Chef Of The Fortnight: MIRAJUL MOLLA
– Head Chef of Boveda Bistro, Mumbai
Q: What does cooking mean to you?
– Cooking is like breathing to me. I have been cooking since I was 13, I don’t know how to do anything else. I wake up to the day’s orders and sleep thinking whether my kitchen staff had a good day…. if the guests were satisfied. If we had an event, where even one guest was slightly unhappy – I can’t sleep!
Q: What motivated you to become a chef?
– I come from a very small house; we were five children in all and saw how our mother cooked for us. We saw the struggle she went through, that’s when I knew I had to become someone. The question was what! Over time, as I observed my mother cooking, I started getting involved and understood the different spices and combinations one can work on to come up with new recipes. She always made simple things with the limited grocery we could afford but still, each time it tasted amazing and I always wondered how she did it. They were the same vegetables and same spices. As I kept learning I realized it was her love, passion and of course her knack of combining ingredients to perfection. I have realized that we you have little choice and you really want to make it big, somehow things just fall into place.
Q: Any anecdote you may want to share?
– Never piss off the person who cooks your dinner I have seen and experienced first-hand that if one of my chefs are upset, they cook rubbish. They need to be happy, well-treated and appreciated. Our tea functions like one family and that’s the most amazing feeling considering we spend over 12 hours together daily!
Q: Highpoint of your work?
– Our Sunday Brunch Launch at Boveda Bistro It was overwhelming to see over 120+ people on the first Sunday brunch! I know for a fact that we didn’t do any marketing except some social media and maybe one listing here and there. We ran out of barbecue items and on a normal day I would have panicked; instead I was extremely happy to see the number of people and more importantly the quality of the turnout! And of course, we managed the barbecue items! *smiles*
Q: How long have you been cooking?
– I have been cooking since I was 13! So we can safely say it’s been 8-9 years!
Q: Where did you train to be a chef?
– Hotel Kingston in Calcutta. But mostly I’d say I have learned everything from watching, learning and great feedback over time.
Q: Why did you choose to become a chef?
– I think one doesn’t choose to become something. What happens is all destiny. An idea clicks and if we work hard at it, gives it our best there’s nothing that can stop us. My journey has just begun; I still have a long way to go!
Q: How would you describe your ‘Style of Cooking’?
– I think one needs to be a flexible worker; someone who can alter to suit the guest’s preferences; someone who can make different kinds of cuisines. A good chef isn’t specific to one cuisine or ‘type’ of food. If they are genuinely good at their job – a little study and research with innovation can nail a dish! My personal style is simple cooking with flavors that can be differentiated – I like using different ingredients.
Q: Which dish do you like cooking the most?
– My favorite dish from Boveda Bistro’s menu is pickled roasted aubergine with pomegranate and feta. It is such an extraordinary dish. It is simple yet so delicious. Aubergine isn’t something people choose to have at a restaurant, but I can vouch for this dish. It’s the perfect blend of spice, sweet, salty and sour. One bite and it’s like a food explosion in the mouth!
Q: What’s your favorite ingredient to cook? Why?
– My favorite ingredient is eggs! There is so much one can do with eggs: It gives food that delicious creaminess one looks for, it can be used in new age dishes like eggs cooked with oats, savory waffles, a gorgeous egg and cheddar sandwich, a creamy egg, mushroom and cheese risotto and of course desserts!
Q: What’s your most interesting/fun time in the kitchen every day?
– I think it’s the madness of having a packed house outside. The energy is contagious and everyone is at their best. This is hands down the best time we have; also, when we are all having lunch: It’s a great time to bond and know each other better.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you enter your kitchen for the day?
– First thing I do is check the fresh vegetable and meat stock. Also, I check if my team has arrived (a quick head count) and gauge their mood – some small talk and uplifting is done if required. It’s very important for the team to be happy, else the food will not taste the way it is meant to
Q: Which other chef do you admire?
– GORDON RAMSEY! Hands down. He is big because he BELIEVES he is. Even before he cooks, we know it’s going to be super – it’s the experience of eating his food, not just the food itself. I really look up to him – his persona and confidence is surreal.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a chef?
– I believe that every person should do what they are good at and not focus on what others think they should do or what the rest of the world is doing. Each person has a different aptitude and they must further that instead of joining the rat race. Chef’s must get some basic education: I think it’s essential for one to understand food before actually cooking it. In today’s advanced time, a chef needs to be aware of food gastronomy and health foods – the combination of proteins with carbs and vitamins, how much of each makes a perfect dish (nutritionally) and other such important aspects of food. Today it isn’t enough to just cook great tasting food – health and fitness have captured the minds of this generation, in some ways it’s become an obsession with the young crowd. Even older people are getting conscious about health and adopting grains like buckwheat and soya instead of traditional flour and wheat. Quinoa has suddenly substituted the cereal and aerated drinks are being exchanged for smoothies and frozen fruit popsicles. A chef has to stay in vogue with the latest trends: For this education and the knowledge of basic foods, combinations, nutrition and components in each item is necessary. Also, a good education allows you to understand allergies that a guest may have and if be able to substitute items to achieve the same dish: simple
MIRAJUL MOLLA – HEAD CHEF BOVEDA BISTRO, MUMBAI
All of 23, He is a Master Chef in the making! After working with brands like Villa 69 and Peninsula Grand Hotel, Mirajul Molla started his career as a sous chef and is now leading the kitchen team at Boveda Bistro. Yash Sonthalia (Partner – Boveda Bistro) believed he was head chef material as soon as he met Mirajul.
He knew this man was young and extremely mouldable. Yash says, ‘Today there are many good Chefs’, however a great chef is one who wants to learn! Mirajul is open minded, hears all feedback and takes it in his stride. He knows how much to take in & what to filter. That is an admirable quality!’ After seeing a burst of young restauranteurs like the owners of Boveda Bistro, young Chefs are quickly making their mark! I focus on cooking well & cooking right: the key is ‘consistency’. Guests come to Boveda Bistro expecting something it is our duty to give them that better.