He had in him the courage to follow his heart and enter an industry that very few would have chosen as a career path at that point of time. But what followed next for Avanish Jain, Executive Chef – Radisson Blu is not just because of his sheer force and luck but also his dedication and passion towards his work that catapulted him to live his dream despite the odds and excel in it.
In a friendly chat with TravelRasoi, the chef tells us of how he developed the passion for cooking and become a chef, the challenges he had to face for becoming one and about his specialty in Asian food that he wishes to promote among Indian food lovers –
How did the thought of becoming a chef come to you?
From the beginning I used to enjoy helping my mother at home. Whenever she used to cook, I was the one who will go to her and ask about the food, help her in the cooking and so on. That’s how the cooking passion started in me. I was a student of Science and my father wanted me to go into Engineering. I prepared for Engineering for 2 years but somehow it did not materialize. I then told my father that I don’t want to go into engineering but pursue Hotel Management. Fortunately I got full support from my family; my maternal uncle and his family did not like the idea of me going into this field though. But my father supported me and asked me to pursue whatever I wished to do.
I did my 10+2 from Rampur, a place near Moradabad and my Hotel Management from Mangalore, which I finished in 1997.
What is the first dish you had prepared as a Chef?
As a chef my first dish was cheese chilly toast. My first job was at Majorda Beach Resort -South Goa (Near Madgaon). I joined there as a kitchen operation trainee and was supposed to go through all the sections of the kitchen. That was how I was trained. I was initially put in the pantry and had taken a la carte orders and learned to make sandwiches and salads. I was preparing myself for a future which I knew would be enriching.
Tell us one experience you remember from your initial days of cooking?
That experience was also in Majorda; my executive chef asked me where I would like to do my specialization. I told that my first preference would be Italian, but unfortunately they did not have an Italian section. So I was put in the South Indian section. My South Indian chef was 6 ft 8 inches tall and was a bulky guy from Kerala. He asked me to be in the hotel everyday by 6 in the morning, grate the fresh coconut for him, boil the potatoes and get all the things ready. I used to be so sleepy at 6 that while grating I used to develop cut marks in my hands. There was a time I could not fold my fingers because of blood on my palms. That was the time I used to think of whether what I was doing had been the right decision. But now I realize that yes, I had learnt a lot from the guy.
Another experience comes from Raj Villas and the chef there was a British guy. Understanding their accent is slightly difficult. He used to stand behind us, while giving us orders. We all used to say ‘Yes’, but hardly any of us used to understand. I was a new employee there and was on 3 months probation. After receiving the orders, you are supposed to acknowledge and start the preparation. Once when his order did not come out as how he had asked, the chef called me to his office and started shouting at me. I got terrified and stood still. But the best thing he said then that ‘when you are going out of office, make sure you are smiling’.
How many years have you been in this profession?
I have been in this profession for 21 years. After Majorda, I joined ‘Ananda in The Himalayas’, which is situated in Narender Nagar (14 kms away from Rishikesh) in the year 1999. That was a new resort that had come up and was one of the biggest South East Asian spa resort at the time I joined. I then joined Oberoi Raj Villas, Jaipur, at the start of 2000 to the end of 2001. After that I joined for a while Hyatt Regency, Mumbai and then I moved to Four Seasons, Maldives in 2002. I was shifted by Four Seasons to Qatar in January 2005 and then went to Dubai somewhere in July/August to join Kempinski. I was there till 2008 and then went to Philippines in January 2009 where I joined The Peninsula. I left in 2015 and came back to India to join Crowne Plaza, Gurgaon. In 2017, I joined Radisson Blu, Faridabad. So it has been just 2 and a half month at Radisson. Here 47 people work under me, out of which 37 are chefs.
While building my career, Raj Villas was one of the best experiences for me. The Peninsula gave me professionalism kind of an approach. While working with Peninsula Philippines, I got an opportunity to go to Peninsula Tokyo and Shanghai. Peninsula is one of the luxury hotel chains in the world and I ideally got to see what luxury is in these hotels. I was handling Asian restaurant there and I got to know what Asian food really tastes like. If given a chance I would love to settle in Tokyo.
What kind of a struggle have you come across during your career?
Becoming a chef is full of struggles in plain words. I am a Jain by practice and being a Jain in the hotel industry itself is a very challenging thing. The first struggle comes in the form of convincing your parents of what you do in your profession. And then at every stage, you face challenges; when I was in Goa I happened to be the only outsider who went to work there. At one point, they all went on a strike; because I being a hotel operation trainee was allowed to eat in kitchen and they had to have their food in the cafeteria. I even got threatened by one Goan working at the hotel. But such challenges only helped me to build my confidence that I can go out of my comfort zone and work in a complete different place.
Again while in Maldives, making the people under me work was a big challenge. They were of the mindset that if a person has come from outside Maldives, then he should act in accordance with the wishes of the localites. Similarly working with Filipinos in Philippines was a major challenge.
Who has been your biggest critic in the industry? Which style of cooking you admire the most?
My wife of course (smirks).
I love dum cooking a lot and I experiment dum cooking not only with Indian food but also with western and Asian food. For instance I had marinated chicken with Asian spices and spread it on a pot of rice and covered it. It got cooked slowly and the rice got an Asian fragrance from the juices slowly flowing from the chicken.
What is your thought on fusion food?
Fusion gives a different feel and texture to the same food we all have. People love it for the reason that they come to know that a particular dish can be prepared in a different style also. People nowadays are travelling a lot and they experience different food habit and style and incorporate the same in their food. In my case, I love mingling Indian and Asian food together. But yes, if you try to do a complete fusion, then it creates confusion.
What is your favourite ghar ka khana and do you cook at home?
Daal-roti is my favourite. While in Goa and working with a Bihari chef, I grew fond of chokha. I used to enjoy that chokha with roti. I taught the same to my wife too. I also love butter chicken in spite of being a Jain.
I do cook but I prefer preparing Asian dishes more at home. My son is a big foodie and he is fond of my preparations.
Any message you would love to give anyone aspiring to become a chef? Any cooking tips you would like to share?
Dedication, passion is the most important thing; without it, don’t think of becoming a chef.
Everybody makes chapattis at home. If you want to have something healthy, use palak (spinach) paste in the dough. This way your chapattis also become colourful. You can also make them into rolls by rolling tossed vegetables into it.
Signature Dish:- KUNG PAO CHICKEN
|KUNG PAO CHICKEN|
|Dry red chilli||20||gm|
|Light soya sauce||40||ml|
|Dark soya sauce||40||ml|
|Chicken thigh boneless||600||gm|
|METHOD||1. Take a bowl to make kung pao sauce add stock water, vinegar, chilli paste, broth, dark soy, light soy, sugar mix together untill sugar dissolve and keep aside.|
|2. Now marinate chicken with egg and corn flour and deep fry it.|
|3. Now take a wok and put on medium heat. Then add some oil and put dry red chilli to give smoky flavour then add ginger and garlic tossed it.|
|4. then add chicken and sauce then bring it to boil.add some corn flour to thicken the sauce.|
|5. garnish with roasted cashewnut and spring onion and serve it hot.|
– Anjali / Samrita