RAPID FIRE WITH CHEF NEERAJ TYAGI
Q: What does cooking mean to you?
– Cooking is my passion that turned into a profession. It’s a way through which I express and convey a concept and show my relationship with food. There is an uninterrupted osmosis with my ingredients and my guests. I feel that a Chef can create a perfect dish only when he cooks with his heart. Chef’s food always showcases his commitment to his profession.
Q: What motivated you to become a chef?
– With my father being in the Indian Army and my family constantly relocating, I had the opportunity to experience a variety of food and cultures. It was through this journey that I realized I wanted to be a part of the culinary industry and bring to the table something unique and exciting.
Q: Any anecdote you may want to share?
– I believe that one must always cook from their heart and be as innovative and experimental as possible. I am a firm believer that food should be cooked with using fresh produce and ingredients and should be served at the right temperature. More importantly, do not complicate the food you are cooking, however having said that, one must try to bring in a surprise element in the food they serve as that definitely excites and engages the diner.
Q: Highpoint of your work?
– One of the highest points of my career was when I was based out of London. I was working at the Ritz London and had the opportunity to work with Chef Michel Roux Jr. and was also part of the opening of an Italian fine dining restaurant, Toto’s in London, with Michelin star Chef Gennaro Vitto. This experience gave me deep insight to the culinary world and helped me grow as a chef.
Q: How long have you been cooking?
– I began cooking at a very young age, however professionally it has been approximately 16 years that I have been a part of the culinary industry.
Q: Where did you train to be a chef?
– I graduated from IHM Meerut in 2000 after which I professionally trained in Hyderabad for one year and moved further ahead where experience and learning went hand in hand. Over the years, I have worked at many renowned hotels such as the Park Royal Hotel, Grand Hyatt, Marriot Hotel, The Claridges Hotel where I grew drastically in my career having worked there for a span of 10 years, the Kempinski Hotel in Jordan and now as the Executive Chef at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, At an international level, I have worked at The Garibaldi, Singapore, Hulhule Island Hotel, Maldives, Princi London, The Ritz Hotel, London and was also part of the opening of an Italian fine dining restaurant, Toto’s in London, with Michelin star Chef Gennaro Vitto. I am passionate about gastronomy and have had the opportunity of having closely worked with world-renowned chefs like David Fenstra of Molecular Gastronomy fame, Frans Dijksman, Dennis Out, Austrian Chef Markus Moser, Spanish Chef Jeorge Acereto and Chef Andreu Genestra.
Q: Why did you choose to become a chef?
– My father was in the Indian Army because of which we had to re-locate often. It was because of the constant traveling that I had the opportunity to experience various cuisines from all over India. This has allowed me to develop an unrivalled passion for gastronomy.
Q: How would you describe your ‘Style of Cooking’?
– I prefer using traditional based techniques imbued with a modern and mature fusion of cuisines, emphasizing on simplicity, freshness and natural textures of ingredients with cultural influences. My forte however, lies in discovering rare and unknown ingredients combined with new and different culinary skills, which are then showcased in the market, via strategically placed promotions and tie-ups. I try to showcase the highest standards different cuisines have to offer by using the finest cuts of meats, to the rarest of ingredients, especially flown in from the remote parts of Europe.
Q: Which dishes do you like cooking the most?
I don’t have a favorite dish that I particularly like to cook, but I do love cooking Mediterranean cuisine, which involves the use of high quality ingredients, a variety of salts and fresh truffles. Cooking with these fresh ingredients is always exciting and fun.
Q: What’s your favorite ingredient to cook? Why?
– I don’t have one favorite ingredient, however I love cooking with fresh ingredients, especially those of Mediterranean cuisine. Having specialized in Mediterranean cuisine, cooking with those flavors has always been an interest of mine.
Q: What’s interesting/fun time your most in the kitchen every day?
– I look at every new day as an opportunity to create something different and unique. The food and beverage industry is constantly evolving which makes my profession very exciting and interesting and it is this very aspect that makes me want to be a part of it. My favourite time, however, is when I am researching on new dishes and trying them out with the culinary team at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi.
Q:What’s the first thing you do when you enter your kitchen for the day?
– My day usually begins with checking the itinerary and meeting with my team where we sit together and run through the agenda for the day.
Q:Which other chef do you admire?
– I am constantly in sync with what other renowned chefs are creating and re-inventing, especially chefs like Michel Roux Jr., Chef Massimo Bottura and Chef Heston Blumenthal. The beautiful dishes created by them have always encouraged me to plate up dishes.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a chef?
– As a chef, the best thing to do is to stick to the basics and try to be as innovative and experimental as possible. It is these qualities that really help you learn and grow in this profession.
Neeraj Tyagi – Executive Chef, Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi
Chef Neeraj Tyagi assumed the role of Executive Chef at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi in June 2015. Chef Neeraj has more than 15 years of culinary experience and has worked in many renowned and luxury hotels including the Kempinski Hotel in Jordan, The Claridges Hotels & Resorts in New Delhi, The Welcome Group Marriott in New Delhi, The Grand in New Delhi, The Park Royal in New Delhi and The Amrutha Castle in Hyderabad.
Chef Neeraj’s cooking style is based on traditional techniques imbued with modern and mature fusion cuisine, emphasizing simplicity, freshness and natural textures with cultural influences and has specialized in Mediterranean cuisine. His forte however, lies in discovering rare and unknown ingredients combined with new culinary skills, which are then showcased in the market, via strategically placed promotions and tie-ups. The techniques used in dishes created by him displays the highest standards different cuisines have to offer, from the finest cuts of meats, to the rarest of ingredients, specially flown in from the remote parts of Europe. He is always in pursuit of the unique, original and undiscovered – as can be witnessed in the series of promotions initiated by him, like the ‘7 Salts of the earth’, ‘Celebrate with Grains’ and more. Chef Neeraj’s knowledge in food was further expanded in his journey to Southeast Asia. He learned the art of cooking food in bamboo rods, over a charcoal fire. Chef Neeraj has always diligently strived to develop his professional skills in fine dining, high volume operations, creativity and menu composition. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards and accolades among which he was voted as one of the top 25 chefs by Hotelier India (February 2014) In India Culinary Czar 2014. He has also been featured in many culinary shows in various TV channels like Doordarshan, Pogo Channel, NDTV Good Times, Zee TV and Aaj Tak.
Among his international stints, Chef Neeraj has been associated with The Garibaldi, Singapore, Hulhulle Island Hotel, Maldives, Princi London, Ritz London and was also part of the opening of an Italian fine dining restaurant, Toto’s in London, with Michelin star Chef Gennaro Vito. He is passionate about gastronomy and has had the opportunity of having closely worked with world-renowned chefs like David Fenstra of Molecular Gastronomy fame, Frans Dijksman, Dennis Out, Austrian Chef Markus Moser, Spanish Chef Jeorge Acereto and Chef Andreu Genestra