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    Chalk and cheese. Thata��s chef Manu Chandra and Chetan Rampal, partners who form the backbone of Indiaa��s most innovative food spots including Monkey Bar and The Fatty Bao. Or as Chandra describes the partnership: as yin and yang. If Chandra, articulate, sharp and brilliant has established himself as one of Indiaa��s youngest celebrity chefs, few know much about Rampal, the quiet back-end specialist. Or know that the partnership is now 10 years strong, forged during early days at Olive Beach Bangalore. During the early Monkey days, it wasna��t unusual to see Rampal behind the bar, quietly helping out making drinks and serving customers. Few recognised him as Monkeya��s boss, though they would react to his wide crinkly-eyed smile.
    Little has changed since. Chandra is a media and society darling, often seen speed-typing on multiple devices or multitasking while burning the candles at both ends. Rampal is the busier
    traveller of the duo, often whisking around 20 days a month to their outlets across India. Hea��s lucky, he says, that his wife is from a similar F&B background and understands the crazy hours.
    Ita��s the differences that make the a�?organically formeda�� partnership work. Says Chandra, a�?Ia��m more of a gut person, I decide a space works or not with one cursory glance. Ita��s up to Chetan and the other senior people to work out costs and structure.a�? Rampal agrees and says, a�?I check if ita��s cost effective, will it work? My role is that of a devila��s advocate.a�? Pioneers of the Indian gastropub concept, theya��ve madetheir culinary dream into the perfect fit for Indian diners, making quirky the new a�?ita�� word. It was an experiment that worked, says Chandra. a�?We couldna��t do a cookie cutter thing from the UK.a�?
    The two often slip into the good cop / bad cop routine by instinct at work with Chandra the self-confessed bad cop. a�?I have strong opinions about things, can be an aggressive boss and rile people,a�? he admits, adding, a�?Ia��m persistent about doing things a certain way. Chetan can soft pedal and soothe. Ia��m gruff at times but not by any mala fide intention. I believe in leading by example.a�? But what when mistakes happen, as they surely must in a space as volatile as the F&B industry? a�?If I make a mistake on my menus, Ia��m the first to scratch it off. I taste my food 10 times over, go into nitty-gritties. I also check every napkin fold, every tiny crack for possible dust,a�? notes Chandra. Rampal, on the other hand, hardly ever loses his cool. I ask him what he thinks of the chefa��s occasional temper tantrums. He laughs. a�?Manu plays the creative role, but one must be practical too. In the end, what we want is similar, and if we are working on a problem, one manages to convince the other,a�? he says. The bonds have been forged over years of slogging long hours and countering numerous catastrophes. Rampal always stays over at Chandraa��s place when in town, bunking in with him and his lab, Rocco. They talk business into the wee hours of the morning. Or watch a movie, the chefa��s favourite form of after-hours relaxation, Chandra with his Old Monk in hand and Rampal the teetotaller, with his Red Bull.
    m firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com


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