Chef Sameer who is heading the kitchen and the overall operations of newly opened Roti Rollers, is a walking, talking encyclopedia on all things food. His insightful knowledge on the vast varieties of cuisines within India itself had us as awestruck as did the innovative dishes that came out of his kitchen.
Here are snippets from our conversations with him. And look out for more blog posts with his insightful food gems, coming soon!
- How many years of professional experience do you have as a chef? Please give us a brief introduction on your career path so far.
I have been in the culinary field since 1995, and started off as a Kitchen Management Trainee. The pre-opening experience gave me the wonderful opportunity to explore every possible operation attached to a kitchen, be it cleaning pots and tiles, purchasing, supplier selection, menu building, equipment selection, kitchen designing, recipe development and standardization, cooking, HACCP & ISO 22000, receiving & storage, hiring and training culinary associates.
I have grown through the hierarchy from Junior Sous Chef to Head Chef & Manager of Operations, and my culinary journey has woven through some of the best brands lincluding The Leela Palace, ITC, The Lalit, Pullman, Jumeirah group, Junoon (the award-winning Michelin-star restaurant chain), and Tresind.
2. When did you decide to turn your love for cooking into a career? As a young Indian boy, did you face any taboos?
Being the youngest in the family, I was Mamas and Dad’s pet boy. My mother would always carry me to kitchen and make me sit on the kitchen counter while cooking and talking to me, and I would absorb all the wonderful food aromas with the warmth of my mothers love.
I was always inquisitive about the various spice mixes my mother used to keep in her kitchen. I still use many of her (and my wife’s ) recipes in my kitchen.
My entry into the kitchen was almost by accident – my father whom I adore, filled in the form for Hotel Management, and asked me to appear for the exam and subsequent interview. Before that time I had no clue where I am headed, but I have never questioned my father’s and his decision, so I simply did what he asked me to, and here I am today doing this interview with you.
About the Indian BOY syndrome of our society, my father and mother always taught us that there is no small or lowly work, and I have taken every single aspect of my work with the same honor and love.
3. Tell us about Roti Rollers! What makes this concept unique?
Roti Rollers is unique in its approach towards Indian-Pakistani food. Our food goes to show that our cuisines do not necessarily have to be unhealthy, greasy and heavy.
Roti Rollers presents food in a very healthy way (our rolls are made without using oil). They are well-presented, and enhanced with subtle to moderate aromatic spices. Each come with a very interesting and creative twist e.g. our fries are flavored with a Tamil spice mix, our crispy chicken wings are influenced from Buffalo wings, our Okra is influenced from Californian style fried okra. But at all times, the food remains true to its Desi roots.
4. Your dishes manage to retain the goodness of authentic Indian cuisine while being very acceptable to a global palette. What’s your secret?
Having worked in the UAE for over 6 years, which is a cultural melting pot, it has given me great insight in what is being sought after and acceptable. Since I have always been in the culinary field, every conversation I have with guests have added to the experience in creating the dishes, or making the dishes more acceptable.
5. What’s your take on Insta-Food? Do you think we are losing the essence of great taste to great presentation?
Insta-food is great, one of the prime essence of food is it being eye-appealing too. Many great looking dishes are wonderful on the palate too.
I am not convinced that while making the food look good, taste can be compromised. You need great talent to spoil food (on a lighter note).
6. Who takes the lead in the kitchen at home?
My daughters (8 years and 5 years). They throw great tantrums if the food is not good. Mostly my wife , and sometimes I, try our best to prepare food which pass through our daughters’ palate judgement.
7. What words of advice can you give to aspiring young chefs?
Learn and make your basic knowledge very strong, this will be your building block for future.
8. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be today?
Software professional, I love computers.