1) Who were you before being a Chef? (Starting from your name, birthplace, education and rewards you have received in your culinary career).
VIKAS CHAWLA: Good afternoon everyone. My name is Vikas Chawla. I am the CEO of Core Hospitality Solutions in Chandigarh, India. I am a Chef, an Author and a Consultant for all types of hospitality related matters. I used to cook with my mother when I was just 10 years of age and very soon joined a religious community eating program called 'Langar'. I did my Hotel Management from Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management in Sector 42 D, Chandigarh. I was the part of their first batch to pass out from the Hotel Management course. I got my first job at Domino's pizza in Chandigarh. My main goal while joining them was to pursue a career in international food chains. So after that, I went for an interview where I was expected to work as a driver for a while and after some time, would be allowed to work as a pizza delivery person.
My main focus was to work at an international food chain and did not want to settle in any hotel job. After three months, I got promoted as one of the team members and further as a crew. Later, got an opportunity to work as a core assistant. With my hard work and dedication, I got three promotions in a row, that too in one and a half years. Soon, I entered the international hotel line, worked in the kitchen and finally got to work as a general manager at the age of 26 in one of the biggest restaurant chains in north Indian region named Haldiram Marketing Pvt. Ltd. for 2 years. I headed all outlet operations and base kitchen operations in Delhi region. In 2011, I started my consultation firm where, I get to work as a chef as well as a consultant.
2) How do you feel being in this world of the food industry? (Describing all about your personality, passion and hobbies).
VIKAS CHAWLA: Ever since I started cooking with my mother, I realized this was what I loved doing. Further in life, working at the Langar and serving people made me understand that it was a true passion of mine that I wanted to pursue as a career option in future. Crafting new recipes, adding interesting twist to old recipes and bringing authentic international recipes to home are just a few of my passions.
3) What all are the signature dishes of your kitchen? (Along with the names and the pictures).
VIKAS CHAWLA: My life took a turn for the better when I got the opportunity to work with different cuisines and I dedicate all of it to my mentor, who helped me pave my way into the industry. For a good time, I got to work with Indian cuisines and sweets and also tried my hand out in Indian street food and chat. Now, for last 7-8 years, I have developed great skills in Italian, Spanish and Lebanese cuisines. My dream of working with international food came true but, I still feel inclined towards Indian street foods. My specialty can change with the environment I am in. I can cook almost everything; it majorly depends on the people I am serving. I always strive hard to achieve the most authentic level of a recipe available.
For the people who have not tasted my Indian dishes, lean towards international dishes like pizza, lasagna, etc. and for the people who haven’t tried my international dishes, incline towards ordering dishes like daal makhani, shami kabab, biryani, etc. Very soon, I am planning to start my food chain which will focus upon pav. Pav is a bread prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. It has been a prominent food in many parts of India, such as Gujarat and Maharashtra. My main focus is to promote healthy cooking and I try to propagate such thoughts as much as possible. For instance, when I tried baking cake for the first time, I replaced some ingredients with oats and jaggery powder. Since it turned out well, I also launched it in Allahabad (now Prayagraj). I also tried making cookies from whole wheat flour and jaggery powder.
4) How many chains of kitchens do you have and where (around the nation/world)?
VIKAS CHAWLA: As of now, I identify myself as a consultant and we provide our services in more than 130 cities. I have managed events with a sitting capacity of 500 to 1000 people at a time in major cities in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. These projects matter more than just work for me. I consider them my babies as I have put all my sweat, tears and blood into making them successful.
5) For which cuisine you are basically known? Name that particular dish as well, along with its recipe and picture.
VIKAS CHAWLA: One of my favorite dishes to cook is Punjabi style black daal (kale maah), which can be used in making daal makhani and even Gujarati style dal. This reminds me of my childhood days when it used to be cooked at home every second day. I have a strong connection with Indian street food as well, though I inculcate maximum flavours at home. That could be a variety of Pastas, Pizzas, Salads, North Indian cuisines, Italian, Spanish, Continental and Lebanese which is my most favourite.
CLASSIC LEAVES AND VEGGIES SALAD IN FRENCH VINAIGRETTE.
A classic healthy-salad with high fibre that boosts immune system and digestion. It can be relished at any time of the day. You may add any green leaves and veggies of your choice to make a perfect salad by following these steps. After learning this technique, you will always prefer making salads at home.
INGREDIENTS: FRENCH VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
Extra Virgin Olive Oil.....................6 tblsp
Vinegar (Apple Cider/Red or White Vinegar).........................................2 tblsp
French Mustard Sauce .................1 tsp
PREPARATION OF FRENCH VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
It’s an easy process to make vinaigrette dressing. Take any used / recycled small jar at home (approx 200 to 250 ml with lid). Wash and dry it with a paper towel. Now add 6 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 table spoons of vinegar and 1 tea spoon of French mustard sauce. Tightly close the lid and shake well for 20 seconds. Dressing will turn into a thick sauce by the emulsification of oil and vinegar. Use it on salad as directed. You may store the left over dressing in refrigerator for 15 days and shake well every time before use.
HONEY BALSAMIC SAUCE
Balsamic Vinegar.............................2 tblsp
Cinnamon Powder ...........................1/2 tsp
PREPARATION HONEY BALSAMIC SAUCE
Put honey, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon powder in a bowl and mix well with a spoon. Sauce is ready to be used to drizzle over the salads. Left over sauce can be refrigerated for 15 days.
Salad Leaves..............100 gms (2 Full Cups)
(Ice-berg lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Lollo Rosso, Rocket Leaves).
Micro Greens...............25 gms (Half Cup)
(Beetroot, Celery, Cress, Fennel, Kale, Chard etc.).
Local Grown Greens....25 gms (Half Cup)
(Baby Spinach, Fenugreek Leaves – Methi Leaves etc.).
French Vinaigrette Dressing.........1 ½ tblsp
Honey Balsamic Sauce..................2 tblsp
Boiled Gooseberry (Amla).............3-4 whole
Chopped Walnuts ...........................2 tblsp
Open the ice berg leaves and wash with all other leaves and greens.
Dry on a paper towel or in a salad spinner (Salad spinner is available at crockery stores, which is very useful to immediate dry any washed greens or herbs).
Boil gooseberries in boiling water for 10-12 minutes and slit wedges.
Wash, peel and thinly slice half beetroot.
Place it in a bowl, drizzle French Vinaigrette and mix well.
Cover it and keep aside for 15 minutes to let it marinate.
Chop/crush the walnuts
PREPARATION / ASSEMBLING SALAD
Tear ice berg leaves with hands and place in a deep large bowl.
Add all the greens and boiled gooseberry wedges.
Drizzle 2 tblsp of French vinaigrette over the leaves and mix well with hands.
Now gently lift the dressed greens with a hand and place it in the centre of a serving platter or a bowl.
Place marinated beetroot slices all over the greens.
Evenly throw chopped walnuts and drizzle 2 tblsp of honey balsamic sauce over the salad.
Garnish with microgreen and serve immediately.
SUGGESTIONS / TIPS
You may use any fruit like sliced apples, oranges, pears, peaches etc. to give a new dimention to the salad.
You may also add any vegetable of your choice like blanched broccoli, beans, etc.
Mix the dressing and leaves together just before the serving, to enjoy the crunch in leaves.
Interviewed and Picture Courtesy: Chef Vikas Chawla, CEO of Core Hospitality Solutions, Chandigarh.
Interview taken by: Khatibah Rehmat, Senior Journalist.
Contributed by: Lipika Kapoor.