“I think Kathmandu is an amazing place with a lot of rich and authentic flavors with a lot of room to experiment for which I am excited.”
The love for food and a passion to cook took Arindam Bahel to many places. Bahel is now working in ‘The Chimney’ restaurant in Hotel Yak and Yeti. He comes from a small town called Ranchi and having a working mom, Bahel used to help his mom while cooking and trying to cook for himself at times which started his love for food. “I did not know that I wanted to be a chef but I started knowing food and how to cook” he said.
Bahel joined culinary school IHM, Goa in order to perfect the craft of cooking, he explained “I learned professional cooking in IHM Goa, then I was trained in Mumbai ‘Orchid’. I became an Executive chef in 2006 and from there I went to San Francisco, Sunnyvale, Jaipur and now Kathmandu”
From being a certified fruit and vegetable carver to working in high end restaurants, Bahel says he is constantly adapting and improving his craft. He explained, “Cooking is all about balance, you just have to find the right amount of everything to carter the customers. Everyone has a different set of palette so finding what is right to every palette is challenging and at the same time it is fun too.”
For Bahel food is a cultural thing, so to capture the culture and essence of what people want is important to him. “I try to conceptualise the dishes before we execute it, how one element can be paired with something else. Right now, it is Dashain season which means good meat, so we are coming up with new dishes.”, he said. Cooking is something very personal to Bahel “When you are passionate about something you do, then the lines blur between personal and professional life. I am constantly thinking about how this food item can be paired with something else, or how can it be made better.” he says.
Being a dynamic professional with 18 years of indigenous as well as international experience in culinary operations and guest service, mastering various cuisines from Indian to international cuisines, receiving many international reviews and appeared in many food shows. Bahel still does not think of himself as a ‘Master Chef’, he said, “I consider myself to be a cook who cooks good food, or at least it try to.”
Working from a range of different hotels and restaurants and catering to a lot of different people Bahel tries to bring in peoples’ culture and a sense of nostalgia in whatever he cooks. “The people look for flavour they are used to, so while cooking in countries like Nepal and India, it is important to capture the essence of what they like. However, in western countries, the flavours are very standardised, like in San Francisco I had the best chicken and it always had the same taste every time. So the flavours differ according to the culture of a country and also the nostalgia it has; I used to have this coffee with my friends while I was studying in Darjeeling, it was the best coffee I’ve ever had. Similarly, people have their idea of comfort food, which is why I feel like food is culture and a person’s nostalgia”, he said.
For the people who aspire to become chefs someday, Bahel says that one needs to be very passionate about cooking and work hard every single day. “If you are in it for the glamour and name, then you are not going to get very far with it.” Having worked in many countries and serving many guests, he describes that the best thing is to have served all the guests in a dinner service and come home tired, “Being worked and tired is the best feeling because it is what you want to do, and at the end of the day it all feels worth it.”
Bahel describes his journey to be very fun and challenging from helping out his mother in the kitchen to going to culinary school then working in many good restaurants and now in ‘The Chimney’, Bahel looks forward to working with the same passion, dedication and efforts.