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Kitchen, a place of actions & great aroma- Chef Subroto Goswami

Helped in reviving an Indian restaurant and making it run successfully, Subroto has specialized in opening new five-star properties. He has opened three five-star properties as executive chef. He is setting up standards and specifications as well as implementing the same as per the requirements for different five-star chains along with training the team so that a successful opening of the hotel takes place. In a discussion he describes his views on kitchen as follows.
What is your first impression when you hear the word 'Kitchen'?
A warm place with a lot of action and great aroma.
What is the importance of the kitchen in your day-to-day life?
It provides everyone with sustenance. Helps people in getting a livelihood and is also in a domestic scenario a great “Stress Buster”.
What do you have to say on the gradual development of the concept of a working kitchen when you started your career and now?
When I started the kitchens did not have proper ventilation leave alone air-conditioning. Later the air conditioners came in and kitchens got proper ventilation. Even the other equipment changed into much smarter ones with programmable features and with less human involvement. Also, earlier the skill factor is the only factor that was considered the proficiency of a Chef. However slowly that changed to the Chef becoming a skilled professional who is also capable of managing his team and other aspects like guest handling and managing the business.
What is the most challenging job in the kitchen in your opinion? 
Getting the right person for the right job, and subsequent to that training the person to the set standard of that particular organization. With the duration of a kitchen person working for an organization decreasing at a quick pace, maintaining the standards becomes a huge challenge.
How do you maintain hygiene and cleanliness in the Kitchen?
Training the team on the Hygiene and cleaning process and its benefits. Without them understanding the benefits its next to impossible to ensure a high level of hygiene standards in the kitchen. Also setting set hygiene policies for a particular kitchen helps everyone understand what needs to be done.
Tell us about the safety features of your kitchen. 
Kitchens wherever I have worked have a few very modern features. For example – a fire depressant system that is automatically triggered in case there is an unfortunate incidence of fire. The other system is a gas leak detection system, this also alerts the security team and also gives out a hooter in the Kitchen in case there is a slight gas leakage inside the kitchen. These features help in preserving human life and since they are automated systems, they are fail-proof methods.
Which method of cooking do you pursue in your kitchen, traditional or modern? 
Both, menus are designed keeping in mind certain comfort foods that are made in a very traditional way which imparts a certain aura to the menu. The modern style of cooking is followed for other dishes which have evolved over time. With time though there is certain traditional cooking equipment which we are forced to discard due to regulations and non-availability. For example a “challah”. Its also a health hazard when it is used in a closed environment. So the dishes cooked using such equipment have been modified without sacrificing their basic flavor or taste, however, there will be certain variation which is certainly noticeable in such cases.
Do you have a penchant for using new technology gadgets in your kitchen? Have you added any lately? 
I love some however as mentioned earlier it is not always practical to use them in our environment. Hence they are used more to impart a certain WOW factor and not always to help in the functionality.
Describe the role of the trained staff in your kitchen? Do you face any specific challenges in hiring the desired staff?
In today's environment it is a huge challenge to get trained manpower and also to retain them after training them. There is a constant outflow of manpower and the incoming manpower is not always that proficient. Trained personnel can deliver far better quality and can ascertain better guest satisfaction. which also results in repeated business. Hence the need to constantly train the existing employees to the set standards of the organization. This also makes it very important for organizations to ensure that there are set standards and set recipes to follow, else maintaining quality will be a huge challenge.
Frozen foods are becoming popular now-a-days. What are your views on Frozen Foods?
They are a good substitute for fresh food especially when sometime the fresh ones are not available so easily. However, I am not too much in favour of using Frozen Food. This does not help the local producers as the big food companies then kill the local farmers.
What are the different sources of inspiration that you look up to while designing the menu of the restaurant and buffet? How frequently do you change the same? 
I change my buffet menus every week, and my a la carte menus get changed every quarterly. While changing the menus and designing the same, I usually look at the current trends that are going on and also if some Chefs are creating a noise with their menu. I do not copy what they do, however I always like to understand what concepts they are trying to bring in, I think that is very healthy and helps the industry too. 
What are the essential health and lifestyle trends prevailing now-a-days that you like to incorporate in the kitchen? 
The latest trends that are going on are Keto diet menus and also the focus is shifting more towards Korean and Japanese foods. These are easy on the body and very healthy as they have fermented ingredients and also very light ingredients full of nutrients. Also now the guests are liking various health drinks (freshly made – not bottled) which help in keeping the body hydrated and imparts nutrient value too.
More and more people are becoming calorie conscious. Keeping the statement in mind, what are the dessert trends followed in the restaurants?
The dessert menu is becoming shorter for sure!! However, the desserts are becoming more and more health-oriented, by way of using less sugar and using natural sweeteners like fruit pulps or fruit juices and molasses.
Ingredients play an important role in food preparation. Do you prefer using local ingredients in your preparations? How do you select the vendors?
Yes, I am in favour of promoting local vendors to help sustainability in our society. When I need to look around for some local vendor I usually ask my peers about them. I also visit the local market and try to locate the vendors. 
What are your criteria for selecting the utensils? Is there any specific brand that you use more than others?
Criteria are that they should be easily maintained and cleaned and shouldn’t have any deep edges or sharp corners, since hygiene is a very important aspect. Utensils with heavy bottom are sought after as they help to cook evenly. Storage containers should be able to withstand temperature variations and not absorb any flavours and must also be easy to clean. 
Throw some light on the selection of crockery and cutlery?
Crockery needs to be durable, non-chipping, scratch resistant and washer friendly. Also it need not be too heavy as then the servers will have problem. Cutlery should have a good coating, which doesn't come off easily. On the other hand balance between the look and feel is very important.
Which are the upcoming cuisines in focus?
Korean is a big thing happening now in the Indian Culinary field.
Do you conduct food festivals? How do you decide on a particular theme? Do you think that regional cuisines are a good theme? 
I think regional cuisines always draw a good crowd as people easily identify with them. International popular cuisines are also good sellers. However, if a very new Cuisine or country is done then it requires a good amount of promotion and education for the client. Else the chances are that it might not be a success. Themes are decided based on history and popular feature of that cuisine.
Do you agree that there is a need to change the curriculum of culinary courses in India? 
Absolutely, in culinary courses we are still teaching our youngsters how to make “Poulet Sauté Marengo”!!! However obsolete it might be.
What are your views on framing the curriculum designed especially for Indian food?
There is a need to develop this professionally as there is very little work that has gone into this sphere. Indian food is vast and it requires some standardization to make it global. The tastes are now well accepted globally.
India is extremely diversified where-as its food culture is concerned. What according to you is the scope of popularizing Indian regional cuisines across the globe? 
I said that in my previous quote, Indian Food is well accepted now globally. What we need to do is to standardize the products and market them strongly, like how Italian or Mexican Food has been done. Then there is huge scope.
How do you define your 'Dream Kitchen'.
My dream kitchen should have a mix of traditional and modern equipment with a good amount of space. Here I should not be hesitant to try new things and also come up with actually some great dishes which will then become my signature dish!.

(This story has been published under arrangement from Better Kitchen magazine)


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