Two new chefs in the city talk about plans and experiments they are working on at their respective star hotels
Working with chocolate
The new pastry chef at Taj Coromandel believes in continuously evolving. “One must always try to experiment, and presentations have to keep changing,” insists Ravi Varma Sri Vatsavai, who started as a trainee at Taj Lands End, Mumbai. Sri Vatsavai has done a short stint with the BJN Group and worked with Taj Exotica, Goa, before signing up with Taj Coromandel. In Chennai for the first time, he says that the pastry shops in the city are doing well, but La Patisserie will offer a lot more in terms of texture and flavour. “I noticed a lot of sponge-based desserts across the city. We will do a lot of layers like fruit purees and fresh fruits,” promises the chef whose favourite ingredient is single origin dark chocolate from Ghana. “Compound chocolate is a commonly used ingredient, but it does not compare to couverture chocolate that is rich in cocoa and melts in your mouth.”
At La Patisserie, Sri Vatsavai has introduced party desserts (think chocolate mousse, mango and mint souffle and tiramisu) that come in small take away cups and cost you just Rs 50. The chef has also created a line of travel cakes (pistachio, chocolate & walnut, orange & marzipan) that remain fresh in the ambient temperature for up to three days. There’s also a pink chocolate shoe (Rs 1,000) filled with macaroons and chocolates for the ladies. But what we’re really looking forward to are the fusion South Indian desserts he is working on. “We’re working on desserts like bitter chocolate coated Mysore pak, coffee flavoured rosogullas and aam papad chunks in florentines,” says the chef, promising to launch these post Christmas (Southern Spice reference). The hotel’s sugar-free desserts, available at all restaurants, will also be getting a few additions, we’re told. For now, we wait to see what colourful treats Sri Vatsavai has in store for the end of the year.
Room for improvement
Yatendra Rawat must have a small book for a resume. The new executive chef at The Westin, Velachery, comes with 18 years of experience with brands like Raffles, Movenpick and Carlson Rezidor, among others. The Westin is known for its healthy culinary offerings like Superfoods and an Eat Well menu, but the property in Velachery has not been getting the attention it deserves, despite boasting restaurants like Sunset Grill, whose rooftop setting offers grills in almost every avatar you could want. And this is what Rawat, who is a month-and-a half-old in Chennai, hopes to change.
Besides promotional events that will rope in chefs from the group’s sister properties, Rawat promises training workshops that will teach participants to cook dishes that the hotel serves. “It will be an experience where guests will cook and dine, and also get to invite their guests to try the food they cook,” he gives us an outline. Willows, their sports bar, will also be having a new set of food and beverage promotions that will aim at drawing in the crowds, while Eest, their Asian restaurant will be re-established as an Indo Chinese restaurant. “There will be a mix of authentic Chinese and Indo-Chinese that the locals love,” promises the chef.
Rawat is also keen on procuring local ingredients to cut down on imports such as micro greens and lettuce. “Of course, it all depends on the quality we get. We have even started growing our own lemongrass,” he says, adding that some ingredients like Japanese seaweed and cheeses will always be imported from their place of origin. “I am also trying to source Valrhona chocolate for our desserts,” he concludes.
— Ryan Peppin