Imagine a 12 year old preparing 30-odd ‘Aloo ke Paranthe’ and serving them to his family. Many would have found it hard to believe but those who have seen it themselves can actually discern from that child’s abilities of what a great chef he would be one day. And that is a real life experience that has been shared with me by none other than Saransh Goila himself.
A young, down-to-earth, good-hearted, jolly but a resolute and a strong personality – that is how I will best describe Saransh Goila, the chef and author of the popular food travelogue ‘India on my Platter’ fame. His unwavering determination to succeed despite the odds he faced in the early part of his career is something we all can draw an example from. It’s this firmness and his sheer belief to do something big in life from a very young age resulted in his success and becoming the person he always wanted to be.
How does a festival like this fit into your chef journey?
I do a lot of food festivals. So this is a major part of my job – interacting with people offline, understanding their views, their way of cooking, talking to housewives and taking their feedback of whether they can relate to whatever we show on TV to their everyday cooking styles. So you happen to establish these kind of connections when you are visiting these festivals. For me festivals like this are very important.
As a chef I personally believe it is my responsibility to help people who are trying to take this food festival culture ahead. We need more of these events in India and that’s what the need of the hour is. So absolutely I had to be a part of this festival.
Where did you learn to cook and what is the first dish you have prepared as a chef?
I took my first formal culinary lessons from IHM Aurangabad. I got my BA Honours in Culinary Arts. So I was trained to be a chef. The first proper dish I had prepared as a trained chef was spaghetti Moilee which also became my signature dish then. So Moilee is a south Indian curry and it became one of my trademark dishes when I was applying for my jobs. And it went on to become an instant favourite with the chef who selected me.
As a chef what do you have to say about the upcoming food industry in India?
Regional food is on the upswing and is going to be the trendsetter. Serving regional authentic food in a new format with innovative concept is what is going to be the latest trend in this industry.
How many years have you been in this profession? How has been the journey like?
Professionally it has been 10 years. I went to IHM Aurangabad in 2005 and 2008 was when I graduated. My first job was with The Leela, Bangalore. There I was working with the Indian restaurant Jamavar. My front office manager selected me to host a Christmas event. And that’s when I realized of how good I am on the stage. I decided to use that skill of mine to do more creative things. I left the hotel 3 months after that event and went to Mumbai, where I took an acting course. I learnt to face the camera and be more confident before it. My aim was to be one of those chefs who could develop content along with food for TV and web. And with this my new journey started. When I returned to Delhi, I opened a catering company as I was not getting any opportunity. For two years I ran that company but deep inside me my dream of doing a TV stint was still alive. When things did not go as planned, I shut my company down and was planning to go to the States to do a course in Food Journalism, when one day I came to know that my visa got rejected. But there was no regret because soon after I got a call from Food Food. I never had to look back after that as everything started falling into place. So that is how I got my first TV opportunity.
What is the first dish you have prepared?
I was 12 when I first prepared ‘Aloo ka Parantha’ for my family. At home everyone call me ‘Anshu’and after everyone came to know of my culinary skills, they used to say ‘Anshu ke haath ke parathe khane hai’. I remember those 6 years before I went to college, whoever relatives I went to visit, I was surrounded with a general request to make aloo ke parathe. I was fortunate to have picked up these things while I was still a kid.
What is your thought on Fusion Food? What is your favourite Fusion Food?
I think Fusion is cool because not everything can be authentic as there are so many things you have added to the cuisine. Like today we add tomatoes to every dish we prepare and so it becomes a fusion. Fusion starts at a basic level and then it goes higher. For instance, lots of people like tossing pasta in Makhani sauce. Some people may call it blasphemy but for me its can be done, there is no harm in trying it.
I do a lot of Indian Fusion but that happens to be more of regional fusion. I might take a curry from South India and mix it with ingredients from the East. So that is the kind of inter-state Fusion I enjoy.
What do you have to say about the nutritional and healthy quotient in Indian food?
When you prepare food at home, its 20% healthier than what you have outside. Barring people who go on diets, we Indians like to have good food, which is tasty. But how much hard we try, we cannot get rid of carbohydrates or fats in it, little amount of it gets consumed in the regular food we have. However you can take some precautionary steps – like when we make Moong ka Halwa, you need a lot of oil to roast the Moong dal. But after roasting it, you can strain out the excess oil which will make your dish less oily. Cooking methods can thus make a big difference.
What kind of struggles did you face at the beginning of your career?
The biggest obstacle I faced was in 2011 when my VISA got rejected and I had already shut my company down. I was beginning to have this thought within me that I did not want to be just a chef inside the kitchen but I wanted to be somebody who develops food content, appear on YouTube and TV and become a known name in the industry. I eventually earned name and fame but it took me 3 years to make my mark in the industry. Since I was living off my parents’ money even then, I consider that phase as the toughest part of my life.
Can you share any experience from your initial days?
I remember this incident from my childhood days, during the wedding of my ‘Chachu’. It’s at that wedding that I made those Aloo Paranthas (remember I told you at the beginning). There were 30 odd people and it was 2 AM on the Mehndi night. Since everyone was hungry, I volunteered to make paranthas, which surprised everyone because I was just 12 then. The halwai had left some boiled aloo in the fridge and I could also find some ‘goonda huwa ata’. I knew where the spices are kept in the kitchen and I also knew what masalas my mother used to add to the Aloo Parantha dough. I and my ‘Chachu’ together made 30 Paranthas that night. It’s an incident me and my family would never forget because it was at that point everyone came to realize that being a 12 year old, I could actually cook.
Which style of cooking do you advice – Indian or continental?
Given that I am an Indian chef, I prefer Indian style of cooking. I like pure ‘desi khana’, and so I like to call myself ‘sadak chef’.
Which is your favourite ‘ghar ka khana’?
I like Sindhi Kadi Chawal, which is a traditional dish of Sindhis. My mom is a Sindhi and she prepares it in an authentic way.
What is your Signature dish?
My signature dish is Goila Butter Chicken. It’s my version of Butter Chicken and have named it after my name.
Any advice you would like to give to anyone aspiring to be a Chef?
It’s absolutely a fantastic time to be a chef, it just cannot get better. This is the time when chefs are being looked upon as artists and not just skilled labour. You can command lots of respect. I understand it’s a tough industry; shifts are endless, you will have to work for 12-14 years. But I am very sure hotels will eventually start paying chefs enough, that change will surely come.
– Samrita Baruah / Anjali Sethi Joshi