Indian celebrity chef Saransh Golia feels we can surpass the benchmark set by the international food market by diving inward and deeper. He, however, points out that the problem is we are too busy trying to drive influences from the west.
Author of the food travelogue ‘India on my Platter’, Golia was invited to do a residency at award winning British restaurant ‘Carousel’ in London to showcase his cooking skills. He also appeared in the food show ‘MasterChef Australia’ as a guest judge.
The restaurateur, who is the founder of a popular Mumbai based restaurant ‘Goila Butter Chicken’, recently launched operations in London.
In an interview, Golia shares with IANSlife why he decided to launch a new venture amid the pandemic. He also speaks about the state of Indian cuisine abroad.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted the hospitality industry and why are you launching operations amidst the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has been harsh on the hospitality industry and many players have unfortunately been unable to weather the storm. Although it may take some more months, I am optimistic about the business owing to the pent up demand among people. Certain new trends that have emerged to the surface will reshape the dynamics of the industry.
Hygiene practices will continue to be non-negotiable. We will see restaurants down-sizing menu to maintain profit margins as the accommodating capacity shrinks as per the guidelines of social distancing. At the same time, we will also see restaurants introduce healthy variations of dishes in the menu to cater to the fear-stricken health – inclined consumers. Also, many hospitality players may switch to full service – catering and cloud kitchen formats to sustain operations, in days to come.
Having said that I believe that the pandemic has secured the fate of cloud – kitchen formats across the world. We have realized that there is surplus demand for Indian cuisine abroad and thus catering to the new normal where people are more inclined towards indoor dining, we went ahead and confidently launched operations in London.
While we have attained unit level economics, we aim to be more accessible and widespread and are looking at launching around 100 new outposts by end of 2023. We have already garnered interest from investors across the spectrum who have shown great avidity towards the brand.
Q: What does it take to start a new venture during these trying times?
A: It takes courage and conviction for sure. Additionally, one has to be extremely patient and resilient to navigate through unprecedented hurdles that may come along the way. Above all you need to have a team that helps you realize your vision and dives into your passion to bring alive the end goal.
Q: Why did you launch in London first when you have a fan base in Australia post your stint at MasterChef Australia?
A: The idea of the London launch is backed by the recent Butter Chicken pop-up we had done at The Carousel where we were sold-out in the lead up to the main event. This made the Carousel management and us realize that there is a whole lot of acceptance and admiration for Indian cuisine in the market. And then we were approached by Carousel to understand our plans for the UK market and as fate would have it, in a flash and a heartbeat we decided to partner with one another and not just limit our menu for a particular time frame.
Q: How does the menu look like? What proportion of Indian influences will it have?
A: Creating an unforgettable experience for all Londoners, Goila Butter Chicken deliveries will come with an accompanying Dal Makhani – a comforting, creamy mix of lentils – as well as sourdough naan, developed especially for the London launch and fired in a pizza oven, pickled sweet and sour shallots, coriander chutney and jeera rice. Vegetarians can replace the chicken with paneer, whilst optional extras of each individual element are also available. It will have the true – blue flavors, richness and the aroma of the great Indian culinary heritage.
Q: How do you think Indian food is perceived on a global platform?
A: There are these extreme misconceptions about Indian cuisine abroad – either our food is too hot or it’s diet – busting or unhealthy. In fact, I think Indian food strikes the perfect balance between ingredients, cooking technique and taste that makes our food a lot more nutritious and beneficial.
Q: One of the seasons of MasterChef Australia had a recreation of one of your signature recipes. What do you have to say about it?
A: Oh yes…absolutely! I’ve always believed in the rich culinary heritage that India has to offer and have envisioned taking the aromas of India’s gastronomical gems across the world. We knew that we were not bound by geographical boundaries and wanted to bring the world closer through the common ground of food. So it was nothing short of living a dream!
Q: Who is your role model in the culinary space and who do you aspire to be?
A: Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Chef Manish Mehrotra have been role models. They’ve had early influences in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pick up the ropes of the trade from them.
Q: How do you think Indian food industry can be at par with international market?
A: We can surpass the benchmark set by the international market by diving inward and deeper. The ethos of ancient Indian cooking is extremely rich and varied. It can astound you with its techniques, ingredients and blend of textures that not just elevate the taste of the food but also fosters a sense of well-being. If you learn about ayurvedic cooking you will understand how deeply Indian cooking focuses on increasing the sattva guna of food. Our problem is we are too busy trying to drive influences from the west when our coffers are full with some ancient traditional culinary heritage.