I visited the Conrad Hotel, Ulsoor, for a foodie weekend and had a chat with the famous Chef Praveen Shetty. He has been with Conrad as an Executive Chef for a while and is known for his innovation in Indian cuisine. He is passionate about adopting new culinary techniques like “Pans to your Plate” “Serve Local Serve Global.”
Chef Praveen Shetty started his career in 2005 and has served at both Chennai and Bengaluru Hilton Hotels. BBC GoodFood Awards, 2019 have given him the Innovative Chef of the year.
Chef, you are always smiling. What’s the secret?
I lead a team of 100 chefs, and it is essential to be happy at work. It costs nothing. A happy work area is the best place to perform.
Why did you become a Chef? Something to do with the Surname?
I always wanted to be associated with restaurants and food as I wanted to have a restaurant of my own, but I felt being a Chef would be the first step towards it. So I just followed my passion. My mom did not want me to make this my career, but I was pretty sure, and all supported.
How did your love for food start?
Sundays at home used to be a special day and I used to help my mom with small things; we also had a big stone grinder at home, so we used to help her in grinding sometimes. I think that’s how the love or eagerness towards cooking started.
Who or what has been an influence?
My parents have had a major influence on my life and always remind me of the struggles that they went through to make sure we got the best education. As my mom says, Knowledge is one thing no one can take away.
How much do you rate your love to make food and your love to eat food?
Both are the same because, as a Chef, it is essential to research food, taste it, and obviously make it.
What do you think was your first big break?
On my first break, I think I was blessed to work in Grand Hyatt Mumbai, where I spent my initial 5 years of learning from the hotel and obviously the beautiful city of dreams that helped me dream of becoming a Chef.
Can you tell us more about “Pans to Plate” and “Culinary Studio”?
Pans to the plate is about serving fresh and cooking live; it’s not about storing cooked food and heating it. The Culinary Studio concept, which we launched recently in our Caraway kitchen, is also based on our Pan to the Plate thought process. Where everything is made fresh to order, and you pay for what you eat. Even it Banquets all our food is made fresh and in small batches.
What was the idea behind “Source Local Serve Global”?
Our brand’s luxury experience is tailored to meet the needs of each location within its competitive market. Upon arrival, our guests are transformed by a world that is both globally and locally inspired. Conrad’s style is always authentic, compelling, and innovative — a world where every detail is surprisingly smart. We at Conrad have welcomed the guests with amenities that showcase the local culture and tradition. Be it a Strawberry tart sourced from Ooty, Or Cheese from Kodaikanal, Handcrafted edible chocolates. It’s a way to promote local cultural traditions and promote locally sourced ingredients. We firmly believe in using locally sourced ingredients at all our Food and Beverage destinations in our hotel. Mikusu is our Asian Restaurant where we source the finest seafood for Sashimi from Japan. But all the vegetables, right from Pokchoy to mushrooms and greens, are sourced locally from Ooty and Mysore. Tiamo, our poolside Mediterranean restaurant, features healthy soups, salads, and grills where it is sourced locally, including fresh seafood. Our breakfast at Caraway is completely focused on Local cuisine, right from Benne dosa, Thatte idli to freshly made Mangalore buns; even our coffee is sourced from Coorg.
You recently won an award and have won several awards earlier. But, what do you think is your best achievement?
The best achievement was to have made Conrad Bengaluru the best in the market and get the excellent reviews we get every day.
What is your signature dish?
Many dishes could be Signature, but if I could select a few, then it would be
- Burrata Salad
- Pan-seared scallop with edamame puree and Umbrian truffles
- Awadhi dum ka murgh
- Moode with chicken curry
How did you spend the lockdown?
Initial 2 months, I was alone at home but was frequenting the hotel alternate days as few of my team members were catering to long-staying guests. Also, I took an interest in meditation and did an online course on Sudarshan Kriya by the Art of Living Foundation.
What do you think is the future of restaurants and dining?
I feel the COVID situation has changed the perception of dining everywhere.
If you could cook for anyone special, who would it be?
For Prisha, my daughter, and she always has a list ready that she wants me to make on my off days.
You have served in Mumbai, Pune, and Chennai, and now Bengaluru. Which is your favorite and why?
Mumbai is my favorite because of the pace at which the city functions and the competition is immense; it always keeps you on your toes. But Pune is my Home town, and I studied there, so it has a special place as well.
You have revolutionized Indian food. Was that always the aim?
We have believed in keeping Indian food simple and sticking to the roots. At Indian Durbar, we have Chef Husban Quereshi, who leads the chefs’ team where we serve Royal cuisine food. The chef hails from Lucknow and has started his family restaurant Jehangir in Lucknow. Being from the Qureshi family, renowned in Indian cuisine, he brings lots of passion to cooking. A foodie himself, Chef Husban Nabi Qureshi is on a constant pursuit to find places that serve good Mughlai biryani and Nihari with some famous Indian bread around India. Apart from that, we are going to launch something very unique as Indian Durbar. A 5-course menu paired with the finest wines will be an experience towards Royal Food served in a very modern avatar.
How important is food plating?
Before food plating, the food needs to taste good, and the second thing 40% of the plate needs to be empty it should not be full of food.
Indian cuisine varies wildly by region. Which region cuisine do you like?
Mangalorean cuisine is one regional cuisine I like the most as that’s what I learned from my mom.
What is your favorite non-Indian cuisine?
Italian cuisine, I had the opportunity to work with Chef Alessandro for 2 years, and he was from Genova, Italy. I learned the fine nuisances of the cuisine, and the simplicity in cooking is what I enjoy the most.
Have you been on food experience trips? Please tell us more if you have any.
I had been to Mumbai last year to try out the street food after many years and really liked the Charcoal roasted Khicha papad chaat. One more thing I liked was Charcoal roasted Sweet potato sprinkled with chaat masala and lemon juice. Feels so simple, but both tasted so good. One more tour was when we were planning to do a Manglorean food festival – my team and I went on a food trip, and it was a great experience to visit the Mangalore Bandar and see the fishing trolleys and to try out the food in local homes and restaurants.
Which is the restaurant you will go to on your week off, for some good food and beer? Other than Conrad, for sure.
Being a teetotaler, outings are a family affair, and I visit local restaurants more often. If in Pune I would definitely visit Murlidhar Veg; it’s a Thali restaurant serving for over 60 years in Narayan Peth, Pune. In Bengaluru, I have no specific restaurant as we keep trying new places.
Who is the Sous-Chef at home? You or your wife?
Obviously, Priya, but it’s a rest day for her when I am home.