He’s currying it up!
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
There’s never a daal moment at the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, and as part of their dedication to continuously updating their guests’ experiences,they’ve brought in an Indian chef, Gourav Sharma, who brings his decade plus of experience to their renowned F&B offerings. “It’s a new brand that focuses on a newer lifestyle,” he tells me when I ask him what attracted him to the five-star property in the heart of Langsuan. “They only opened in Bangkok around a year and a half ago, so I’m excited to be here from its earlier days.”
Born and raised in Saharanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, India, Gourav started his training in 2008 in Goa, after receiving his diploma in Hotel Management. Having acquired experience at ITC Hotels, one of India’s most renowned luxury hotel chains, he sought out further opportunities in Thailand, where he joined the team at Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology in 2014, before moving to Anantara Hua Hin Resort for four years. There, he gained experience helping to craft the resort’s à la carte and room service menu, as well as event catering, specifically for Indian weddings. “With my experience in Indian weddings, I’m excited for what we can do here at Kimpton,” he reveals. “We already have an upcoming one booked later this year, and we are carefully preparing personalised menus for events like these.”
Prior to joining Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok in October of last year, Gourav had also gained experience at Haoma, where he learnt how to elevate Indian cuisine, using fusion flavours and modern techniques that he hopes to bring to Kimpton’s refreshed menus. “I’ve introduced new items to Bar.Yard’s menu, including my signature kebabs and Chicken tikka masala, and I’ve also added new items to Craft and Stock.Room’s menu as well as the in-room dining service,” he says. “Around June, I’ll have family menus for sharing, which will include three courses, and appetisers, soups, mains, and snacks; as well as menus for private events and private family functions. These menus include both straightforward Indian cuisine and fusion food.”
He speaks to Masala further about his culinary journey, and what he hopes to (literally and proverbially) bring to the table.
What inspired you to start cooking, and what drew you to joining the industry in a professional capacity?
Everyone usually answers this by saying their mum inspired them, but not me! [Laughs] Frankly, I chose hotel management because the industry was booming right around when I was choosing my professional direction, around 2006-2007. That’s what interested me in the course.
After my training, I chose to become a chef because I already loved cooking, having cooked at home a lot. That’s when I slowly became inspired to try cooking all sorts of food, including fusion food.
What is your speciality – do you cook Indian food from a particular region?
I cook food from all over India, but particularly North Indian food, because that’s where I’m from. My main focus is tandoori food – kebabs and naan. In my opinion, Indian cuisine can be divided into two parts – curries and kebabs. I’m more in the kebab camp, but slowly, I’ve learned to love making curries as well.
When conceptualising a dish, what is the most important element for you?
I like to make classic dishes, but with a slightly different process. The food names may be the same – Daal makhani and Chicken tikka masala, for example – but I will change it up a bit. For example, for the fillings of certain dishes, while mint chutney and ketchup is very popular in India, sometimes I’ll use mozzarella cheese. When you bite into it, the cheese melts in your mouth.
I particularly love tandoori food. My signature dish is probably my Sikandari raan, using a full lamb leg. The other one is my family naan – I use 1.5kgs of dough! I’ll be making a new menu soon using just kebabs and breads, so make sure to check it out!
Indian weddings are a very lucrative business for hotels like the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok. With your vast experience, what do you hope to bring to the table?
I make personalised menu for our guests. If they want any changes, I can accommodate that. Guests are usually happy to have an experienced Indian chef who’s worked in Indian weddings before – and when my guests are happy, I am happy. That’s one of my fundamental values.
Any advice for others in the industry?
This industry is great! I joined in 2007 and back then, the food we made was very normal. Slowly, there have been many different techniques and advances in technology – fusion food, molecular gastronomy, etc. I’d encourage anyone who has the passion for it to join this industry, but you need that passion first. I think Kimpton Maa-Lai is a great place for me to grow as a chef and to try new things, and I’m very much looking forward to what we can do together.