Good food and cafes grab the top charts of everyone’s bucket list. While most of us hunt, some are busy creating them. Meet Ashish Singh Chandel, a Restaurateur, Chef Consultant and the Founder and Owner of “Desi Cafe”, Agra.
Ashish grew up wanting to be an Aeronautical Engineer but life opened doors to a culinary journey and he hopped on the bandwagon to embrace success!
Starting his awe-inspiring journey from Radisson Blu GRT, Chennai, he has also worked with some of the best in the F&B Industry.
Growing up in a picturesque village in the foothills of Vindhya Mountain, he made it big with his cafeoverlooking the Taj Mahal. With an amazing eye for detail and innovation, Ashish has concocted fusion cuisines and has travelled all over the world for their inspiration. Read Ashish’s story of quirky food inventions and more in this immersive interview with Storiyaan.
Questions and answers
Coming from a farmer’s family, how did heritage and your upbringing influence your career path as a chef and the food you wanted to cook?
Having a family background in farming, I was familiar with the cooking ingredients from a very young age. It brought a first-hand experience of cooking wonderful dishes with fresh veggies. This has had a positive influence on my career choice.
During your grooming as a Connoisseur at Radisson GRT Chennai, what turned out to be the most daunting aspect of the training?
We had to train for 8 hours followed by 12 hours of work. There were chefs of various specializations and we had to incorporate every aspect of their training which was the most daunting task for a newbie.
Rising the ranks in the foodservice industry can be unforgiving and uninviting for newcomers. What was your experience as you pushed through your career and what inspired you to persevere?
My goal was to become the best at what I do. I had the desire to create something new and bring newer recipes to the table. I aimed high from a trainee to the Executive Chef and pushed myself with the dream to achieve my target.
Is there an influential person whom you particularly admire for creating positive change for people who work in the food business?
In my experience, every person I have worked with has infused a unique blend of thought into the food business. My first boss taught me to admire cooking skills without judging people on their social position. Moreover, I learned that cooking is an art that can be performed by anyone if they have an affinity for it.
Your blogs entail several well-researched articles that prove to be informative for those aspiring to and already working in the food industry. Can you disclose your research methodology that leads to such well-researched blogs?
My blogs are a product of my experience and expertise. Hence, I don’t employ any additional research for them. I write about the necessary skills or ideas that will help a person sustain themselves in the competitive Food and Service industry.
What inspired your blog “Quinoa and kale!!A poor man’s food!!” and what can be some substitutions for them?
The high demand for nutrition-rich food makes quinoa and kale the perfect food items. In India, we can substitute Quinoa for brown rice and Barley and Kale can be replaced by mustard leaves.
What turned out to be the most indulging aspect of being the Managing Director of “Desi Cafe”?
As the Managing Director of Desi Cafe, I am gaining experience both as a chef and a businessman. My entrepreneurial skills have drastically improved over time and I have also noticed a significant change in my professional demeanour.
What is your strategy for dealing with co-workers who do not necessarily agree with your style of working in the kitchen?
Usually, I am lax with the cooking styles and firm on the quality of food and the punctuality of the serving. If at all, disagreements arise, we communicate about our techniques and evaluate them before implementation.
You have toured 53 countries in your stint overseas. How do you think your cooking has been influenced by these visits when exposed to the local cuisine and what is some of the dishes that has evolved as an impact of the foreign local cuisine?
The local cuisines have a lasting impact on my cooking as I blend them in my dishes to create a wonderful concoction of Indo-western dishes. Some of them include Red Wine Kheer and Rasmalai Mousse. This adds a whole different taste and quirk to traditional recipes.
How have you had to pivot to respond to COVID-19 for your businesses and how did that affect your customer base?
Although the covid induced lockdown affected us, we prioritised masks, sanitising and strictly adhered to the guidelines. Therefore, several customers were satisfied with our services in the post-lockdown period.
- The strangest thing you’ve ever eaten – A dish called “Balut”, in the Philippines which is a fertilized egg
- The ingredient that turns you off the most – Stale or dull garnish
- One celebrity you would like to cook for – My customers and my mentors as they are celebrities to me
- One dish you have always struggled with – Naan or Rumali Roti
- One cooking tip– Use your head, hand and heart for cooking.