In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Chef Davinder Kumar shares how he is promoting young talents through culinary summit and awards.
When you are in school or in college you enjoy eating more rather than cooking. The person who you actually see cooking is your mother and that influences you. That’s how Chef Davinder Kumar got fascinated by the culinary setup at his home. It was way back in 1972 after doing his graduation from commerce he was looking for a professional course and came across a friend of his who was working in hotel industry and got to see the entire setup and was quite fascinated by it. “The culinary profession fascinated me and I was taken aback by the profession though it was not well recognized at that time,” shares Kumar who has been playing with flavours and ingredients for over 45 years. Excerpts from the interview:
Beating All Odds
Culinary profession those days was not accepted in the society as much as it is today. Though, it was a transforming profession. The culinary profession was dominated by masters whose father, grandfather worked in the industry. The proportion of educated verses uneducated was very less. That’s when he joined and the transformation happened. “I catch skill very fast and I found it very interesting for me with amalgamation of lots of hard work, passion, patience and eagerness to grow,” smiles Kumar who is the master brain behind the annual chefs award organized by ICF.
Living Bold and Bloom
It is said that challenges come and go and make you stronger to keep ahead of the game. Adapting to the environment is one of the important challenges that chef Kumar experienced when he joined hotel as a full time job. “I still remember the day one when I joined and I was asked to clean 100 lamp carcasses and went back home smelling the whole night,” remembers the proud chef who has mastered the culinary art and cooking at Le Méridien, New Delhi. For him learning skills was another challenge because one learns the skills to be a good chef and first one has to be a cook. One has to have a vision, commitment to rise and grow and there’s nothing one cannot achieve. “I have always been a man of positive attitude who believed in accepting challenges at every step and with that determination the success came,” adds chef DK whose job was at stake many a times in this five decade journey.
Customer is the King
There is no denying the fact that customer is superior. Over the years guest expectation has grown as they are looking at trend, have knowledge, exposure through traveling, social media, net, and television. For chef Kumar one need to be innovating, deliver what one commits and not befooling guests because customer is well aware of what he has ordered and what is he expecting? “There were many opportunities when I had to serve the dignitaries and these are all challenges in life which makes you stronger and I personally feel that serving any guest and seeing a smile on his face that’s where the happiness is,” he proudly says by adding that chefs’ job is no more cooking as he is a controller, trainer and he generates revenue and is the face of food and beverages.
“Exceeding the expectation of customer is what I feel is important. Comes what may, a customer comes first to me,” shares chef DK who believes that customer looks for value for money, presentation, warmth and service and personal touch.
Promoting Chef as a Profession
“The main objective of Indian Culinary Forum (ICF) has been to create a platform where chefs come and share their knowledge, interact and learn and at the same time our aim is to promote this profession and Indian cuisine globally,” adds chef DK whose aim over the years is educating the new comers in the business. “There are many events where we encourage youngsters, women to come and join,” he further adds remembering that the main objective behind starting this event way back in 2004 was to recognize talent, honour the best culinarian and encourage youngsters to join.
Creating Knowledge Series
ICF is hosting a knowledge summit by changing the module this year. “We are going to take summit to an international level and wanted to showcase the world that chefs can also host the summit. We are discussing some hot topics and also we have got some top speakers and everything is totally done very professionally,” says chef Kumar who is also accolading the pastry chefs this year by including pastry chef of the year as new category in the awards. “It is going to be a gourmet dinner, creating an event where people see chefs working. And, also we are doing a charity lunch for underprivileged children at school on 20th October to celebrate chefs day,” he concludes.
Promoting Indian Cuisine Globally
We all Indian love our food more than anything else. Over the years there are lots of changes as far as visibility of Indian cuisine overseas has concerned. Chefs have created very innovative cuisine and have taken modern Indian cuisine to the next level. “I personally feel it’s changing. Today you do find dishes on the menu other than Butter Chicken. We as chefs do promote regional cuisine; whether it is chettinad, goan, Bengalese. There has been a transformation of food globally. There are few restaurants in London that are serving Indian foods better than you get it here,” points chef Kumar who strongly believe that Indian cuisine needed to be refined and it was due for transformation.