On creating the wow factor with Indian flavours

On creating the wow factor with Indian flavours
Courtesy: Sekhar Abraham Photography

Jomon Kuriakose recently became one of the UK’s youngest Executive Chefs of a luxury hotel when he was promoted at The Lalit hotel in London.

In this Big Bite Series, we hear from this talented chef from Kerala who has been cooking up magical dishes at the historic venue in the heart of London. Kuriakose has impressed judges and viewers alike on ‘BBC Master Chef’, has been named among the UK’s 100 Most Influential Malayalis and is an active contributor with the British Malayali community over the years.

Q

How would you describe your role as Executive Chef at The Lalit, London?

A

It’s an absolute privilege to work at such an esteemed landmark in the heart of London. My duties include running of the kitchen operations on daily basis, liaising with F&B Team, closely working with suppliers with ordering daily products and seasonal availabilities and organising the kitchen team for daily operations.

I do enjoy handling effective guest correspondence and creating a wow factor in food and those small fine-tuning in dishes according to the guest preferences, makes a huge impact on their feelings. Enhancing presentation of dishes is one my main highlight at work that I find passion in. I ensure my kitchen is safe to work in terms of Health and Safety within the team, and all these as a cocktail together drives me to be more motivated and productive to the team and myself.

It is important to manage food cost, waste management and to ensure delivery notes are accounted for, and most importantly ensuring food safety and all temperatures are accurately recorded.

Some other aspects include:

  • Innovate high tea which is our USP for the hotel.

  • Create new menu on quarterly basis.

  • Enhance & innovate food menu as per guest demand.

  • Love to organise and conduct cooking master classes.

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Q

What are some of the highlight dishes on the menu at the boutique hotel?

A

Pumpkin steak, which is influenced by a Kerala dish called Errissery; Tandoori Lobster served with shrimps theeyal; and Tandoori lamb chops. And, of course, authentic dishes like Butter Chicken, Dal Baluchi, Rogan Josh and Pan Kulfi or beetle nut infused ice cream.

Q

Please share your own foodie journey, which brought you to The Lalit.

A

At the age of 15, I aspired to be a chef. I literally fought with my parents to join a Hotel Management School. My parents believed the profession of a chef is a disgraceful job in society, and I believed I would change that because, to date, nothing makes me happier than the enticed, thrilled and gratifying smile from my guests.

I always pushed myself to experiment, research and learn more about Indian cuisine and the hidden gems of local ingredients. I wanted to shout to the world that true dedication and hard work can take a typical village boy to fulfil his dreams and a life and heights of opportunity he never imagined.

The love for food is what bought me so far. I appeared in BBC’s ‘Celebrity Master Chef 2018’. I have got an opportunity to teach at the Hammersmith and West London College, where I hoped to study. This was a dream come true. I couldn’t study at the college 12 years ago, as my circumstances did not permit it. But I have no regrets today as I got a chance to teach in the very same college.

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Q

Do you feel Indian cuisine, specifically Kerala cuisine, is well appreciated and known in the UK?

A

Indian food is well appreciated in the UK. But this is mostly influenced by the northern side of India. When it’s come to Kerala cuisine it still needs to be uplifted a lot. I am trying to be an ambassador for my own local cuisine in this land of my dreams.

Q

Are there any misconceptions that you feel need addressing?

A

When people hear about spice, they assume the food tastes hot. What is spice? It’s an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavour food, eg cloves, pepper, or cumin.

When you hear about spicy it could be the chilli or hotness in the taste. People do get confused about this aspect.

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Q

What do you feel motivates you as an Indian chef based in the UK?

A

I do normally go and meet most of my diners. I even customise the food and flavours according to their needs depending on my busy service.

I would like to share an experience of feeding the needy. It was during my visit to India, I got an opportunity to visit an old age home, where a family is taking care of nearly 400 homeless people. I cooked a meal for them. They were expressing their love with tears of joy and thankful smiles. Their hugs touched my heart beyond feelings.

It was one of the memorable days in my life, the happiness I experienced is immeasurable. I realised then that cooking is not just a skill but a blessing from heaven above. Their happiness and love were beyond words.

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