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Pooja Gupta

“Mummy, bhookh lagi”
“bus 2 minute!”

 I am sure that you recall this iconic advertisement of the 2 minute Maggi noodles (they never take 2 minutes though)
What if a famous food ad was different, something like– 

“papa, bhookh lagi”
“beta mutton curry bann rahi hai, thoda time lagega!”

It is my privilege to introduce you to Vikas Singh, the Executive Chef for Hyatt Regency Kolkata! Vikas has been a chef for over 13 years in various prestigious hotels all across India and he specializes in western cuisine.

Q-Hi Vikas. It’s a pleasure to have you here!
A-Thank you Pooja!

Q- Tell me about your journey from your hometown Lucknow to Kolkata.
A- My journey has been great so far! I completed my Hotel Management (HM) from Kolkata itself in 2008. Then I started working with Club Mahindra Resorts and then moved to Accor, Marriott, Four Seasons and now I am at Hyatt International. I have worked in all major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru as well as places like Coorg, Munnar and Goa. I loved being posted to all these places because I am a chef and I wanted to experience all the regional cuisines of India. When I was offered a job at Hyatt International, Kolkata, I decided to take it up as I was familiar with the city and also, so that I could stay close to my parents.
Q-HM has so many verticals like the front office, sales, housekeeping, managing the reception, being a chef etc. Why did you choose to be a chef?
A-When I started HM, I wanted to be in service. My father is a retired army man and let me tell you, he is a great cook! There were times when he was posted in places like Ladakh or Nagaland while my mother and I would be in Lucknow. Whenever he came home, he cooked for us, mostly chicken, mutton or fish. His style of cooking was very different from my mother’s style! My mother is a great cook too, but what my father cooked was so very different that it made me look forward to it! That is how I got fascinated towards cooking! Normally for people, cooking comes from the mom’s side, but for me, it came from my dad!

Q- In India, society can be very stereotypical when it comes to choosing a profession like yours. How do you deal with log kya kahenge?
A-Honestly, it never bothered me (smiles)! In my initial days as a chef, I did get some sarcastic jibes but I never took them seriously and nor did my parents!

Q-Out of all the things you cook, what is your favorite dish?
A- I started cooking with bakery and confectionary, but I love making European dishes. French and Italian food was always my passion. My favorites dishes include lobster thermidor and Italian prawn gambas. 

Q-Have you ever used your culinary skills to impress someone?
A-That’s how we grow in the kitchen, if you ask me (smiles). I remember, many years back when I was studying, our seniors would not share their special recipes with us! The training those days was very difficult. 
Sometimes, I used to take my seniors out for a drink though I don’t drink myself! I would make tea for them in their working hours. This would make them open up to me gradually.
In my later years as well, if I needed a favor from my managers, I would make something  they liked and it often played its magic! 

Q-When you go out at a fine dine restaurant, since you are a chef, do you tend to evaluate the food served?
A-Though I am chef, I am not that fussy when it comes to food (smiles). I know it takes a lot of effort to prepare something. In fact, sometimes my friends may get over critical of the food served. In that case, I try to pacify them!

Q-Who is your best critic when it comes to food?
A- The guests at the hotel. 

Q- I am sure you would have come across some unreasonable guests. How do you deal with them?
A-If someone is paying for food at a hotel like ours and doesn’t like it, he would complaint! I understand that. I also know that if 100 people are having the food I prepared, at least 5 will not like it! Every problem has a solution! If they tell me that they don’t like the food, I humbly ask if I can serve them again. The philosophy we follow in the hotel industry is, the customer is always right and I stick to it!

Q- You have worked with the best of hotels and must have met many celebrities. Have you ever asked for an autograph or a photograph?
A-In 2014, I was working at a hotel in Ahmadabad and I saw Sachin Tendulkar with the entire Indian Cricket Team at our hotel restaurant! They were staying with us. I was the chef in charge. I asked them if they liked the food, and I am glad they did. I also requested for their photo with my team and they obliged us with that!

Q-What is your message for people who want to pursue a profession as out of the box as yours?
A-When I thought of being a chef, I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. I had various challenges in my path, but I tried to do everything in my capacity. My seniors started appreciating my work and they told me that I would do very well! This was highly motivating. 
When you want to achieve something and you work towards it, you get these small victories that push you forward, and gradually, money also flows in. So if you really want to pursue any profession and you feel strongly for it, just go for it!

Q-Amazing! Thank you for this inspiring insight in your journey as a Chef. All the best!
A-Thank you Pooja!

Vikas Singh is an Executive Chef for Hyatt International, Kolkata. With over 13 years of culinary experience, he brings a dynamic and innovative energy to the hotel’s diverse culinary scene.

This article has been written by Pooja Gupta.  
Currently a freelance writer and an anchor, she is also a former Radio Jockey. She hosts all kinds of shows and writes everything from ads, promos, articles, dialogues, short films, screenplays, feature films and even web series. For work, she can be contacted on pooja.gupta2178@yahoo.com. 

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