CULTURE: Featuring Chef Hari Nayak

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Today’s feature post is on the renowned chef Hari Nayak who we collaborated with for the last post. Belleza Moda Magazine had a chance to interview the up and coming chef. His new book, The Cafe Spice Cookbook, is coming out soon so make sure to check it out.

What is your favorite food to eat?
Home-cooked Indian food is always nostalgic and comforting, but other than that I love the big and bold flavors of Thai, Malaysian and Mexican.

What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
I don’t have any such favorites really because I experiment with them all. But I do like to cook green, market driven, local, sustainable and seasonal foods that are available using traditional Indian spices and ingredients.
What is your favorite wine?
It usually depends on what I am eating. I generally tend to lean towards a Pinot Noir in the reds and a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc in the whites.

Tell me about your wine knowledge.

There is never an end to learning about wine for me! I love wine and how beautifully it brings a comfort level to the food if rightly paired. I was first introduced to the world of wines, grapes and provinces during my schooling at the CIA. I followed it up with further studies on wine & food pairing courses at the Napa valley grey stone institute.

Tell me about pairing wine and food.

Pairing wine with Indian Food is tricky and challenging as there are a lot of competing spices and seasonings to contend with. The traditional method of pairing whites with lighter food and heavier food with red does not necessarily hold true for Indian cuisine. The most important rule to remember when it comes to pairing Indian food with wine is that there is no rule! A creamy lamb curry will go equally well with a white as would a spicy flavorful seafood with a medium bodied fruity red.

Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?

Yes – my mentor, Daniel Boulud. I worked for him during my externship at his flagship restaurant. And from him I have learnt priceless lessons of basic culinary skills and kitchen discipline.

What is an example of a fall time menu you would prepare for me?

Fall is my favorite season! It is the season of cozy, comforting one-pot meals. I would prepare a nice earthy meal of:
Butternut Squash soup with Indian Spices
Braised Lamb Shank
Basmati Rice with Mushrooms
Cumin Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Cardamom and Caramelized Apple Tart

If you were asked to reduce fat and sodium in a menu, what would you do to maintain flavor in the quality of the dish?

I would use toasted ground aromatic spices balanced with citrus elements from lime/ lemon and fresh herbs.

What do you do to stay current on new trends?

Traveling is my best learning ground. Apart from that, I go for food festivals, trade shows and follow industry leaders.

How do you test the quality of your ingredients?

I always try and buy from the source locally as much as possible to sustain quality

How involved are you with menu development and overall design?

It depends on client requirements but if I am involved at that level, it is usually my menu, design and styling.

When are you happiest at work?

When I see my customers and guests walk away with a happy smile after their meal, I know that all that hard work has been worth it and it not only makes me happy but gives me a whole new reason to look forward to the next day.

If you were told that your food cost was high, what five things would you look at first?

There are multiple things one can do. The first approach will obviously be to monitor and control wastage along with ordering wisely and staying on top of the product price fluctuations. Additionally, one can also reorganize the menu and also revisit and control the portions. One other helpful approach is to actually share the issue with the team and brainstorm ideas and get their perspective and support on reducing the cost.

What is the average annual revenue of the restaurants you have worked in?

It ranges but on an average it is about USD 5 – 7 Million

How involved are you in the financial aspect of the business?

I stay fairly close to the finances. I work closely with the investors and the financial controllers to monitor the weekly P&L.

For more information on Hari Nayak make sure to visit http://www.harinayak.com and follow Belleza Moda Magazine for more feaetures!

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