The New Order
It is that time of the year when the city is abuzz with food festivals and degustation menus. This week our offerings for culinary enthusiasts include an extensive range of food brands from millennials under 30 who are pushing the boundaries of flavour and creating new market opportunities across the spectrum of food & beverage and hospitality.
This may be your only chance yet to enjoy chocolate as part of all your meals through the day. From chocolate thalis that include spiced paneer marinated in a dry cocoa rub and a cocoa-infused pesto to a 28-ingredient mole, the 26-year-old Arun Vishwanathan is getting bolder and more outlandish with his experiments with flavour pairings. A graduate of Cornell University in Food Science and Technology, this city-based entrepreneur, popularly known as the chocolatier from Coimbatore, has been working within the grassroot communities of cocoa planters in the state, providing them with the technology to create bean-to-bar chocolate, all the while setting up his fusion kitchen, Infusions.
While competing in the growing artisanal chocolate market was certainly on this youngster’s mind when he set up his brand Ganache in 2014, Arun is now working towards creating sustainable food solutions using cocoa and understanding the tastes of the market before opening Infusions to the public in January 2018.
“Changing farmer and public perception towards chocolate is something that I am working on. One of my first projects, after setting up Ganache, was with a banana farmer from Tirunelveli who was looking for ways to extend the shelf life of his goods. The solution that we came up with after some R&D was a dry banana snack that was coated with chocolate,” shar-es Arun, who is pursuing his PhD from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
Equating his success to the simple science of Chemistry, his latest project Infusions looks at pairing up Indian superfoods with chocolate. “People think that eating dark chocolate once in a way is beneficial. You would ideally need at least 30 grams of actual pure dark chocolate for it to be beneficial, which is where the idea of superfoods come into play.” Switching to science jargon, over his reluctance to give us a sneak peek into his menu, Arun says, “Some nutrients need a catalyst for its bioavailability in the body.” Expect to find a gamut of dishes on the menu featuring spices like cardamom, cinnamon and different types of sugar — jaggery and palm, and mock meat.
Apart from his dine-in restaurant concept in the city, Arun retails in Chennai and Bengaluru under his label Ganache and is working on the R&D for an entire range of bean to bar chocolate for the market— artisanal bars that are of single origin beans sourced from India, Mexico, Ghana and Sri Lanka, among others.
Approximately Rs 600 for two.
Chocolate and Such
One misconception that Aanchal Chetan is determined to bust going into 2018 is that traditional French truffles are handcrafted and come with a soft melt-in-the-mouth ganache centre. “Truffles are not hard-centred chocolate-mould candy that many bakers make them out to be,” says Aanchal, talking about her pet peeves. The 27-year-old city-based entrepreneur who launched her brand Chocolate and Such, following her graduation at Le Corden Bleu in London, has become the city’s go-to baker for customised cakes, cookies and truffles (quite naturally).
Offering a range of gateaux, like orange candied hazelnut and salted caramel or the dark chocolate and orange clementine cakes, that are not commonly available on patisserie shelves, this entrepreneur is looking to become a household name across cities by entering the pre-packaged retail space. “We are looking at doing with our brand what Amazon has done with e-commerce. We are currently working on the R&D of our pre-packaged goods,” says Aanchal.
Taking cues from her father’s hesitation on watching her spend hours in the kitchen baking, this psychology major from Sophia’s in Mumbai decided to do the next best thing — create premixes — that would allow her to continue in the food industry, all the while taking into consideration her family’s concerns. Aanchal expects to see the release of her cake mix, florentines and chocolates by mid-2018.
“Surprisingly, almost 70 per cent of my clientele are from the Jain and Marwari communities. We have targeted our cake mix largely at this customer base by making it a vegan mix,” she explains. Another item on her packed goods list is the ‘healthy’ florentines. And just in case if you are wondering whether these sugary treats are healthy, know that the white sugar has been replaced with palm sugar. Expect to find a range of hazelnut, milk chocolate and sea salt and almond, dark chocolate and sea salt florentines that have a shelf life of up to six months.
Closer to the New Year, Chocolate and Such will introduce a special menu for the festive season — spiced biscuit smores, a strawberry, vanilla custard fraisier, clementine and dark chocolate cookies and red velvet jars.
Prices start from Rs 70.
The French Door
Her age may have just been another number to her, but in 2016, when the city got news of Shreeya Adka looking to float a French restaurant, critics were dismissive of a 23-year-old running her own kitchen. A year later, The French Door has over 60 walk-ins a day and is the only restaurant in the city serving up an authentic French bill of fare. And it’s not just about the food, but a complete dining experience from table placements and music to the Bleu de France coloured decor. Having introduced diners in the city to a variety of cheese like Camembert, Edam, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola, Shreeya tells us that she has heard everything from compliments to guests calling out the head chef to tell her the cheese is no longer fit for consumption. “We stick to original recipes and do not Indianise our French cuisine in any way. We once encountered a customer who called for me and said that there was a strange odour coming from the Gorgonzola and that the cheese was spoilt,” shares Sheerya, executive chef of French Door with a laugh.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate who specialised in baking and pastry, it wasn’t until she interned at the Three-Michelin star restaurant Per Se in Manhattan that she decided to make the switch to the culinary department. “Baking is fairly more experimental in terms of getting the temperature settings right. It’s a long, anxious wait until you get to see how your final product has turned out,” she says, adding, “In the culinary department you get to experiment with flavours and a whole lot of different cooking techniques — a lot of which does include baking.” Consider a customer favourite, the Mushroom Consomme with a Pastry Hat — a truffle-scented mushroom stock baked with an in-house pastry.
Besides offering elements of novelty like truffle oil, arugula, microgreens and edible flowers, to name a few, The French Door is warming up to the idea of individual serving portions. “Presentation and plating are paramount to any food experience. A single portion gives the diner a visual experience which is backed up by flavours.” Importing over 60 per cent of her ingredients — lamb from New Zealand, salmon from Norway and pork from Belgium — one can always find the city-based entrepreneur and chef in her kitchen. With a complete overhaul of the menu on the cards for 2018, Shreeya is also working towards a rat-her hushhush dining concept for Bengaluru. And no, it’s not a new restaurant, we learn.
Approximately Rs 1,800 for two.
There’s one common thread that connects most of the cafes and bistros in town — pastries straight from the kitchen of Athiban Shankar. This entrepreneur behind the city-based brand Chocolate Channel has been creating some of the finest Opera, New York Cheesecakes and Mille-feuille in the city. When you dig into the Chocolate Mille from Chocolate Channel you are digging into 10 decadent layers of sponge, rich ganache, and chocolate glaze, each layer measured to a precise 0.5 millimetre. The 29-year-old head chef who graduated from the Culinary Arts Academy, Switzerland informs us that the menu does showcase their finesse in pastry techniques.
Previously having consulted for Kuchi n Kream from July to December 2016, it wasn’t until April 2017 that the Koilpatti-born chef decided to set up his own patisserie. While the over-arching theme of the menu is French, the chef does admit that his previous places of work have inspired his creations. “I worked at Langham Place in Manhattan for a year and then at Tre by Roberto Rella in Dubai. The items on my menu have been named after the people and places they have been inspired by. For example, the original recipe for the Opera was taught to me by Chef Frederic Deshayes and so I have named it Frederic’s Opera.”
As suppliers of confectionary to Red Door, Hidden Fork, La Cafe, Chillum and Cafe Ellar, Athiban and his partner Vikasini Rajeshwari Gopinathan are cranking up production. They recently set up a retail kiosk at Kovai Pazhamudir Nilayam on Avinashi Road and plan on opening two cafes in the city in 2018. “Our larger roadmap for 2018-19 includes setting up cafes in Koilpatti and Trichy,” he shares. Led by Chef Athiban, the entire production and baking is carried out by a five-member team and includes a chef with speech and learning impairments named Somasunderam.
On additional offerings from Chocolate Channel for the New Year, we learn that the brand will be launching a range of flavoured lava cakes for over the counter sales at cafes in the city and kiosks at malls. Look out for their peanut butter, rose milk, orange, Oreo and Nutella lava cakes that will be in stores soon.
Prices start from Rs 150.
From actress Priyamani and her crew emptying out every single tray at the cafe to veteran actor J Livingston making visits for a taste of their pies, Cafe Ababa has already had its fair share of celebs in just the four months that they have been open. Run by 25-year-old Daniel Prince, Cafe Ababa not only serves up some of the best apple pie in the whole of Coonoor but is also managing to convert the local tea drinking crowd into coffee lovers. The secret, we learn, are the coffee beans sourced from Coorg and their staff are constantly on the look out to learn new techniques to improve flavour. “We recently had a barista and cafe owner, Pinocolle Atom from Korea,who helped us tweak our coffee bean mixture to help us get the best flavour of the beans,” shares Daniel.
With over 40 walk-ins a day, the 465 sq ft cafe sees a range of customers from defence personnel and tourists to a rather young teenage clientele. One of the only cafes to open up as early as 7.30 am on working days, this 16-seater coffee house offers a complete English breakfast that includes sausages, ham, salami, bacon, and eggs (scrambled, French-styled, poached and fried among others). Stacked with an identical assortment of cakes, pastries, pies, quiches and tarts, Daniel boasts of his team’s ability to maintain the product’s consistency — in terms of presentation and taste.
Belonging to a family of tailors, Daniel is the first in his family to venture into the food industry, after completing his degree at Maharaja Engineering College, Coimbatore. “Our shop has been around for 80 years. My grandfather was a tailor, and so is my father. We’ve suited the likes of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and Field Marshal Kodandera M Cariappa at our store,” he shares. While the cafe is managed by the IT Engineering graduate, the kitchen is run by Anthony Sajayaraj, former chef at The Culinarium, who has been in the hospitality industry for the last 30 years.
With a fare of both sweet and savoury made without preservatives, Daniel credits his success to fresh-baked goodness and the use of butter. “We are also the only cafe in The Nilgiris that creates custom-made cakes with 22K gold leaf,” he says. Another unique feature of this coffee house is that they are one of the only establishments in the district to accept the digital currency of Bitcoins. “And this was even before the Bitcoin trend became news in early December,” he adds with a laugh.
The brand is currently working towards creating a steady patronage in The Nilgiris with cafes in Ooty and Kotagiri in 2018 before heading to Coimbatore.
Prices start from Rs 130
As good cocktails are in short supply in The Nilgiris, Coonoor was ecstatic when the brand behind the 61-year-old Ramachandra Hotel in Coimbatore and Ooty opened up the district’s only resto-bar — Hopscotch. Helmed by 28-year-old Nikhil Suresh, the 2,000 sq ft bar is one of the latest additions to the Hotel Vivek at Bedford, Coonoor and resembles an old Western Saloon. With at least three live band performances every month, Nikhil is creating a cultural hotspot, ushering a bit of the city life in the otherwise languid town of Coonoor.
“The initial plan was to set up a sports bar where people could come and watch live matches along with family and friends, but we realised that people would prefer to listen to live music and engage in some form of cultural entertainment,” explains Nikhil.
Inviting local bands like Bedford Blues, Ivan Enos, 204 and Benzy Gerlean, Nikhil tells us that there has been an increase in interest in indie music with other youngsters looking for a slot to perform.
While Hopscotch enjoys considerable popularity among its customers, thanks to their signature cocktails — the Hopscotch Hot Toddy, a brandy-based concoction with honey, turmeric, cinnamon and star anise, and the Kiwi Swig—Nikhil is expanding his brand into the hospitality space. Having launched phase I of his resort project — The Realm, the mechanical engineer from PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore is looking at making the nine villa resort fully operational by 2018. “We are also working on a backpacker’s hostel in Coonoor where travellers can stay in either single rooms or shared dorms.” He also tells us that the hostel, which will also open in 2018, will offer meals at an additional price.
A large spread of Indo-continental food to choose from, including Flaming Barbeque Pork Ribs and Demornaytised Chicken Steak (made with a Mornay sauce) with veggie options like the Corn-fused salad — the combinations on Hopscotch’s menu ensure that you’re never left bored. With a special menu brunch organised for New Year Nikhil says, “We are looking at hosting many more theme-based events like the recently concluded cake fest that included a cake building contest and establishing Hopscotch as a brand before expanding further.”
Approximately Rs 1,000 for two.