Great food, good friends and fabulous ambience are a cure for most things stressful. Post-pandemic, fine dining will only become bigger and better, says celebrated chef VIKRAMJIT ROY
Fine dining has always been my forte, or so I thought. Working in the kitchen is a high-voltage job, as anyone knows, which requires stamina, persistence and creativity (among other attributes!). To brag a bit, my kitty includes working at the exclusive Taipan at The Oberoi, Empress of China at the Intercontinental, Wasabi at The Taj, Pan Asian and Tian at ITC Hotels, and Din Tai Fung in Taipei. The ultimate high is the guest’s
look of near ecstasy at the first mouthful and the blissful sigh of satiation at the end of a meal. Over the years, I became addicted to this. After having run gourmet restaurants around the world, I was brimming with enthusiasm to offer that one-of-a-kind experience for gourmands in India.
Then Covid struck and it was time for a reality check. ‘Bring the restaurant home’ suddenly became the model. In June last year, we had a devastated team, left helpless without pay and some even without a roof over their heads. This is when we established our first cloud kitchen, Hello Panda, that fortunately went on to become a success.
I have always believed that man is a social animal and continued to have faith in the full dining experience. We have seen that each time the world unlocks, people want to go out and interact with one another in the flesh. There’s only so much Zoom you can take!
So, we began to offer a full-fledged uber fine dining experience at home. We would arrive with our bag of tricks (ingredients, crockery and cutlery specific to the theme of the meal), invade the kitchen, transform the dining room, stir magic into our pots, create art on the plates and serve our clients in their own homes.
Customisation was the differentiator for us, so we did whatever we could: from embroidered guest names on napkins to personalised menus. As word spread, we were inundated with requests from around the country. We travelled from the NCR and Ludhiana to Alibaug, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru to offer such experiences for a minimum of two to about 20 guests.
Our priority was safety and hygiene. It had to be, the times were such. Every employee was tested 24 hours before the event. High standards of personal and social hygiene reassured guests and spoke of our commitment to both health and happiness (the food, of course). It goes without saying that we used only top-quality ingredients. The response we got was beyond our imagination.
This reinforced my belief that fine dining is not going to fade away. This conviction carries through in my latest passion, The Tangra Project, which is Delhi’s first restaurant with a spectacular seamless walk-in bar. The spacious expanse of 3,300 sq ft takes gourmands from breezy brunches to lively, vibrant and high-spirited bar evenings. It is my ode to fine dining.
The concept of fine dining has changed but the idea of it has survived these difficult times. Just as we have evolved in other spheres of our lives from the clothes we wear to the technology we use, fine dining too has evolved. Adapt. That’s the mantra.
The writer is the co-founder at Context.eat. Chef has worked with iconic restaurants. He is renowned for creating very innovative guest experiences at a holistic level with creative gastronomical dining.