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Chef Ashis Rout: I have been working on menus focusing on locavore

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With close to two decades of culinary expertise in hospitality, Chef Ashis Rout, executive chef, Crowne Plaza Greater Noida, in conversation with Express Food & Hospitality, highlights how chefs must focus more on waste reduction than on cost optimisation to ensure seamless guest experience 

What challenges and opportunities did you face while pursuing career in culinary arts?
The culinary industry is really amazing. There is a huge scope to learn every day. Creativity, better career opportunities, travel across the world, getting to learn varied cultures, and learned to be tenacious.
While you are in this profession, relationships are tough and sometimes your parents just won’t understand. The job demands long working hours, you probably won’t even get famous, people or business may not always understand your passion but despite all this, I can’t help but love this profession.

How did you have a check on the F&B costs for the property during the lockdown while also engaging in community services?
A great F&B brand cannot be run by controlling the cost which has unfortunately become a culture these days. When you control cost, you actually compromise on quality (can be ingredients). I focus on controlling the wastage. Doing the correct yield calculation helps to maintain the cost. So, it is very important to have an awareness of controlling wastage amongst the team. It is also very important to educate the team to work like an owner which will ultimately help in having great control over expenses. During the lockdown, we got good enough time to do regular training for the team in regard to how to work like a restaurant owner rather than just a cook.

How are you curating F&B experiences and re-engineering menus for the guests in the new normal?
At this moment the strong focus is on pre-plated food, which I always believed is one of the finest styles where chefs really have to work hard to ensure great taste and at the same time great presentation which was lost in the last few years as there was a strong focus on buffets. I have been working on the menus which are about locavore. At this moment I am not looking at curating the old-style huge list of menus, but more focus will be on small yet rapidly changing menus which will provide great options to the guests while at the same time, the restaurant doesn’t have to hold huge stocks.

What innovative measures have you chalked out to check high degree of safety and hygiene within the team?
The best part of a five-star hotel is that safety has always been the priority (whether pre-covid or post-covid). Looking at the current situation, the dynamics have changed. I never thought that a chef will have to wear a complete PPE to receive ingredients at the receiving bay. We are allowing packaged foods to quarantine for 72 hours in a room before they go to the dry store. Alarm clocks in the kitchen ensure that everyone washes their hand in every 20 minutes. Also, the areas in the kitchen are marked to maintain social distancing.

What would you suggest to the budding chefs keen on joining the industry?
I would like to tell all the young chefs that the situation at this moment is tough but it’s not going to be there forever. This is the time to Adapt and Adopt. The hotel industry is going to bounce back but it might take some time, so have patience. This time too shall pass. This is the best time to sharpen the saw for the busy times ahead.

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