice daily on their weaknesses and solidify their strengths.. They depended on him, and he had no intention of letting them down. Every cook and every chef can benefit from ongoing training and the opportunity to learn from others. They should be given the opportunity to send across for a cross exposure to other sister properties. This helps them to widen their view and they then become trained to handle different situation. 

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