Chef Santosh Choudhary culinary journey has taken him through diverse cuisines, resulting in a unique blend of tradition and innovation that sets him apart
Chef Santosh Choudhary is a culinary virtuoso known for his passion and creativity in the kitchen. With years of experience and a dedication to using the finest, locally sourced ingredients, he has earned a reputation for crafting exceptional and unforgettable dishes that captivate the senses. His culinary journey has taken him through diverse cuisines, resulting in a unique blend of tradition and innovation that sets him apart.
Can you tell us about your background and experience in the hospitality industry?
As a chef, my culinary journey began in my hometown of Gorakhpur, situated in the Uttar Pradesh region, neighboring the culturally rich city of Lucknow.
My professional career ignited in the year 2000, right in the heart of Lucknow, often referred to as the city of the Nawabs.
Over the years, I've embarked on a culinary expedition that has taken me to diverse corners of the globe, including the Middle East and various parts of India. During this exciting journey, I've had the privilege of working with renowned hotel brands such as Clarks, Fairmont, Taj, Radisson, Evolve Back, Hyatt, and a few more.
What truly ignites my passion is the exploration of different food cultures, but my heart beats strongest for the authenticity of regional cuisines. Throughout my career, I've had the honor of participating in prestigious events, including culinary showcases at the G20 summit and the exhilarating F1 races in Abu Dhabi, among others.
I had the incredible opportunity to join a remarkable team, achieving a Guinness World Record for preparing the largest batch of rice and lentils (Khichdi) in a single vessel, weighing an impressive 1995 kg. This record-breaking feat took place in Tattapani, Himachal Pradesh, as part of the Guinness World Records crew.
Furthermore, I had the privilege of serving as a jury member at multiple events hosted by HPTDC. Additionally, my contributions to the culinary world were acknowledged when I held the 22nd rank on the esteemed Hoteliers' Power 25 list. In 2022, I also received the prestigious Culinary Web Aahar Ways Awards in the Dharamshala Region.
What is the distinction between Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine?
Awadhi cuisine is like a beautiful melody of flavors from Lucknow, known for its delicate kebabs and rich, aromatic gravies. It's like a soft, classical music piece. On the other hand, Mughlai cuisine is a bold, grand symphony from the Mughal era, famous for its robust spices and creamy, indulgent dishes. Think of it as a powerful, orchestral composition. Both are wonderful, but they have distinct styles and flavors.
How would you differentiate between Hyderabadi and Lucknowi Biryani?
Hyderabadi Biryani and Lucknowi Biryani are two iconic biryani styles that showcase the rich culinary diversity of India, each with its own special twist.
Hyderabadi Biryani is like a spicy adventure, where the rice and meat are cooked together with fiery spices, creating a bold and flavorful dish that packs a punch. It's known for its 'dum' cooking method, where the meat and rice are layered together and slow-cooked in a sealed pot. The use of grounded aromatic spices like cloves, cardamom, and fiery green chilies creates a bold and flavorful profile. The addition of saffron-infused milk gives it a stunning yellow hue, and the dish is often garnished with fried onions and fresh mint leaves. It's a symphony of bold flavors and heat.
On the other hand, Lucknowi Biryani is a delicately crafted, gentle, fragrant delight. Here, the meat, often tender pieces of mutton or chicken, is marinated in yogurt and mild spices like nutmeg and mace. The rice is cooked separately with whole spices, saffron, and a touch of rose water or kewra essence, imparting a gentle aroma. The two components are then layered together, creating a more subtle, aromatic biryani. It's like a poetic sonnet of flavors, where each ingredient shines with elegance.
In summary, Hyderabadi Biryani is a fiery and bold adventure, while Lucknowi Biryani is a gentle and aromatic symphony. Both have their own unique charm. So, if you like your biryani spicy and bold, go for Hyderabadi. If you prefer a milder, more fragrant experience, Lucknowi Biryani is your choice.
In your role as a chef, what are the key challenges you regularly encounter?
On this culinary journey, I encountered several key challenges in my role as a chef.
One of the foremost challenges is maintaining the consistent quality and taste of our dishes, especially during busy service hours. It's a delicate balance to ensure each plate reflects our standards.
Another challenge is staying creative and innovative to keep our menu fresh and exciting for our guests. Additionally, managing a diverse kitchen team and ensuring efficient operations can also be demanding but rewarding tasks. Lastly, sourcing high-quality, seasonal ingredients and managing food costs in a competitive industry are ongoing challenges. It's a dynamic field, and these challenges motivate me to continually grow and improve as a chef.
Could you share your future aspirations and vision as a culinary professional?
On my culinary journey, I’ve witnessed some profound changes, especially in the wake of the pandemic. It's exciting to see that people have become more adventurous when it comes to food. What's even more exciting is how culinary skills have evolved to prioritize not just satisfying your taste buds but also promoting your overall health and vitality.
Looking ahead, it's safe to say that the realms of culinary artistry and wellness cuisine are destined for a bright future. More and more, we're discovering that savoring delectable dishes can be a prescription for well-being, and perhaps the most enticing one at that, surpassing the need for conventional pills. That is one of my visions, apart from bringing culinary innovation by continuously pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity and experimenting with new ingredients, techniques, and flavor profiles to surprise and delight diners.
Also, we should adopt and promote sustainable practices, including responsible sourcing of ingredients and reducing food waste, in alignment with the growing global focus on environmental conservation.
How has your visit to Nepal been so far, and what assessment do you make of the hospitality industry?
Nepal holds a special place in my heart, particularly because I come from a neighboring country with shared cultural and religious values. I’ve been here nearly three decades ago in Nepal, and I continue to be captivated by the wonderful people, the breathtaking climate, and the profound sense of inner peace that envelops this region and its temples.
The level of hospitality extended here is truly exceptional, marked by genuine warmth and kindness. It's an experience that leaves a lasting impression. Without a doubt, I will be returning to Nepal repeatedly in the future.