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“I was always fascinated by food”
Wednesday, 05 April, 2023, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Executive Chef Kapil Dubey of The Leela Gandhinagar is a highly talented and innovative chef with more than a decade and a half of culinary experience in the hospitality industry. Having worked extensively in India and with many years of international exposure, he brings with him unique leadership skills.

Dubey has worked with leading hospitality chains such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Sheraton in India as well as Dubai, Maldives, and Europe. Prior to joining The Leela Gandhinagar, he was executive chef at Las Iguanas Restaurant in Chelmsford, UK.

When asked about his inspiration, Dubey said, “With my roots in the street food city of Indore, I was always fascinated by food. As I grew older, I developed a keen interest in science too. But I soon gravitated towards food and perused a career in hospitality. Even today, I am inspired by the street culture where flavour is the hero and wins the hearts of millions. Here, at The Leela Gandhinagar, I have had the opportunity to experiment with an array of dishes, as Gujarat has delicacies that have a true potential to appeal to the local audience. One of my most recent experiments that were applauded by a very senior delegation were Risotto-style Gujarati Khichadi using millets and a millet dhokla that was served with edamame salsa.”

On his journey from being a home cook to a professional chef, he said, “To be honest, I was not only a home chef but also an outdoor chef, which meant that every time my friends and I took trips, I became the official chef of the clan. I have a lot of memories from my younger days where I cooked for my friends when we were off to picnics and treks in my hometown. My friends would always tease me when I strived to get the exact flavour and texture, even when we were trekking in the middle of the Aravalli Mountains. And here I am now, a professional chef who still strives to achieve impeccable flavour and texture irrespective of where we are serving the meal, which could be in the comforts of our restaurants such as Diya or Citrus Junction or even at outdoor terrains where we cater themed dinners.”

On being a proud dad, he shared, “On a professional front, I have had multiple occasions to serve a list of dignitaries across the globe during various assignments. But I think I was the happiest when, during the lockdown, my daughter came up to me to coax me into starting a cooking channel on YouTube with her, and now the little one has taken a keen interest in cooking.”

Dubey’s insights on some of the biggest challenges he has faced and overcome, “In the world of culinary, there is no such thing as a small or large challenge, which is why missing a pinch of salt in a dish can be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome at times. And cooking additional food for a large batch of 500 guests can also be a cake walk at times. So all we need to remember at all times is the presence of mind, and patience is the key to success for a culinary professional.”

On being a chef, he said, “Being a chef is always exciting. The world of culinary helps me innovate and sharpen the creative side of mine; it keeps me on my toes and motivated. During one of my previous stints, I was experimenting with salmon flavours and then happened to create ‘Salmon Gravlax with Coffee Dust', a unique explosion of flavour and taste on the palate that lingers long.”

When asked about how he stays up to date with food trends and techniques, Dubey explained, “In today's world of technology, I am certainly keeping tabs on all trends via the internet. But over the years, I have devised a technique for trying out some of these innovative ideas and concepts so that I can register these flavours and textures. But I certainly must applaud the efforts that a lot of my fraternity put in to create these trends and surprise and delight guests.”

On being a successful chef, he said, “In my earlier days, I was a part of a very famous Italian restaurant, where we had a very supportive chef who would allow us to experiment a lot. One fine evening, when I had some time at hand, I experimented to create a "dessert pizza," which was loved by my chef. We later went on to introduce it to our regular menu offering, and guests loved it a lot.In my opinion, creativity is at the core of the culinary arts, and without creativity, one will have a very boring and mundane work life. Personally, my passion for cooking and creativity is what keeps me going.”

His long-term goals as a chef are, “Culinary is an art, and I am an eternal learner of this art. And similar to art, I hope to keep evolving and growing as a student of this art.”

About his journey so far, he said, “In my journey spanning over 20 years, it would be unfair to name a couple of individuals, but certainly my entire team at all my stints has been the architect of my success and contributed immensely. As you are aware, hotel operations, and especially culinary as a department, cannot operate in isolation. For us chefs, to create any magic, we must have many artists working behind the scenes, from our purchase teams to my grade manger chefs to our service teams, who all work tirelessly. And I personally owe every applause that I receive to all of these heroes with a cap.”

Dubey’s advice for someone who is interested in becoming a chef, “In my opinion, the new kids on the block are very well informed and aware of things. My only piece of advice would be to maintain their enthusiasm and creativity, as there is no quick way to success, and the more patient they are, the more they will achieve.”
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