This is a tale of passion…what else can it be for someone who was studying to be a computer engineer, was about to graduate and suddenly decides that it is not the right profession for him. Then takes the leap of faith, follows his heart and becomes a chef.
This ladies and gentleman is Chef Akshay (Khiladi) Malhotra, executive chef, ITC Welcom Hotel Dwarka. Khiladi is not really his middle name but I refuse to call him anything else but Chef Khiladi. Can you imagine just before you are about to graduate in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh you get down from your bus, have a chat with some students outside the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute and realise this is where my heart lies. That really requires a khiladi trait. (The real Khiladi Kumar are you listening? There are not many people who do stunts in real life and mind you, no retakes here). And then we say what’s in a name? I say everything in this case.
After listening to all this I asked the chef about his parents’ reaction, chef tells me with a grin that he was married at that time and that it was his wife, Aditi who supported him throughout. Of course, it’s not without a reason they say that behind every successful man there is a woman.
Chef fondly recalls his student days at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park in New York and quips that those were the best three years of his life. Agreed chef, student days are the best part of one’s life.
Chef Akshay is trained in Western and American cooking and has worked in the United States for 11 years. His first job was at the Ritz Carlton through campus placement. He recently introduced The Goat on the Grill at the ITC Welcom Hotel, Dwarka where you get the most authentic and appetising mutton dishes served in the most continental way. Just to have the right kind of cuts and pieces even the butchering is done in house, so you can rest assured that the portions you get are large and delicious. You can order the traditional chops or the triple lamb chops or if you are in a mood to experiment you could try Red Wine Braised Steamship or Moroccan Double Saddle.
I couldn’t resist the urge to ask the chef about the difference in the dining habits of Indians and Americans (what a comparison? I know) but then for somebody who has spent a decade with the Americans can give an insight view hence my query. Chef Khiladi says, “Americans are experimental. But Indian palette and the American way of eating are two different paradigms altogether.”
On asking him how thinks food and travel are related he said, “Food makes travel interesting and when you travel you experience a lot of interesting stuff.”
Well, well, he might have been trained and worked in the US but the things he has in mind for the only vegetarian buffet at the Pavilion during Navratras will bowl you over. He will be using all the ingredients used in the fasting period during Navratras like Kuttu Ka Aata, Singhade Ka Aata, Samak Ke Chawal, Potatoes and other such stuff and make Chinese and oriental dishes for the people who are fasting during Navratras. I am sure going to try the vrat wala noodles when I fast this time during Navratras, besides other stuff. He tells me that the buffet will be priced around INR 1300 plus taxes during the weekends and around INR 1000 plus tax for lunch and INR 1200 plus tax for dinner during weekdays. This will be offered during the Navratras which begin around 13th October till then you can sample the sumptuous food inspired from the different states of India (Punjab and Lucknow being the favourites).
I am now looking forward to the indigenous and inventive cuisine during the Navratras and till then praying to Goddess Durga so that Navratras come in quickly and I can eat, pray and love (the food of course).