New in town: Hyatt Regency Kolkata's brand new Executive chef Vikas Singh has a plan for Kolkata gourmands
While you weren’t paying attention, the city’s leading 5-star property Hyatt Regency Kolkata got a brand new Executive Chef; though chef Vikas Singh has only been here for a month, he is already terrifically optimistic about the city’s culinary scene. Having worked all over the globe, with some of the finest Michelin Star chefs no less, Singh is looking to bring a level of adventure to his new menus. As we dropped in to catch up with him at Hyatt’s Italian fine diner La Cucina, the chef tells us about all that he is planning, over a flawless plate of ravioli.
You’ve been in the city for a month now...
Kolkata was actually where I got my training and my college was very close by; in fact we would come to the Hyatt for our odysseys. And I think the city has evolved enormously.
You’re from Lucknow. Has the city influenced your work?
You know, it’s funny. I was an army kid and a lot of our lives was spent inside cantonments, we weren't exposed to all sides of the local culture. Lucknow, for me, was about kebabs and other popular numbers which we know are staple there, I never looked past that. It was only after I started pursuing hotel management, I realised how rich and diverse the culinary tradition of the city is.
When did you decide you wanted to explore the food spectrum?
So as a kid, my dad would travel around a lot. When he would come home, he would cook for us and I used to do it with him! After high school, I decided that I wanted to do it professionally.
What do you think people are looking for here, in terms of food?
You know, the hotel market is different from the restaurant market; hotels also have a focus on occasions or banqueting. When it comes to the dining culture, I’ve noticed people stick to classic cuisines here and they do want authenticity. I do think people are well-travelled now, so they know what is what and what works for them.
My team here is also very excited about learning and exploring all facets of the culinary spectrum here.
Do you want people to experiment more?
In terms of execution and presentation, yes. Because fusion food can’t always be the answer, there are recipes which do not need a change in creation but in the visual presentation or spectacle.
Are you planning a new menu?
Yes! For all-day dining, I want to stick to comfort food with a touch of local cuisines. For Guchhi, for instance, which is a North Indian diner at Hyatt Regency Kolkata, we want to bring in more Kahmiri numbers, because I don’t see that a lot here, like a Gushtaba or the different kinds of bread. We also have a fantastic Italian chef in La Cucina.
You have a focus on homegrown ingredients…
Yes, we are working with some nearby organic farms which can source our daily supplies. I’ve worked across the world and I’ve worked with Michelin Star chefs, and in the global fine dining culture, people do not compromise, in terms of ingredients, at least. Which makes everything tougher; in Kolkata we do struggle to acquire some of the raw ingredients. But if I don’t get something here, I will not put that one the menu, I don’t want to supplement it with something else because that’s not fair and my team agrees.
Especially when we are creating a new menu, we won’t put something very exotic on the menu, that is difficult to get your hands on. If someone asks me why I don’t put a Chilean sea bass on the menu, I need to tell them that it’s Rs 4,000 a kg; and while the price is not a problem, the issue is with sourcing. If we don’t get it, we can’t possibly replace it with something else.