‘TV has played an important role in making people aware of cuisines’: Chef Abhijit Saha

Chef Abhijit Saha

Chef Abhijit Saha   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

The chef-entrepreneur talks about his new book, Caperberry The Cookbook, Bengaluru’s food scene and more

Founding director and chef, Avant Garde Hospitality Pvt Ltd, Abhijit Saha, is behind some of the city's well-known restaurants such as Fava, Rock Salt and the modernist European restaurant with a focus on Spain, Caperberry, which completed 10 years in 2019. The celebrity chef who has 29 years of experience, including 12 years as a chef-entrepreneur, in the industry recently released his book, Caperberry The Cookbook. Abhijit sat down for a chat with MetroPlus to talk about his book, Bengaluru's food scene and more. Excerpts:

What inspired you to write this book? Can you elaborate on the process of putting it together?

I had been thinking about writing a book for a long time. Finally, when we realised that Caperberry was going to complete 10 years, I told myself I must think about starting it early. I started four years ago and saw what I had with me that could go into the book. I wanted to create a story that would be useful.

This is one of the projects which is dear to me. It took a lot of time and effort and energy to put this together. I always knew it was difficult to write a book. This is not a recipe book. It tells you a story of over 10 years. So you have to make sure everything is in the right sequence.

We are a modern European restaurant with a focus on Spain, located in Bangalore. That is why the book starts with the story of Bangalore then it talks about my journey in Spain, about the inspiration. And it also talks about the things we have done, how we opened the restaurant how we did training programmes, events and festivals and so on. We also have a good wine list and Karnataka being a wine producing state, even those wines are highlighted.

The idea was that it should be a book which people in Bangalore and India would be proud of. My aim was always to write a book, which would be of the highest quality.

It took us two years to do the photoshoot for the book. We shot approximately 600 recipes, and then chose 100 to go into the book.

Who is the book targeted at?

It is not just for home cooks or people who buy books, but also for young chefs, student chefs and anybody who wants to learn about setting up a restaurant. The aim of writing the book was to give a thorough understanding of how to set up a restaurant.

A lot of restaurants open and close quickly. What are some of the factors that ensure a successful business? The idea of opening a restaurant is exciting. To run it well, however, maintain the quality and keep going in difficult times (because there will be ups and downs) and managing and inspiring the team is important. One must have good knowledge of the subject, an idea and whether the market needs such a concept. Apart from real estate costs, there are a lot of hidden expenses which one may not realise.

How has the food scene in Bengaluru changed from 2009?

It has exploded. Then, there are breweries, QSR (quick service restaurants) and cloud kitchens, and the aggregators such as Swiggy and Zomato.

The excitement of dining in a restaurant or going to a nice bar, cannot be replaced by a cloud kitchen. Going out and eating at a restaurant is a social experience. There has been an explosion of restaurants in Bangalore. The oversupply has led to a situation where there is a lot of predatory marketing. At any point in time, many of the restaurants, are in distress. They want to run somehow and they make offers that are neither feasible or nor sustainable. Social media is creating a lot of awareness, but at the same time a lot of clutter in the minds of people. It is difficult sometimes to distinguish the quality of a restaurant because it could be that the person who is making the loudest noise on social media is the one that is becoming popular. Government rules and regulations don't help sometimes.

So many restaurants are being forced to close, which is not at all healthy for the business. Ultimately, then it will lead to a situation where people would not be excited, and any city that does not have a vibrant restaurant and night life is not worth visiting anymore.

You have been a judge on MasterChef. Have people’s knowledge and perceptions of different cuisines increased?

Yes, television has played an important role in making people aware. With people seeing the back-of-the-house situation, they understand how much work goes into creating some dishes and the kind of pressure people can be under to deliver good quality food.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:33:10 AM |

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