An interview with Chef Gautam Mehrishi, Corporate Chef, Sun N Sand Group of Hotels.
In a candid chat with Franchise India, Chef Mehrishi talks about the current menu trend, the new gastronomy and the menu tweaks restaurants apply.
What is the current food and beverage trend in the industry?
I think the current food & Beverage trend is mostly global. With the advent of foreign chefs becoming entrepreneurs, the Indian chefs are also inspired by the same; they are not thinking linearly which used to be the case because not too many things used to change in food and beverages industry in India. Since the last five years the thought process has been quite exponential and with the advent of technology and globalisation things are changing and Indian cuisine is picking up and is becoming global like butter chicken masala. This dish has now become the national dish of U.K and I think within the next five years Indian food is going to make a mark as Chinese food has marked around the globe.
What menu tweaks are you planning?
There are lot of things we are applying. There are two things which you face as a chef- first is presenting your cuisine to the world because you get people from all around the world to your hotel plus keeping in mind their nationality to give them a local taste of their food so that they feel welcomed in your country. So, the challenge is diversified. It has two faces and it is very difficult for us right now as a chef, as the entrepreneurs of the food industry, to cook with the challenge of availability of new ingredients and teaching new techniques to the newcomers.
What is the reason for drop in sales at Indian restaurant chains?
I think the reason is about not having too much of R&D and not too much of developments which need to happen in terms of making Indian brand a very big brand. People try and experiment and when they are not very much successful they give up; I think that’s the biggest reason. We as Indians chefs and entrepreneurs, as financiers, should take much hope, have much faith and belief in our own cuisine. I think we can be seen at any level in the world and that’s what we are missing right now. I think it will come slowly.
How can technological advances be smartly integrated to increase the efficiency and profitability of a restaurant?
There are a lot of things that technology does for food. There are a lot of software available around the world which tell you about your food, which tell you about whether people like or dislike your food. The big part of technology is social media; the web portals; where people connect and comment about foods and experiences they have at so many places around the globe. So, whenever we develop a new product we need to be so advanced that people know about our discovery. For the past 10 and 20 thousand years people in the world were thinking linear but with the advent of technology; with the computer stepping in; we have started thinking exponentially. That’s where technology steps in. What a computer can do today in 2013 will give you a nine million option for 1000 dollar investment whereas ten years from now in 2023 it will give you a 90 million option for 100 dollar investment. So, that’s the option when technology is growing. The food industry is of course creating new things but, having said that, we need to incorporate the latest technology into food manufacture and production and bring it to an exponential level.
Please explain something about supply chain management in your hotel Sun N Sand Group of Hotels?
Supply chain generally depends on local vendors and not too many people around the globe have been very successful in India. Because of the import laws so stringent and the Govt. Policies not being favourable to import, I think the biggest challenge is there. The biggest challenge is fresh produce in this country. What happens is we tend to look at things which are not very seasonal and we do not concentrate on seasonal products. The other challenge is from the farmers point of view, farmers produce good vegetables but it is not handled properly- out of 100 percent growth 43 percent is consumed by the hotels, restaurants and food producing organisations while the 70 percent of the product is not handled properly. So, it does not reach to the consumer properly and that has to be checked properly.
How can a restaurant achieve supply chain uniformity in product, price and services?
There is a tender program that every hotel does but we need to be very stringent. People think and worry too much about the cost when buying a product without concentrating on the quality because things are not handled properly. The quality goes down every day and with the advent of inflation. With the advent of the rupee going down people think that it does not affect the farmer and agriculture industry but I think it affects the agriculture industry in a big way. Once it is sorted out by the policies at the backend for the farmers or the growers, the produce can be brought to the user in a very fresh form. Therefore, handling the farmers has to be made really very comfortable for they are the people who produce the products and goods out of which the user is going to produce the super dish or menu.
What all did you witness in your journey in the food industry?
It has been 17 years since I have been related to the food industry and I have witnessed three four phases of the food industry. The first phase was very linear with not much to change. Then suddenly came the phase where things started changing with the advent of foreign chains and international chains stepping into India; some of them becoming successful while some unsuccessful. They all of taught us about global food. Then came a period when people in India started going abroad and started bringing technology, food trends in the industry. The next phase saw people in India carrying their own brand, food technologies and food experiences outside India. Indian chefs and Indian restaurant are making mark, getting accolades and I have seen all that and hope to see a lot in next 10 years.
What are the criteria that a restaurateur should look in a chef?
I think the biggest thing that a restaurateur should look in a chef is passion. If he is passionate and little bit crazy about foods he’s the right choice.
How do restaurants communicate their use of ingredients to guest-organic, natural and allergy sensitive in menu?
I think today’s menu has clear cut demarcations. Earlier we used to have symbols depicting less spicy, spicy, green mark for vegetarians and red for non-vegetarians. Similarly, now we have started asking customers about any specific allergies, any specific health requirements or challenges, any specific ingredients that they do not prefer or not prescribed medically to them. Apart from that we train our servers and chefs consistently about how allergies and challenges about health are very important in today’s time. One dish cannot cater for everybody. So, training and more training is the answer.
Please tell something about the new Gastronomy in In-hotel?
I think the new gastronomy is more of chef dealing cuisine; there is nothing pertaining to one cuisine. It could be simply north Indian, south Indian, Italian, and many more. It’s more about experience of a chef, what they can create depending on local availability, seasons, customer taste and type of market they are catering to. All these things today have been put together to contribute to a menu.
What is the hot trend and what is upcoming trend in F&B industry?
I think today’s hot trend menu is divided into two: the quick and fast foods. By quick and fast food I don’t only mean a burger or a sandwich. I mean one that is a more relaxed food which has become like a degustation menu. I think the next trend is going to be the menu driven by the customers. I tell menu development should not be one sided; it should be a push-and-pull strategy. It has to be a stage where the producer pushes and while the market pulls. This will be a trend in future.