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“I pursued my dream of becoming a chef”
Tuesday, 11 July, 2023, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Chef Kishan Gunjal is an accomplished and highly skilled culinary professional with a passion for creating exceptional dining experiences. With a career spanning over three decades, he has established himself as a renowned chef, recognised for his innovative approach to cooking and mastery of a wide range of cuisines.

Throughout his career, chef Gunjal has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Best Employee and Best Chef accolades at Sayaji. These accolades serve as a testament to his exceptional culinary skills, dedication, and commitment to excellence.

Currently serving as the executive chef at Sayaji Hotel Kolhapur, chef Gunjal has made a significant impact on the city's culinary scene. His ability to blend traditional flavours with innovative techniques has garnered widespread acclaim. He takes pride in serving authentic and delectable dishes that cater to the unique preferences of Kolhapur, a city known for its rich culinary heritage.

When asked about how did he get started with his career as a chef, he said, "I initially started my journey in the hotel industry as a kitchen steward (KST) boy, where I assisted in various tasks. However, I had a passion for cooking, and with the guidance and support of my uncle, I pursued my dream of becoming a chef. I took up an internship opportunity in Bhopal, where I learned the fundamentals of culinary arts and gained valuable experience in a professional kitchen environment."

His experience as an executive chef at the hotel, he shared, "My experience as an executive chef at Sayaji Hotel Kolhapur has been truly rewarding. Kolhapur is a city known for its love for spices and bold flavours, particularly famous for its iconic dish, 'tambda pandhra rassa.' It has been an absolute honour to serve the city and cater to its unique culinary preferences. I have been working at Sayaji Hotel Kolhapur for the past three years, and it has been a wonderful journey of growth and learning. I feel privileged to work with a talented team and contribute to the culinary offerings of the hotel."

He shared some of his popular dishes, and what makes them stand out, "Here are some of the popular dishes that I have crafted:
Paneer Angara Tikka: This dish features marinated paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), giving it a smoky and flavourful profile.
Cheesy Stuffed Tandoori Mushroom: A delectable appetiser where mushroom caps are stuffed with a cheesy filling and cooked in a tandoor for a crispy exterior and gooey centre.
Cheese Cigar Rolls: These crispy rolls are filled with a savoury mixture of cheese and spices, offering a delightful burst of flavours with every bite.
Mutton Kala Masala: A rich and aromatic mutton curry prepared with a special blend of dark roasted spices, giving it a unique depth of flavour.
Tandoori Masala: A versatile spice blend used to marinate various meats and vegetables, infusing them with the distinct flavours of the tandoor.
Hyderabadi Dum Biryani: A flavourful and fragrant rice dish cooked with meat (usually mutton or chicken), aromatic spices, and the traditional dum cooking technique.
Paneer Jangiri: A sweet delicacy made from paneer, sugar syrup, and a touch of saffron, creating a delightful dessert with a soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
What makes these dishes stand out is the meticulous attention to flavours, the use of fresh and quality ingredients, and the innovative combinations that bring a unique twist to traditional recipes. Each dish is crafted with care and creativity to offer a memorable dining experience."

Gunjal's greatest strengths as a chef, "As a chef, one of my greatest strengths is the team I work with. I believe in fostering a collaborative environment where each team member's skills and expertise are valued. Together, we can cater to a wide range of guests and handle large-scale operations, serving up to 1,000 to 1,500 people at a time. Additionally, I have developed strong leadership and organisational skills, allowing me to effectively manage the kitchen, maintain quality standards, and ensure a smooth workflow."

When asked about how he stays updated with the latest trends and techniques in the culinary industry, Gunjal explained, "Staying updated with the latest trends and techniques in the culinary industry is essential to deliver innovative and exciting experiences to guests. I regularly engage with social media platforms, culinary forums, and industry publications to keep myself informed about emerging trends, new cooking techniques, and unique flavour combinations. Additionally, I actively participate in culinary workshops, attend conferences, and network with fellow chefs to exchange ideas and knowledge, enabling me to incorporate the latest culinary trends into my repertoire."

His experience where he had to overcome challenges or adapt to unexpected situations in the kitchen, he shared, "One notable experience was during the Covid-19 pandemic when the hospitality industry faced unprecedented challenges. After the pandemic, as restrictions eased and guests began returning in larger numbers, we had to adapt to the new normal while facing a shortage of manpower. It was a challenging situation for me and my team, as we had to ensure the smooth operation of the kitchen despite the limited resources. Through effective communication, efficient planning, and team coordination, we were able to overcome these challenges and continue delivering exceptional dining experiences to our guests."

His views on what role does creativity play in the culinary arts, "Creativity is fundamental to the culinary arts as it allows chefs to push boundaries, innovate, and create unique and memorable dining experiences. From conceptualising new dishes to experimenting with flavours, textures, and presentations, creativity plays a vital role in elevating the culinary arts to new heights. It enables chefs to bring their personal touch, artistic flair, and imagination to the plate, transforming a meal into a work of art. Moreover, creativity also helps in adapting to diverse guest preferences, dietary restrictions, and evolving culinary trends, ensuring a dynamic and exciting dining experience for all."

On who played an important role in his success, Gunjal said, "I owe a great deal of my success to my mentor, chef Kalidas Patel, who has been instrumental in shaping my culinary journey. His guidance, expertise, and unwavering support have played a pivotal role in my growth as a chef. Additionally, Sajid Razak Dhanani had played important role in my career, has provided valuable insights and opportunities for me to excel in the industry. Recently the support and belief from our managing director, Raoof Dhanani has also inspired me to do something new in the field of culinary."

Some of the things he enjoys most about being a chef are, "There are several aspects of being a chef that I immensely enjoy. Firstly, the ability to create culinary delights and see the joy on guests' faces when they savour the dishes is incredibly gratifying. The feedback and appreciation received from guests are always heart-warming and serve as a motivation to continuously improve. Secondly, the camaraderie and teamwork in the kitchen environment are highly rewarding. Working together with a dedicated and passionate team to deliver exceptional dining experiences is an experience like no other. Lastly, the constant learning and evolving nature of the culinary industry keep me inspired and excited to explore new flavours, techniques, and cuisines."

Gunjal's favourite or least favourite F&B trends, "My favourite F&B trend is the emphasis on healthy eating. I believe that the focus on incorporating fresh, nutritious ingredients and mindful cooking techniques not only promotes well-being but also enhances the dining experience. Creating dishes that are not only delicious but also contribute to the overall health of guests is a trend I fully support."

His future goals and aspirations as a chef, "Looking ahead, my future goals as a chef include training and development of new budding chefs. I aspire to create a unique dining experience that blends flavours and techniques from different cuisines, providing guests with an unforgettable gastronomic journey."

Gunjal's advice for someone who is interested in becoming a chef, "My advice to someone interested in becoming a chef would be to follow their passion wholeheartedly. Cooking is an art that requires dedication, perseverance, and continuous learning. It is essential to cultivate a genuine love for food and flavours, as this will reflect in your creations. Embrace opportunities for learning and gain practical experience in professional kitchens. Stay updated with the latest culinary trends, techniques, and ingredients. Finally, always strive for excellence and never stop exploring your creativity in the kitchen."
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