A menu should be Modern, Trendy and Innovative: Chef Anver Zaki, Executive chef, Hotel Evoma, Bangalore.
Chef Zaki is the Executive Chef at Hotel Evoma in Bangalore. He has 16 years of experience in several of the world’s finest four- and five-star flagship and luxury hotels in India and abroad.
His culinary creations have been tasted and appreciated by famous movie stars and top politicians. In addition to his professional culinary duties, Chef Zaki also volunteers his time for culinary challenges and competitions as a coach and on the jury panel selecting the winners. This includes college student competitions and professional experts.
He has won a coastal food award from the Times of India and got a silver medal at the International Millet Competition organized by the Govt. Of Karnataka. He recently led a team that won the bronze medal in Plating competition conducted by SICA.
He is regularly featured in and called for appearances on television on channels like Suvarna TV, Dighvijay, News 18, TV9 and others. He also participates in celebrity cooking programs. Not only he is limited to this, but he is also covered in Deccan Herald Newspaper.
Chef Zaki is a member of the Chef Panel for Unilever Research & Development Department, India. He is an active member of the World Association Of Chefs Societies (WACS), South Indian Culinary Assosiation (SICA), and Indian Federation Of Culinary Association (IFCA).
Chef also participated in SICA’s Europe Culinary Tour to study the modern kitchen equipment and techniques being used in several countries including Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. Now he is sharing the knowledge gained with other cooking afficianados in our own country.
He is also an expert in pre-opening of customized and modern trendy hotel kitchens and restaurants. This includes menu engineering, kitchen and restaurant layout plans, budget, business forecasting, staffing, food trials, staff training, etc.
Chef Zaki has got a BHM, and a certification in Food Production principles from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, along with a certification in food hygiene from Apex Dubai. He is also certified for Essential Front Line Series from Hospitality e University.
Hospibuz: – It is important to check the food quality and standards to meet the expectation of your customers. What precautions or steps do you take personally to ensure food quality because it is essential for health as well as taste?
Chef Anver Zaki: In hospitality, the guest’s luxury, taste and satisfaction is everything. Long stay guests require home-style food which is something like their mom’s recipe. After all, a recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe. So for serving the same, we need to retain kitchen hygiene and environment, with the right selection and choice of ingredients.
Hospibuz:- A good menu line is the lifeline of any hotel or restaurant. So as a menu planner, what are the key points that you take care of while planning a menu?
Chef Anver Zaki: If you want to be original, then you should always be innovative and creative. So, one should always introduce and highlight their chef’s special signature dishes, because this is something which can become your USP. In the era of a trendsetter, your menu should be modern, trendy, and updated to match and beat the culinary offerings of your competitors. Innovation and creativity should always be there in your menu to keep yourself in a league of your own.
Hospibuz:- In your professional career, you have 5 years’ experience of working outside the country. As a chef, what challenges did you face there in your day to day work? And what challenges are you facing in India?
Chef Anver Zaki: Every country has its own perks and challenges, and we don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges. In our field we face different issues in different parts of the globe. In abroad, the main challenge is manpower. On the same hand, Indian hospitality industry is still struggling with equipment challenges. But we should always remember that challenges come with great victory. I feel very proud that Indian hospitality industry is really flourishing with a decent pace in the global market.
Hospibuz:- What should more changes be made in the hospitality industry in India to make it more impressive? Where is our country still lacking?
Chef Anver Zaki: India is setting new benchmarks in the Hospitality industry at a global level, but key problem is that the attrition rate is very high. Our country is still lacking in the HR process for hotels, restaurants and other travel or tourism related services which need to have better and clearly specified standards to perform even more exceptionally. If there’s something you want to build, but the situation is not supporting, then just find the closest possible way to make it happen. In the end, you will find yourself as a winner.
Hospibuz:- Sanjeev Kapoor has started cooking in the era when males of the society don’t even use to enter the kitchen. His struggles were different. What advice do you want to give to the aspirants of this field?
Chef Anver Zaki: Where there is a will, there is a way, and we are in the 21st century, so gender is not that much of a topic now. In any field, the key to success is that you must be skilled, knowledgeable, innovative and creative. Combination of all these must be brought to bear in the culinary arts. The individual should find that thing in which they are super passionate about, and keep following the same while mastering that particular thing.
Hospibuz:- Being a chef do you have any spices or ingredients as a favorite, which you use most of the time?
Chef Anver Zaki: Every country has its own taste so their citizens. Our taste buds develop according to the things we eat from childhood, or eat in day to day basis. When you are cooking or preparing food on the global level, you must take care of food culture of another country as well. So while cooking Indian dishes, my favorite ingredients are crystal sea salt, black pepper, garlic, cardamom, and saffron. For European cuisines, I go with garlic, basil, rosemary and olive oil.
Hospibuz: – You are very much passionate about cuisine and culinary matters. You have traveled a lot for Europe culinary tours. So what impact does your perfect culinary skill bring to bear in your kitchen, or we can say to your organization?
Chef Anver Zaki: In life, nothing is as important as passion, No matter what you are doing, just be passionate. What I look at it is the eye appetite, plating, and presentation, because Hospitality is all about eye appeal and presentation. While presenting, your main aim should be to impress, not to inform.
Hospibuz:- You have been awarded best coastal food award by Times of India. According to you, how is coastal cuisine different from other cuisines? What is the basic thing one should keep in mind while preparing coastal food?
Chef Anver Zaki: Every cuisine has its own taste, value, and culture. While cooking coastal cuisine or seafood –you must take care that the other ingredients should be mild. They should not dominate the taste of the key or heart ingredient. Before preparing coastal cuisine, one should always study about it in details, should have sense of mother’s recipe, land recipe, location. Get a feel for it, by interacting with the local people and culture. They will help you in knowing the actual taste of the cuisine. Then you eat the cuisine at their homes, then develop your recipe. I have actually done that and received THE BEST COASTAL CUSINE AWARD FROM TIMES OF INDIA.
I am also from the coast, having been born and grown up in the coastal belt in Kanyakumari, and lived on mother and grandma’s coastal recipes since childhood. So it has developed and boosted my coastal culinary skills and expertise to an award-winning level. For this, I must thank my mother and grandma as well.
Hospibuz:- While handling customer’s concern or complaint against your hotel staff you find that your staffs are innocent. Then to whom should you give priority – your staff or your elite customer?
Chef Anver Zaki : In every aspect of life we need to balance the things, and balancing is just combination of better time management and boundary management. It’s totally on you how to handle the situation, as both are equally important for you. So, you need to handle it in a diplomatic manner, so that you should not lose a customer, or sentimentally hurt your staff in the process.
Hospibuz:- Vendors are the pillar of any organization. So, what can a good and proper vendor do for an organization? How do they play a crucial and vital role in the industry?
Chef Anver Zaki: I treat vendors like partners. Vendors play a vital role in running our day to day operations. One should always treat a vendor like your colleague, and keep a good rapport with them by maintaining communications.
Once you will start giving proper respect, then they will also treat you in the same manner and they think of you as a friend instead of a customer. You’ll get the freshest produce and supplies on time, before your competitors, and that too in lower rates. Apart from all this, they will also give you the best quality goods just because of the relationship you have built with them.
It was a pleasure of HospiBuz.com to have an exclusive interview with Chef Anver Zaki.