Chef Jaydeep Mukherjee has been cooking since he was a child and now standing proud with more than 20 years of experience in this field, he shares anecdotes and stories with Hungry Forever about his wonderful journey. He also talked to us about his new role at the Smoke House Deli and we’re sure you’d be inspired to try the food after this read.
At what age did you begin your culinary journey?
I began cooking around the age of 8 or 9. The intention was more to feed myself and often cousins and friends when the adult world was oblivious to our hunger pangs after having been out playing gully cricket or cycling all over town on chilly winter afternoons. To sneak into the kitchen and make ourselves sandwiches or fried eggs was a huge adventure and something we looked forward to.
Tell us an anecdote from your food experience and one of your first dishes as a chef.
My fondest memories of cooking are from childhood days spent mostly outdoors. I grew up surrounded by hills and woods and a bunch of friends who idolised Tom Sawyer!
I remember stuffing a backpack with eggs, onions, some basic condiments and a weather beaten fry pan and then taking off on the adventure of the day – often on our cycles, at times on foot! We would stop by the woods or the country side, when hungry, light a fire and within minutes have eggs and onions and whatever else we had managed to smuggle out, simmering in the pan! The smell of wood smoke and food cooking over it, takes me back to old times and brings back wonderful nostalgic memories!
As a professional chef or rather a wannabe chef then, the first dish that really had all my senses and curiosity piqued was a Camembert Cheese Soufflé that we served at the restaurant where I boot camped! However hard I tried I simply could not get it right. It came to me eventually and it was all an understanding of science behind the process, but I learnt the virtue or perseverance!
Tell us a little about your experience in the food industry.
I have been part of the food industry for over two decades. The years have flown simply because I have had a wonderful time, surrounded by very creative and passionate people, all with a common passion for great dining and hospitality.
The formative years of my career were in an age when nouvelle cuisine had just come to India. Our kitchen at the Taj over flowed with ingredients imported from Europe and America. White asparagus, Hass avocados, Dutch berries, Maine Lobster, Corn fed Chicken and a few dozen other similar ingredients is what we cooked with. Menus had fancy – in hindsight, ridiculous! – Names and there was immense pride in declaring to friends and peers that we hardly used anything Indian!
Times have changed, so have philosophies about food and today everything exciting in the world of cuisine revolves around fresh and local produce.
How does the new role from a chef to the Brand Manager for Smoke House Deli feel?
Nothing has changed really, and happily so! Even when I donned Chef whites and cooked on a daily basis I kept a sharp eye out on everything from service in the restaurant, to the hygiene of washrooms, maintenance of equipment and also the monthly P&L. I still do a fair bit of cooking, menu planning and all of the above but with a larger focus on the larger vision for the brand and to chart out a very interesting path ahead.
How will your expertise of 20 years now come in use in for your new role?
My expertise is in the business of hospitality. I have been a Chef for almost all my working life and thus have a strong technical know-how of processes and techniques in the kitchen. Alongside this I have also been an entrepreneur and enjoy the actual day to day rigmarole of running a business profitably. It is often easy and tempting to cut corners and compromise quality in order to achieve targets of profitability. I however believe that at the end of the day Product is key. I strive to bring to my guests memorable experiences in my restaurants – great food coupled with great hospitality! This wins the war for me. Every member of my team is obsessed with great produce and this reflects in the food we serve. This balance is key and is what I bring with me.
What vision do you have for Smoke House Deli?
Smoke House Deli is a much loved brand amongst diners and has great fan following in the cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. The food and beverages on offer are simple, delicious and extremely popular. I plan to do a lot more with food and make each of these restaurants destinations to head to not just for great dining but also to pick up artisanal breads, bakery and patisserie products, a vast range of home-made produce from condiments to ready to cook pastas and pre marinated meats and seafood. I would also like to make the brand easily accessible to time strapped office goers and provide a wide array of delicious and comfortably priced offerings for them.
Could you elaborate on some of the new dishes, techniques and flavours that you’ve introduced to Smoke House Deli?
My team and I are working actively on this. Techniques and actual dishes will begin to feature soon on SHD menus across the country.
Which are the three must-try dishes at Smoke House Deli
- Boss Style Aglio Olio Pepperoncino Spaghetti
- Smoked Tomato & Mascarpone Risotto
- Chilli Crusted John Dory with Turmeric Risotto, Beans & Citrus Thyme Veloute