In talks with Chef Nicholas Fernandes
– Executive Pastry Chef at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai
Q1: What does cooking mean to you?
– Cooking in is an art, for me cooking is a profession, a hobby and something that fulfills me. I have always been passionate about cooking and food in general, that’s why I love spending time in the Kitchen. Many times my friends tease me saying “that I don’t know how to cook!” Guess what, who knows to cook…? But through practice, experience, and mostly trial and error, I was able to learn a few tricks of the trade. No one can “master” cooking; cooking is a continuous, never-ending process. I mastered the confidence and enough knowledge needed to be comfortable in the kitchen to be able to create and understand the different methods of cooking that puts me in an understanding of creating new desserts and presenting it to the best.One of the things I love about cooking is that it’s creative – I have the privilege to work and try out ingredients, mixing flavors, colors, things that go well together on a plate. I love the very idea of putting a raw unfinished product with a perfect blend of ingredients into an oven and taking out a cake an hour or so later. Another thing I love is the pleasure food gives, both to others and to me. Cooking is an escape, but a legitimate one, because I’m feeding people who relish and love food.Cooking also puts forth challenge of sourcing unusual ingredients and identifying its importance in cooking along with its benefits and nutritional value that it adds to the products.If planning to cook something special, it takes time and planning to source out ingredients where you can exploit as there are no boundaries in being creative.
Q2: What motivated you to become a chef?
– At an early age, for some reasons which was unknown to me, I was drawn and fascinated by the creativity of creating desserts in different shapes & forms, which later resulted in me applying to a catering college and later take up a job which put me in the fore front of new and unique creations of desserts. There has always been a constant thrive to learn more and learn from the best. Today I’m a confident creative pastry chef at Hyatt Regency Mumbai – serving my creations to discerning guests, travelers and dessert lovers.
Q3: Any anecdote you may want to share?
– As a child I was always interested in spending time with my mother in the kitchen, but would hardly eat any food. Everyone felt it was because I was a foodie I was in the kitchen, but in actuality it was my love for cooking that took me there. The first cake baked in our new oven (when purchased) was baked by me at the age of 6 and of course was a chocolate cake.
Q4: Highpoint of your work?
– While my Bakery shop runs successfully with the help of my team, it’s an absolute delight coming into work every morning and entering a kitchen with people who share the same passion as me – my passion for desserts. Entering the department to a young enterprising team, with the heavenly aroma of freshly baked breads, chocolates, cinnamon, sugar, flavors of a variety of fresh fruits such as passion fruit, strawberries, tangy flavor of lemon also baked cookies and cakes reassures me of my love for everything sweet. Also not forgetting my guests who I deal with on a daily basis – Receiving appreciation from a satisfied guest is the highest point of gratification any chef could receive…And the same holds true for my team and me.
Q5: How long have you been cooking?
– It’s been 23 years now I have been in the business of desserts. Worked with some of the best chefs in the industry and garnered an experience of a lifetime.
Q6: Where did you train to be a chef?
– My first job as a trainee was at the Oberoi where I had my base learning as a chef.
Q7: Why did you choose to become a chef?
– Like I mentioned I was drawn and fascinated by the creativity of creating desserts in different shapes & forms from a very young age which later resulted in me applying to a catering college and taking up a job which put me in the fore front of new and unique creations of desserts. The love for everything sweet and this constant thrive to master my skills of dessert making encouraged me to become a chef.
Q8: How would you describe your ‘Style of Cooking’?
– Natural, Creative, Adventurous and Innovative.
Q9: Which dishes do you like cooking the most?
– I absolutely love creating the Choux pastry – Firstly since its versatile it can be made in different forms and shapes (choux buns / profiterole, Éclair, Paris-Brest)secondly can be of different flavors and thirdly the fillings along with presentation and styling options are endless.
Q10: What’s your favorite ingredient to cook? Why?
– Chocolate…. Chocolate doesn’t need an explanation, and it also doesn’t need to be complicated. We have taken a few of Mother Nature’s finest ingredients and made the perfect combination of flavor and taste which has been loved by all.Its versatility of usage is the very reason it tops my list of most favorite ingredient.
Q11: What’s your most interesting/fun time in the kitchen every day?
– Ideating and innovating with my team on a daily basis. It’s fun listening to some of the most quirky and crazy ideas coming from them – which do get implemented at times.
Q12: What’s the first thing you do when you enter your kitchen for the day?
– I take my rounds of the entire pastry & bakery kitchen, understanding its operations and requirement for the day along with checking on the day’s functions for banquets and other outlets. I take a round of the Pastry shop checking on the presentation & quality of the products and check the breakfast products its quality and if need be noting down the changes required.
Q13: Which other chef do you admire?
– Chef Anil Rohira
Q14: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a chef?
– What I see mostly in novice cooks is the “fear” of doing it wrong, and for sure you will, it is part of the learning process, ask any great Chef. In the kitchen you learn most from mistakes; it’s all in figuring out what went wrong and giving it another try. You don’t become a Chef overnight, along with time,patience and practice as a beginner you want to learn techniques, not recipes.
It’s important to understand that it takes a lot more than just enjoying cooking to run a restaurant. Chefs are managers; they run the business so apart from immense passion, technique and patience you have to have the right qualification to help you excel in the industry.
Chef’s Profile: NICHOLAS FERNANDES, Executive Pastry Chef at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai
Chef Nicholas Fernandes with 23 years pastry experience has previously worked with luxury properties like The Oberoi Towers, Mumbai, The Regent Hotel, The Renaissance, P&O cruises, with his latest stint at Hyatt Regency Mumbai for the last 10 years.Chef Nicholas has a number of accolades under his belt including a Gold Medal which he won in the third edition of the Great Indian Culinary Challenge 2006 (GICC) in the Three -Tier Wedding Cake Category – Decorated. With short courses in French Bread and Viennoiserie from Grands Moulins de Paris France, Pralines, Truffles, Entremets Patisseries and Baked Cakes from Ecole Des Chocolate Grands Crus Switzerland- 2005 Chef Nicholas has mastered the tricks of the trade from the best.