Chef Vineet Bhatia was in town few days ago and I grabbed the opportunity to meet and dine at his restaurant Ashiana located at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel. I had been to “Ashiana” 6 years back and i noticed that the food is much more delicious now .
It was a lunch date with my elder sister and we thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian options. We started with appetizing Gol Gappas (Pani Puri), Non Aallu Samosa Chaat (kind of healthy but maintaining Samosa taste ) ,Dry Gobi Manchurian was perfect in texture and flavor (a tantalizing Indian Chinese appetizer different from the gravy version). Tandoor Paneer was soft and succulent. For main course we opted for Paneer Makhni,Chola Masala and some Dal Makhni along with Laccha Paratha and Tandoori Roti. Overall the food was great however the highlight of lunch was Gulabi Gulab: a delicious dessert ( it had gulab jamun, kulfi and falooda.what a mix-totally loved it). Even Sevian Chocolate Delice was nice to try. For drinks I loved Watermelon Shikanji , Apple Mojito and Indian Tamarind Margarita.
Just after lunch, I interviewed the Chef and the excerpts are as below:
JWD: You had such an amazing culinary journey, can you tell us more about it?
Chef Vineet: I started off in India in 1985. I came to kitchen purely by accident as I wanted to be a pilot. I went for my exam and they said I am too short for it 🙂 This was in Bombay and then I went for textile design but it didn’t work. Thats when I went to Hotel school. During the summer break after training wanted to start with the bar (btw I don’t drink) and went for my interview and they said you are too short for bar and they pushed me in kitchen and that’s how the journey started. I am an Oberoi product, after college I joined them as management trainee & studied with them for 2 years. Worked with them in Mumbai and in 93 I left India for London. I wasn’t allowed to change, wasn’t allowed to create, wasn’t allowed to make the food more appealing in India. So one can say I started my career again in UK in 93. 2004 is when we made a huge mark by opening Rasoi London, that really had set the benchmark for everyone else.
Dubai came up in 2005, Now Indigo is 11 years old. The journey has been great. If somebody asked me 12 years back what was the 5 year plan there wasn’t a plan. The plan was to only to be with family, take care of the kids but here I am today 🙂
JWD: How did the concept of Ashiana come up?
Chef Vineet: Ashiana happened a year and a half ago. The hotel went for a complete upgrade. Sheraton Creek Dubai is one of the first 5 star property in Deira, it’s a landmark property & everyone knows about it. They approached us when the refit happened and told us to do it with our style . The crowd in this area is different from the other side of Dubai. This is the old dubai with a different mindset and our job is to please the end user. The customer here still wants to eat the classic flavours, they still want the masalas, they still want the swaad. We have kept the food very classically focused but much more lighter and healthier.
JWD: Is cookery a science or an art?
Chef Vineet: It’s a blend of both. Once you learn the foundation of cooking you will know there is a lot of depth into it ( research and science): Why do you heat the oil, why do you add spice in hot oil not cold oil? Cooking is a sequence of events which you have to understand as there is science behind it. How do you make it look good and presentable is an art.
JWD: Your advice for inspiring and budding Chefs.
Chef Vineet: Keep it very simple. First you need to learn the basics. The basics are your foundation for growth, once you understand the basics of cooking you can go places. Key is you should have very simple flavors in your dish. Never add too much of flavors; as it becomes complicated and palate gets very disturbed. Buy quality and keep it simple.
JWD: Some tips on making tasty healthier food.
Chef Vineet: Cut down on your fats. Simplest technique is never start the cooking with butter, start it with a small amount of oil and try to use the nonstick pan ideally as it uses less amount of oil straightaway… it cuts downs the fat to half. Butter should be added only towards the end. Lightly toss the food and that’s what makes the food more tastier. You can also use olive oil but olive oil doesn’t go with all kind of food especially Indian food. If you like the taste than you can use it but never cook with extra virgin olive oil it should be only used for salads. Virgin olive oil is purest form of oil.
JWD: Tell us about your future plans?
Chef Vineet: Lots of plans happening in the Middle East and London . Rasoi London is going to close down after 12 years and reopening with a new name.In GCC we are opening our third restaurant in Saudi, Jeddah and one more in Dubai by next year.Second one in London will also open by next year. The portfolio has mushroomed in a very organic manner . I am glad.
JWD: So who looks after your Business?
Chef Vineet: My Wife. She is the boss. She runs the business . She is the backbone and the rock behind it. She is my main full time partner even in the Business. Laughs 🙂