Executive chef, Surat Marriott, Chef Sunil Gangwal’s expertise in North West Frontier and Awadhi cuisines, is unparalleled – be it the use of rich ingredients to create the right mix or adopting unique cooking styles that are essential to the centuries-old cuisine. In an exclusive interview, Chef Gangwal speaks about the dining culture in Surat and why immunity boosters like Superfoods are making their way into menus
How will hotel kitchens change post Covid-19?
Most hotels have adopted safety norms stringently. These norms extensively cover protocols related to safe food handling practices. In addition to this, wearing a mask at all times, frequent sanitisation of surfaces, alternatives to buffets and keeping physical distancing are made mandatory in day-to-day operations. Post Covid-19, the demand for pre- plated food has gone up, guests are choosing a la carte over buffets as they are not keen on being at crowded places. So that is another modification in the food set up.
At Surat Marriott, we have been following “Connecting Safely” module and have included the recommendations from the Govt. of India, the Ministry of Health, and our brand partner, Marriott International’s “We Care” programme on global food safety norms since the non-Covid days.
What will be the challenges in sanitising kitchens and what training is being given to kitchen staff in this regard?
Our kitchens have always maintained high levels of cleanliness and sanitisation right from receiving till the time the food reaches the guest table however, the kitchens are now clinically sanitised using government approved disinfectants. A dedicated “Cleanliness Champion” assists our staff on training on usage of chemicals especially Virex, to ensure no stone is left unturned in safety precautions.
Contactless dining is the future. Your thoughts on this.
Yes, it definitely is the future of dining. Minimising the touch points from the kitchen to the guest is the need of the hour apart from being a value-add service. The same has been inculcated at Surat Marriott, starting from the digital menus in the form of QR codes to contactless payment options. Even for inroom dining, we have eliminated physical menus to avoid contact from one room occupant to the next. The “Connecting Safely” video and extensive signage throughout the hotel reminds guests to appreciate and follow protocols.
Incorporating immunity boosters in menus. Is India ready for Superfoods?
With the ongoing pandemic and no real vaccine in hand, people are looking at ways to naturally build up their immunity. They are being more conscious about the food they include in their diet as well.
Understanding this consumer behaviour, at Surat Marriott we have incorporated immunity booster dishes like spinach and garlic soup, warm lemon and turmeric tea to name a few. Our guests are also presented with an immunity booster welcome drink on arrival in restaurants.
Superfoods like leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, yoghurt, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts and fishes like salmon are foods rich in anti-oxidants and more and more people are including them in their regular diets. The Gen X is aware about their food choices and the impact it has on them. I regularly interact with our guests and as per my observations seven out of every 10 guests are keen on incorporating super foods in their diet, especially in the current scenario.
The dining culture in Surat? The challenges in curating menus for a largely vegetarian/Jain customer base?
Food is an integral part of Surti culture and the people here love to explore new trends in food apart from other things. Our menu at Surat Marriott displays a lot of local Surti dishes like Kadhi, Undhiyo and Thepla. Contrary to the belief, there is a huge demand for non vegetarian dishes like Laal Maans, Purani Delhi ka Butter Chicken and Rara Gosht to name a few.
There are always limited options while designing an all-vegetarian menu and even more challenging in Surat since certain ingredients like English vegetables, imported fruits and herbs are not easily available.
The popularity of North West Frontier cuisine?
NW Frontier cuisine is basically Peshawari cuisine which is popular because of Tandoori Kebabs. The cuisine is known for its simplistic cooking style and bold spices from regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Punjab and various Northern Indian states. The vivacious spread is sure to mesmerise you as it offers irresistible dishes like Kunna Gosht, Dal Lahori, mouth-watering Sandle Kebab, Khadi Kebab and Peshawari paneer tikka.
Your advice to aspiring chefs? –
There’s no alternative to hard-work, profound dedication, commitment and a desire to learn for one to be a good chef. Also, accepting new trends and new technology helps one to be in line with the world. Looking at the current scenario of hospitality, there may not be many instant opportunities for budding culinary professionals. My advice to them is not to get demotivated, start innovating, read up and get exposure trainings in running hotels.