Chef Saransh Goila is taking his passion project Goila Butter chicken to London, after completing a decade-long successful run in India. Chef Saransh is not only one of the most sought-after chefs of the country today, but he is also a name to reckon with globally, especially after his special appearance in MasterChef Australia. Chef Saransh sat down with us to discuss the first Goila Butter Chicken outlet in London that will be operational soon, his love for cooking, new trends and challenges faced by the F&B sector in the post-Covid world.
1. How did cooking happen to you? Did you always want to be a chef?
I always enjoyed observing my mother in the kitchen. When I was about 12 years old, there was a marriage in our household and no one cooked because of the mehndi ceremony. I was very hungry, and in a desperate attempt, tried to make aloo parathas. I can't comment on its outcome, but that was the beginning of my culinary journey.
And while my father wanted me to get into IT and I myself wanted to be an actor, it was my grandfather who wanted me to be a chef. I gradually realised that it was my calling.
2. For how long have you been planning to expand Goila Butter Chicken outside of India?
I've always believed in the rich culinary heritage that India has to offer and have envisioned taking the aromas of India's gastronomical gems across the world. So when we launched the Goila Butter Chicken...this was a no-brainer! We knew that we were not bound by geographical boundaries and wanted to bring the world closer through the common ground of food. So I've been cradling this dream for more than a decade now and it feels surreal to see it transform into reality.
3. The challenges to open an outlet in a post-pandemic world. Were you nervous to take the leap?
In fact, the pandemic has secured the fate of cloud kitchen formats across the world. Ours is not an outlet but a delivery-only format in London. So, we were not nervous, but extremely excited about this new chapter in the journey of Goila Butter Chicken. The only challenge that we've faced is that we've not been able to physically be around to monitor the operations. It is a tedious task to coordinate with a network of people virtually, especially the ones who you are not familiar with.
4. How do you see restaurants thriving back in business - 3 immediate changes they should adopt to adapt to the 'new normal'?
The pandemic has been harsh on the hospitality industry and many players have unfortunately been unable to weather the storm. Although it may take some more months, I am optimistic about the business owing to the pent up demand among people. Hygiene practices will continue to be non-negotiable. We will see restaurants down-sizing menu to maintain profit margins as the accommodating capacity shrinks as per the guidelines of social distancing. At the same time, we will also see restaurants introduce healthy variations of dishes in the menu to cater to the fear-stricken health - inclined consumers. Also, many hospitality players may switch to full service - catering and cloud kitchen formats to sustain operations, in days to come.
5. What's your personal favourite chicken recipe, other than butter chicken?
I relish my home-style chicken curry which I call 'Gharwali Chicken.' I love it for its simplicity, earthiness and the aromatic flavours from the whole spices that go into it. Moreover, it is real and fuss-free and reminds me of my mom. It's a home-coming dish for me.
6. What was the most difficult professional decision you have ever taken?
Before I set out on my entrepreneurial sojourn, I was working as a chef at The Leela - Bangalore. I felt like a misfit although I had a stable and a well-paying job. The decision to quit that path for a road of uncertainties where the stakes were high, lack of staunch financial support and inadequate operational experience to run a business has been the most difficult yet rewarding decision of my life.
My skills and passion for cooking were the only rays of assurance and hope.
7. The one food trend that emerged in lockdown that you couldn't help but try!
The trend of playing with your breakfast menu has caught the attention of millennials like never before. The idea of scrumptious mornings has gained prominence during the lockdown. In fact, I have also hosted a gamut of masterclasses to show some easy-to-make recipes. That's more or less my morning regime too these days...experimenting with flavours and ingredients to whip up a quick and fun breakfast!
8. Best compliment you have received, and by whom, for Goila Butter Chicken.
This was during one of the pop-ups we had hosted at The Carousel in London. We had one of the patrons who left us a comment that summed it all. It read, "Lived up to the hype!"
As an F&B brand, we are constantly striving to ensure that our dishes are bigger than the creator. So when someone expresses admiration towards the whole experience that too in an alien country, it makes it indeed special.
Our focus has always been on the experience and never the hype...but if the former induces the later, just makes it gratifying and motivates us to keep getting better!
9. One chicken recipe you feel is seriously overrated.
Has to be chicken seekh kebab. Mutton seek kebab any day for me!
10. What advice would you give to home chefs who are inspired by your style of cooking?
Cardinal rules for all the chefs out there - Be true to yourself! Do not replicate a recipe fully. Add your personal touch to it and make it unique to yourself. Your own rendition of the dish will make it a memorable one. For all you know, you may just be able to do more justice to it than the original creator of the recipe. Cooking is an amalgamation of science and art - so experiment and express your inner-self through your food, don't forget to infuse love into it!