Do restaurants make “The Chefs” or Chefs make “The Restaurant”?
Dining experiences are changing these days with more chef-driven restaurants coming up and a restaurant willing to give it’s customer a complete experience rather than just food or ambience. Chefs are becoming the next stars, with people wanting to meet the chef at the end of the meal, or wanting to click a photograph with them. So chefs are the new celebrities (as I said in my earlier post of Chef Girish Krishnan
) and one such star we met recently was Rishim Sachdeva (the executive head chef of Uzuri)
Uzuri has already made news with the cutest contestant of Masterchef South Africa Guy Clark
being associated as head chef with the restaurant. But Rishim Sachdeva, with his hard work and focus takes it to a completely different level.
A nice rainy afternoon and we were greeted to some warm fresh bread basket with an interesting creamy butter flavoured with paprika and pesto. And of course, some nice coffee… And there walked the 28 year old chef, casually dressed, extremely soft-spoken, and should I mention (Hot!)? Between all the commitments of hiring new staff, phone calls for interviews, talking to his suppliers and reading each feedback form (which he showed to us too), we saw that he had a smile on his face throughout.
Someone who started his first step towards his dream at the age of 16 when he went to London to do his Bsc Honours course, he felt that the course taught him more about “Managing a restaurant” than the “kitchen cooking basics”. So he joined the Hesten Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant as sous chef. Having worked at 4 restaurants in London, of which the first two experiences were mostly old school-french cooking, he had a zeal to get into modern European cooking. Combining African spices with modern European (mostly French) cooking methods, Uzuri offers a lot of options on their menu for both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians.
Rishim, along with his 2 friends Anshu Rastogi and Gaurav Parvani who worked in Front office and Finance in leading hotels in London, decided to come up with this idea of setting up European-African restaurant Uzuri(which means “goodness” in Swahili ) in Delhi. The conception initiated in Nov 2012, and they were firm on opening a stand alone restaurant that offers premium dining products. Rishim gets his spices from a source in South Africa, and is happy that people these days are well traveled and hence, his top sellers at the restaurants are Tenderloin and Pork Belly. On asked, why they change their menu every 3 months, Rishim mentions of the biggest challenge of getting consistent good quality ingredients in Delhi. And so, he makes sure to visit his suppliers in the INA market every alternate day personally to be sure of the quality and availability of products. In summers, when fresh vegetables and meats seem a dream, they import some stuff to keep up the quality of the food they serve.
On asked why the use of African spices, Rishim mentioned that Africa was a port of spices, and hence they have a lot of similarities to Indian cooking. He stresses on the fact that he would adjust a particular dish according to the customer’s taste-palate by serving them with extra dips or sauces, but would never compromise on the base dish as the recipe demands it to be.
He offered us a tasting portion of Mushroom Risotto and the Puy Lentil salad dish that is the talk-of-the-restaurant. Maneesh was offered the Soya ginger pork with fresh roquette and oranges. I fell in love with the salad which has Puy lentils poached in red wine, topped with feta cheese and hazelnuts and a house dressing of honey, olive oil, seasoning and mustard. Rishim also showed us the deck area upstairs which had nice comfort-seating sofas and a huge bar. The outside section was closed due to rains.
And lastly over the extremely innovative dessert of pickled grapes, truffles, chocolate soil and semi-frozen whipped cream combined together on a plate to give a treat not only to the eyes, but also the taste buds, we did a rapid fire round with Rishim:
Your comfort food: All that is in my menu.
Do you enjoy Indian food: Absolutely, but I don’t crave much for it. I normally have Indian food once a week
Biggest challenge working in India as compared to London: Sourcing ingredients/products and manpower, though now my team is set and am happy with the staff
What’s special about Uzuri: We strive to give our customer a complete experience like good food, a smiling server, courteous helpful staff, good ambience, comfort seating etc. It’s a team effort. In fact, a lot of the dishes on the menu are my kitchen team’s innovations and I give them the freedom to garnish or add their own versions that gives them satisfaction.
And so ended one beautiful evening with a young, enthusiastic chef and we want to see more of Uzuri and Rishim in the future! Wish them the best!
Picture courtesy – Uzuri Deck and Dining