Indian Food & Beverage industry is currently going through a transitional phase. And there are few soldiers working on the ground and making sure that this transition turns out to be positive and progressive.
One of them is Manu Chandra, Executive Chef of Olive Beach Bangalore and Founding Partner of Monkey Bar & The Fatty Bao.
A graduate from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Chef Manu has changed the landscape of pub & grub scene in the country.
Monkey Bar, his first entrepreneurial venture was born out of a need to have a place where he could hang out at, which should not just be a place to meet and drink only. With chic yet quirky interior, Pool and Fussball setup, Monkey Bar aka MoBar, has a ‘fun quotient’ attached to it. Launched in 2012, Monkey Bar, the first Gastropub in the country, has raised the bar for the competition so much that post its launch almost 30-35 pubs have come up in the country with the word ‘Gastropub’ in their nomenclature. He opened up during our free flowing discussion when we met him during the opening of Monkey Bar at Connaught Place.
His interest in cooking began at a young age of 12 but it was fueled when he came across a booklet in his friend’s house which was an information brochure of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He got enrolled at the Hyde Park, New York Campus of CIA after completing his studies in India. It’s there, he mastered the art and got the opportunity to apprentice with celebrated kitchens of New York, including Restaurant Daniel, Le Bernardin, Gramercy Tavern, Café Centro, Jean Georgesand Town and also opened the legendary Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan. He was awarded with a prestigious ‘Sea Food Masters Award’ for the National Recipe Competition in 2002. Post graduating from CIA, he moved to Norway to work with the Michelin starred Chef Eyvind Hellstrom at Bagatelle, well before Nordic cuisine was even acknowledged globally.
He returned to India in 2004 and joined ‘Olive Bar & Kitchen’ in Mumbai then moved to Bangalore after six months to start ‘Olive Beach’. Under him, Olive Beach has won numerous accolades. His entrepreneurial journey began in 2012 in partnership with long time colleague Chetan Rampal and serial restaurateur AD Singh, at the new company – Olive Cafes South Private Limited. Both the brands of the company – Monkey Bar and The Fatty Bao, have received rave reviews from the all quarters. When we asked about why these names were chosen, he told us that “easy Brand Recall and the fun element were the two main reasons”.
We asked him about his views on the recent fad – Molecular Gastronomy. He said, “I was doing it long back in the year 2002 and what people are currently doing is molecular cooking not molecular gastronomy. These theories don’t sell food.”
His food philosophy is very simple. He wants to bring people to good food which should be easy on their pockets. Every one has their own comfort food. So when we asked Chef Manu about it, he said “my comfort food is one which he craves for every day”.
He does not cook at home, but has a microwave, electric kettle which can be used if he feels hungry. He believes in challenging the status quo that is why he has a different menu in all Monkey Bar.
While Chef Manu has been felicitated with many awards and accolades (one of the top 10 Best Young Chefs in the Country by Taste and Travel Magazine; India’s 10 best chefs by Business Times & Food and Nightlife magazine; Golden Star Award for the Most Admired Chef; most promising and talented young chefs in India by New York Times and Time Magazine), we believe he is going to win many more for his business acumen in the near future. We went to meet an excellent chef and came out knowing an intelligent businessman.