Chef Vijaya Baskaran is the Executive Chef and in charge of Food and Beverage Department at Le Meridien, Bangalore.
Chef Vijaya Baskaran is the Executive Chef and in charge of Food and Beverage Department at Le Meridien, Bangalore. He is the Vice President of Indian Federation of Culinary Associations and a ‘WACS Certified Chef’ by World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). The Chef has an experience of over thirty-five years in the food industry. Prior to Le Meridien the overly experienced chef had worked with Atria Hotel, Taj group of Hotels, and ITDC Hotels.
A gold medalist from the Hotel Management Institute Chennai, Chef Baskaran was awarded Chief Minister’s Medal for having stood first in the hotel management course. He is the proud receiver of IFCA National Culinary Leadership Award 2012. He is an IFCA Chef of the Year 2008 – at the 4th National Culinary Congress Hyderabad in 2009 and a receiver of Golden Hat award from South India Culinary Association. The chef has been featured in books – ‘25 of India’s biggest chefs’ by Dr. Sagrika Ghoshal, and ‘50 master chefs’ by Saffron Media. The chef had an honored experience while catering for Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi at an international event held at IISc Bangalore.
Hospibuz:-La Brasserie overlooks a beautiful swimming pool at the property; in your opinion how significant is the ambiance when it comes to the business and sales growth? Does the setting arrangement in any ways affect the recipes available or serving style of the menu? How should the menu be redesigned in order to match with the ambiance?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-The ambiance no doubt plays a big part in restaurant business today and the dishes and styling of food obviously have to match the settings. Le Meridien Bangalore has been in business for over 30 years and La Brasserie has a style that’s mélange of traditional and contemporary dishes. Menu apart from featuring International fare has a good selection of local traditional dishes too. There isn’t any set rule as to how you match up the menu and ambiance. The chefs play an important role here and create the menu that will keep ambiance, guests requirement et all. The chef’s team at Le Meridien always look to innovate and showcase special menus of the season, apart from the regular menu that’s always available. Presently mango seasonal menu in place and also a Russian themed menu keeping in view the soccer spirit!
Hospibuz:-Sir, Jashn offers a range of ethnic Indian barbecue to contemporary fusion. Can you please tell your take on contemporary fusion menu?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-It is not exactly fusion menu at Jashn though we have short time promotional menus that indulge in a bit of fusion wherein the chefs bring in western herb flavored kebabs. The simple accompaniments that we serve along with our kebabs also are interesting like the mango and mascarpone cheese dip that gives the twist to the taste buds. The dishes that are kept simple, uncomplicated that bring in the flavor are the dishes that are featured in Jashn menu.
Hospibuz:-Sir, you are the workforce behind the launch of Specialty Restaurant Jashn and the Sports Bar and Lounge at Le Meridien, Bangalore. Tell us how different and similar the challenges were for opening a specialty restaurant and a lounge? How important is the Food Menu when it comes to the bar and Cocktail Menu when it comes to restaurants?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-Launching restaurants is a task of course but thoroughly enjoyable one though. The Jashn saw innumerable trials, tasting sessions, trial guest interaction and feedback, designing of the menu, working with food stylists, photographers, planning of operations, and various other activities over a period of 12 months. This also culminated in a trial run, followed by a big launch party that included an ethnic wear fashion walk and of course the signature dishes. For the sports bar and lounge, the process was different though. We wanted to feature as many single malts as possible, apart from our signature Sparkling menus. The food menu was designed keeping in mind the sports theme and the beverages that are being served at the venue. The latest addition being Petit plates menu with local flavors.
Hospibuz:- You have covered a career span of over three decades, what trends have you seen in the industry in terms of cooking and service in the hospitality industry? In your opinion what changes in the trend of customer’s demands have evolved?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-The guests are more than ever knowledgeable and well traveled. You have to have the pace to exceed the expectations. It is not necessary to overdo the process and here lies the art of doing it. What we presume as the trend today, may actually turn out to be a fad. Three decades is actually a pretty long time! I’ve seen the evolution that’s bordering (akin) mutation, but Watch out!! Traditional stuff is still in vogue and of course, it sells. Gone are the days we have to prepare specialty European dishes to keep our overseas guests happy, now they want to discover various aspects of Indian cuisine, and that I am the real trend.
Hospibuz:- Sir, according to you, to what extent have we succeeded in promoting the culinary spirit of India on a global platform? According to you what are the major hurdles that fall in while creating a place for Indian recipes in global podium?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-Unfortunately, the ‘Indian Food ‘that was being served in various places earlier like London had created a certain perception of our food. Things have changed, Modern Indian Chefs have taken Indian food to a different level and many of them have attained celebrity status now! I would also bring to your attention that the Indian Federation of Culinary associations – IFCA has worked tirelessly to elevate the status of Indian food and we are pretty successful at that. It would not be out of place to mention that most recent being India was partner nation at Gastronomika event at San Sebastian in Spain. Our Chefs in recent Bocuse d’or competitions have showcased Indian flavors.
Hospibuz:-Congratulations on being featured in ‘25 of India’s biggest chefs’ by Dr. Sagrika Ghoshal and ‘50 master chefs’ by Saffron Media. Sir, can you brief us on your career journey in one word or a sentence? If you were to say the biggest accomplishments in your career journey what that would be? Can you tell us what factors and decisions helped you to create a mark in the Indian Culinary Arena?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-I am humbled and grateful to all who have supported me in my path including my family, my fellow chefs, Colleagues, and friends all across the spectrum. I just want to say that I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and will continue to do so further. Recognitions and awards are there but what we give back to the society is what matters. IFCA has given a great platform and I will be ever grateful for the same.
Hospibuz:- Sir, you have been the President of Indian Team for Bocuse d’Or Asia Pacific selection 2014. How was the experience of representing India in the Asia Pacific forum of Chefs at Australia and Thailand? How different is the hospitality trend different in Australia and Thailand from Indian Hospitality trend?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-The world is smaller now!! Travel has become more common and affordable than ever. We should be proud of our traditions and food, not get influenced to change everything without reasoning! Recently I was on tour to Europe under the aegis of South India Chefs Association’s Europe culinary tour and could discover that all over Europeans try and preserve their traditions and very proud of that too!
Hospibuz:-Sir, you have been a part of many international events including Asian Games, SAARC meet, and what not. Will you tell share with us your experience while catering to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at IISc Bangalore? What were the early preparations that you made before catering to our Prime Minister?
Chef Vijaya Baskaran:-It was indeed a proud moment for our team at Le Meridien when the Prime Minister Modiji walked towards us to offer his compliments and pose for a photo opportunity!! It was all special though, from designing a menu, co-coordinating with the organizing team, liaising with local government agencies etc. The young chefs who were part of the team were mightily thrilled and that was for me the happy moment. The sleepless nights that we spent earlier quickly faded away far away! Catering to special guests and events offer special challenges and all activities have to be precise and at the same time, the food should showcase the skills of the chefs who worked in an alien environment out of their relatively comfortable hotel kitchens. I am grateful to have got all these opportunities and to have shared the moments with my team.
Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!