Celebrity chef Saby Gorai has no apps on his phone and never eats at a restaurant
Chef Saby Gorai uses a menu to tell a story. And his latest offering, as the celebrity chef from Delhi — forays into Chennai — unravels as a nature-esque trek. Pine forests — thick and dark — loom high above our plates. Upon closer inspection, we discover that the ‘trees’ are in fact saucy chipotle chicken wings fashioned upright on stilts! Moments later, we discover ‘Black Rocks’ crafted from smokey chicken tikka with activated charcoal and black sesame. And then, just as we’re wondering if there is lava around the corner — we shift course. Snow Capped Peaks await us, designed from airy spring roll pockets oozing melted cheddar.
All the while of course — we’re in the heart of the city — at Dank Restobar at T Nagar. Partner Shibu Raj clearly has big plans, by bringing on Chef Saby (who has cooked for the likes of the Ambanis and the Bachchans) as Culinary Director. Apart from a complete overhaul of the previous menu, Gorai also launched a new brunch menu recently.
Coconuts and podi
He might be new to Chennai’s foodscape, but flavours from the South have been an influence for this
celebrated chef as early as age 18. “Right out of college, I worked at a Tamil seafood restaurant in Mumbai,” he recalls. “And I would start my day by breaking about 80 coconuts into 160 halves,” we’re told. This is when Gorai began to develop an appreciation for podis, rasam and our traditionally ground masalas.
We settle in for a chat with Gorai who already has multiple projects lined up for this year, including an underground café for the luxurious Andaz, Delhi, a progressive Asian restaurant in Mumbai and making an entry into the healthcare sector with Max Hospitals. “Most of my ideas come out of airport lounges,” says the 48-year-old who is always on the move, given that he helms 12 restaurants across five cities. Some of the popular names include Lavaash by Saby in Delhi and Byg Brewski in Bengaluru.
Less is more
Ironically, this chef makes it a point not to eat at restaurants himself. Instead, he shares with a laugh, “I invite myself to people’s homes and say: ‘Please feed me’.” This is a conscious choice, we’re told, much like the rest of his carefully curated life that keeps all stimuli and influences (distracting or creative) at bay. This means, no news, no apps, not even TV shows. “I don’t even own a TV,” he surprises us.
In a world that encourages us to consume on overdrive — Gorai shows us that the best prep for a blank canvas might be to become one.
Meal for two at INR 2,000 approx, including beverages.
Millets and minutes
To create pockets of time and prevent decision fatigue — Saby Gorai has a few rules. One, he only wears black, with the exception of a chef’s coat. Two, he doesn’t comb his hair! And three, he eats the same meal for lunch and dinner everyday — millet kichadi. As a healthy practice, we’re told, he also drinks a litre of green tea every morning!