In Conversation with Mr. Zorawar Kalra

Mr. Zorawar Kalra, Founder and Managing Director of Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. is known as the man who introduced molecular gastronomy to Indian cuisine for the first time in India. The brainchild behind the success of Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Made in Punjab and Farzi Café, he comes with an age-old legacy in the Indian hospitality industry. He is responsible for taking Indian fine-dining to a whole new pedestal thus providing diners with a truly gastronomic experience. From serving sev-puri on a bicycle to chicken tikka in a London telephone booth, impossible is truly nothing for this young restaurateur. He believes that people come to a restaurant for the food and if you serve them the best quality, they are sure to come back.

Read on as Mr. Kalra talks about molecular gastronomy, his current and upcoming restaurants, favorite dining spaces around the world and more.

Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd.

You’re known as the first Indian restaurateur to introduce molecular gastronomy to Indian cuisine. What’s your take on molecular gastronomy? How did the idea come about? What are the challenges you face in sustaining the quality?
Molecular Gastronomy is a technique of food science whereby you transform the appearance of an ingredient or dish. It is a form of culinary art, where restaurants use elements of this technique to add an element of surprise and uniqueness to the dish for the diner to enjoy a different level of dining experience. It uses certain processes like spherification, gelification, powderising, deep freezing and much more through various certified natural chemicals like maltodextrin during the process of cooking. While molecular gastronomy has been prevalent and hugely successful globally for the past few years, our restaurants Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and Farzi Café have been credited with introducing it in Indian cuisine, to Indian diners, which was never done before. It is a relatively new concept in India, especially in Indian cuisine. While the diners find the concept fascinating, there is still a lot left to explore in the concept and a long way to go for the diners to be aware about the nuances of the process, for a pure molecular gastronomy concept to work in the Indian environment. Also, there is a generic perception of the concept being unsafe which is largely owning to the fact that diners haven’t been exposed in depth to the concept of molecular gastronomy; this notion doesn’t hold true in actuality. The elements used in molecular gastronomy are all natural and mostly plant extracts, which are globally accepted & certified and now being very frequently used in India as well.

The thought came to me almost eight years ago when I had visited El Bulli in Spain. After experiencing it, I kept wondering why we could not do something similar with Indian cuisine. It seemed too cutting edge and radical for that time, but now the infrastructure & required materials are easily available, enabling us to make something like the regular street food bhel-puri with liquid nitrogen, where you get exactly the same flavour of the dish, but in a scientific and surprising way.

What is the USP of your restaurants?
Our endeavor has always been towards offering authentic Indian flavors, while using modern culinary techniques and presentation styles coupled with international standards of service and Indian hospitality for our guests to enjoy a truly avant-garde dining experience, which we refer to as Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0 and what I believe, would be our USP.

Where do you see your restaurants – Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Made in Punjab and Farzi Café 5 years down the line?
Five years from now, we would have introduced Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and Farzi Café in a few international markets, while having launched multiple locations for Made in Punjab as well as Farzi Café across all key tier 1 & 2 cities within India.

What are your comments on the hospitality industry in India and abroad? Do you plan to expand to global markets? If yes, which one do you think is the best? Also, which one are you planning to tap?
A few decades back, options of dining out in India were extremely limited, mostly comprising of the well to do and the upper class of the society dining at renowned restaurants in top end five star hotels across cities. The Indian food service sector has come a long way from the early 90’s, when it was dominated by unorganized smaller concepts and limited brands. Rising disposable income, exposure to domestic and international travel, availability of good affordable standalone dining options outside the domain of expensive five star hotels, diners becoming more open to newer experiences &  adventurous with their palate and many other attributes have led to the proliferation of the Indian food services sector in the past 6 – 8 years. Today, not only are guests looking for newer experiences, restaurateurs and chefs are also continuously innovating and engaging with their target audience to keep them enticed and offering an avant-garde dining experience at affordable prices, while maintaining high standards of cuisine, hospitality and overall hygiene. Comparatively, the overseas market has seen a faster movement in this regard owning to multiple factors like exposure, research, demand, eating out trends, etc.

We are currently drawing up plans for overseas expansion and are exploring the Middle East, European and American markets for the same. I feel today all markets, including Asian, are extremely mature and this is the perfect time for restaurants to explore all possible markets as per their business plan/ requirement and vision.

Tell us more about Pa Pa Ya – launching soon at Palladium. What can we look forward to?
Well, it is a little too early to get into the details. However I can surely share that Pa Pa Ya is going to be a revolutionary, genre bending modern Asian bistro concept, which is going to change the way we have been looking at Asian cuisine as a whole.

Any kitchen secrets that you would like to share?
(laughs!) You think!

What is the most unusual dish that you have eaten and where?
It has to be a dish of sea urchins and sea cucumber that we had at El Bulli in Spain; can’t recollect the name of the dish.

What is the signature Zorawar Kalra dish and why?
Though there are numerous for me to list, but the one dish which is close to my heart has to be the Jalebi Caviar served at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra as it began with an idea which I had sitting in my office along with the team during the evolution phase of the concept.

Pick some of your favorite cafes around the world
Five Guys, London for their awesome burgers
Bad Wolf Coffee, Chicago
Momofuku Ssäm Bar, New York
Al Hallab, Dubai

If you have to enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the beach, which would be the ideal location?
I guess it would probably be at one of the Café’s in the province of Catalonia, Spain overlooking the Mediterranean as I have many memories and firsts attached with my trip to the region

Out of all your travel experiences, which international restaurant do you recommend for the following occasions –
– A date:
Jaan, Singapore
– A bachelorette:
I wouldn’t really know of this one!
– A family getaway:
Driving in the countryside around Scotland, living in B&B place
– A brunch:
Au Cheval, Chicago

A quick tip for budding restaurateurs
If you are passionate about the business, then put your heart, soul and sleepless nights in realizing it. Nothing comes easy.

 

Sev Puri on the go at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra

Jalebi Caviar, Saffron glaze, Pistachio Rabdi at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra

Kurkuri at Made In Punjab

Dal Chawal Arancini at Farzi Café

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Photo Diaries: Benares

“Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together ” – Mark Twain

Benares also known as Varanasi and Kashi is the oldest city in the world that dates back to over 3000 years. It is the most popular pilgrimage for Hindus, also famous for its temples. In Hinduism, it is believed that those who die or are cremated here attain Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death). The city is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and is situated on the banks of the holy River Ganges which is known to have the power to wash away all of one’s sins.

Spiritual Yatra, founded by Ms. Sarita Nair, an avid-traveler and explorer of spiritual destinations has tapped over 750 spiritual destinations across India. She not only highly recommends a pilgrimage to Benares but also guarantees it will be a journey that will remain etched in your memory for a lifetime.

Benares- Manikarnika Burning Ghat

Complete view of Benares

Ganga Ji – Benares

Benares- Night Pooja Ceremony

Dashashwamedha – Ghat Benares

7 Must-See Places in New Zealand

New Zealand, also known as the adventure capital of the world, is one of the most spectacular places on earth.  With an amazing range of breathtaking scenery, beaches, glaciers, snow-clad mountains, hot springs, adventure activities and more, your visit to this heavenly place will surely be one of the most memorable trips of your life.

‘Kiwis,’ as the locals are called are a friendly bunch of people who are very warm and welcoming to visitors. With an excellent road network, traveling within the country by car is extremely convenient. For the safety of tourists, information centres are specially designed in every town to help tourists in case they need directions or advice on local attractions. This place is undoubtedly a traveler’s dream destination where they experience love at first sight.

Mentioned below are a list of places and activities you cannot miss if you’re traveling to New Zealand for the first time.

Auckland:
New Zealand’s largest city is an exciting combination of vibrant city culture and stunning natural beauty. Auckland’s diverse landscapes provide countless opportunities to get immersed in nature. In the west, lush native rainforest plunges down the hills to meet the sea on dramatic black sand beaches, while the east’s sheltered golden sand beaches are fringed with red-flowering pohutukawa trees.

Interesting activities:
Sky Tower:
At 328 metres, the Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and offers breathtaking views for up to 80km in every direction.

Waiheke Island: Just a 35-minute ferry ride across the harbour from downtown Auckland, Waiheke has around 30 boutique wineries and vineyards. Complementing Waiheke’s fine wines are the award-winning restaurants, handmade specialty foods, olive oils and locally grown produce.

Sky Tower, Auckland

Nelson:
Nelson sits on the shores of Tasman Bay at the top of the South Island. Established in 1841, it is the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island. Also known as the geographical centre of New Zealand, Nelson’s diverse geography captures everything from the long golden beaches to untouched forests and rugged mountains.

Interesting activities:
Guided Sea Kayaking Day Trips: Enjoy kayaking by choosing any full or half day trips departing every day from Kaiteriteri.

Skydive Abel Tasman: Enjoy a 20 minute scenic flight to altitude over snow capped mountains, golden beaches and turquoise oceans.

Skydiving at Nelson

Wellington:
Wellington has been named ‘the coolest little capital’ by Lonely Planet and is said to have more bars and cafes per capita than New York. Packed with creative entrepreneurs, academic researchers and arts professionals, the city is New Zealand’s cultural and political capital known for its arts, heritage, culture and native beauty.

Interesting activities:
Oriental Bay:
Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach is a place where one can relax and delve into many museums, art galleries and theatre shows that make up the city’s pulsing cultural scene.

Makara Peak: Showcases the best of Wellington’s waterfront. You can ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top.

Makara Peak, Wellington

Dunedin:
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country’s city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The nightlife buzzes with funky bars and delicious restaurants and the natural attractions are unique and fascinating.

Interesting activities:
Dunedin & Port Chalmers – Cruise Overview: Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula is renowned for hosting the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross and various other unique species.

Cadbury World: True delight for chocolate lovers to spend hours at the chocolate shop.

Penguin viewing at Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin

Hamilton:
Being New Zealand’s largest inland city, situated on the banks of the Waikato River, (the country’s longest river) Hamilton has a welcoming spirit and rich history. The city of Hamilton is nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River and is known for its walks, gardens, cafes and nightlife.

Interesting activities:
Raglan:
This lively surf town has an interesting creative culture and a wonderful choice of cafés. Raglan is both a surfing mecca and a dramatically scenic area of black sand coastline.

Waitomos Adventure: The Waitomo Caves in the Hamilton & Waikato region offer not only natural marvels but also adrenalin pumping adventure. The labyrinth of underground caves that have formed over millions of years feature dramatic formations of stalactites and stalagmites, twinkling constellations of glowworms and eerie underwater streams.

Waitomo Caves, black water rafting

Christchurch:
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the second-largest in the country. Bordered by the Port Hills and the Pacific Ocean, it is situated on the Canterbury Plains with the Southern Alps as a majestic backdrop.

Interesting activities:
Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise:
While your ship is in port in Akaroa Harbour, take a shore excursion to tour the scenic Banks Peninsula and visit the city of Christchurch.

Stunning 360° views from 500 metres above sea level – to the west gaze across the sparkling cityscape of Christchurch, over the Canterbury Plains to the high peaks of the Southern Alps. Sit back, relax and soak up the stunning views with a snack at the Red Rock Cafe, and enjoy quality shopping at the “Shop at the Top.” This trip is one of the must do tourist attractions in Christchurch.

Christchurch

Napier:
Napier is situated in the stunning Hawke’s Bay region on the East Coast of the North Island. It’s sunny, Mediterranean-style climate makes this one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions. Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand.

Interesting activities:
National Aquarium of New Zealand-
New Zealand’s largest display of aquatic life and unique New Zealand wildlife, including sharks, stingrays, living coral, kiwi, tuatara and a huge range of fish species. A fun and an educational place to visit for friends and family.

Te Mata Peak is a peak south of Hastings rising up to 399m in the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand. A sealed road leads to the popular lookout at the summit, as well as several trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

Te Mata Peak, Napier

In Conversation with master chocolatier – Chef Varun Inamdar

The recently concluded Phoenix Food Festival held at High Street Phoenix, Mumbai saw some of the best restaurants curate special menus for guests attending this festival. It was undoubtedly a paradise for food lovers with a spread of scrumptious delights from some of Mumbai’s most popular eateries. Apart from menus and offers, the festival also had food art installations, food pop up shops and live music performances.

The highlight of the festival was a unique chocolate installation of a life-size female chocolate mannequin, created by master chocolatier Varun Inamdar. Titled ‘True Spring Woman,’ the installation was made using 60 kgs of pure Ecuadorian chocolate.

‘True Spring Woman’ by Chef Varun Inamdar

Being a chocoholic myself, I was intrigued by the concept of chocolate art. A quick interaction with Chef Varun Inamdar helped me get a better insight into the world of chocolate. Read on to know more.

Tell us more about your journey as a chocolatier
Actually, my journey as a chocolatier was more accidental than anything else. It was more of a make-shift assignment given to me in the absence of a designated pastry chef. Slowly the interest developed and I started experimenting with ingredients in the pantry. Started creating recipes, formulations, flavour combinations and started mixing age – old recipes with a nouvelle twist. My passion and perseverance got noticed and I was retained to continue the assignment given. I started attending professional workshops and started gathering more and more information about techniques and baking science. And voila, one day I became a ‘Pastry Chef.’ Gradually, I started climbing the ladder and lapped up the position of an ‘Executive Pastry Chef.’ During this journey, chocolates became my best friend and the chocolate making room my mecca.

A few tips that you would like to give people who are keen to understand chocolate better Chocolates must be befriended. Chocolate can be very notorious if not respected. It is an ingredient which can be manipulated in many ways not just in confectioneries but savoury treats too. However, it is very sensitive at the same time. Care must be taken while handling as it can play up with temperature fluctuations and with the presence of water.

What is your take on Chocolate Art?
Chocolate art abroad is huge. We, in India, are still not chocolate-ready. When recently I had been approached for an installation, the first thing that came to my mind, was a chocolate installation because I wanted to prove that this is something that can be done in our country and we do not lack any expertise. That is how the ‘Chocolate Mannequin’ was born .

Eating per se, for us, milk chocolate still rules. Monetarily we still think twice before venturing into tasting good quality chocolates. Luxe chocolates are a very very nascent sector. We have a brand called ‘The Chocolate Factory Ecuador,’ which is India’s first of its kind indigenous luxury chocolates, in conjunction with the govt. of Ecuador. People love the taste and the flavour profiles, but they expect it to be cheap. Luxury cannot be affordable and if it is affordable it ain’t luxury anymore.

What are the points to keep in mind while creating a unique chocolate installation?
Uniqueness is in your thoughts. First create as many rough sketches to see what can be created. Next, start evaluating what can be pulled off easily or with little or great difficulty. Start analyzing how the difficulty can be overcome. Keep logistics like conceptualizing time, actual making time, storage, transportation, if any required, touch up time and finally the display time. Make sure it is temperature controlled and well guarded at all times. But chocolate is an impulsive product and people love touching and scrapping it. Well, people take pride and enjoy scraping a few parts, when no one notices. Over and above, if transportation doesn’t work the way you’ve planned, look at building it up at the display venue.

How popular is chocolate art world over?
Immensely popular, globally. But like I said earlier, we are still not chocolate ready. Companies do not support such adventures. Eventually, these become a personal fight and cause.

Tell us more about – ‘True Spring Woman’
‘True Spring Woman’ is the name of the Chocolate Mannequin that I recently created. The whole idea of that was women empowerment. It had a very strong message and everyone loved the way I had conceptualized it. If you noticed it closely, the mannequin was very skimpily dressed and a few male hands were trying to touch her. The message here was loud and clear. No matter how a lady dresses – covered from head to toe or skimpily clad, men will still want to touch her. Despite all this ruckus in life, she continues to dress the way she thinks is befitting and walks up with all her respect, pride and elegance head high. She continues to spring back time-n-again, hence the name.

Is this your first installation? If yes, how was the experience?
Have done many in the past, but my first one on public display.

Your favorite chocolate installation till date
Most definitely, ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

Making of the ‘True Spring Woman’

 

 

 

Eggcellent Easter

Traditional Easter food varies from country to country. India celebrates a diversity of different foods, every year. From hot cross buns, Easter eggs to delicious Easter brunches, this festival is surely a delight for every food lover. If you’re confused about where to go today, here’s a rundown of places in the city –

The Sassy Spoon:
Easter revelry takes on a new meaning as The Sassy Spoon rustles up sweet treats to celebrate with your family. Pamper your sweet tooth with its wide range of Easter specials that are sure to entice your taste buds.

Easter Cupcake at The Sassy Spoon

Harsha K:
Harsha K known for her delectable desserts presents her Easter menu that comprises of succulent Easter hams, carrot cakes decked with cream cheese icing and orange marzipan shaped carrots, luscious cupcakes, cute chocolate bunnies, rich Easter eggs, lemon tea cakes, frosted sugar cookies cut into Easter shaped eggs, that will undoubtedly get you and your loved ones in the festive spirit.

Delectable Easter Themed Goodies By Harsha K

Serafina:
Experience decadent heaven while savoring a specially designed egg-shaped celebratory dessert, the Mandarin and Melting Chocolate Fest – an exceptional combination of hot chocolate poured over an edible chocolate egg with luscious mandarian chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream inside.

Mandarin and Melting Chocolate Fest at Serafina

Café by the Beach:
Café by the Beach at H2O waterfront complex introduces an Easter special dessert – the Normandy Pear Tart. This lip-smacking tart with blueberries and fresh lemon scented cream is sure to transport you to the world of bliss.

Normandy Pear Tart at Cafe by the Beach

The White Owl:
Celebrate this Easter over an ‘All-Day Family Brunch’ at The White Owl, Mumbai’s award-winning microbrewery. Indulge in festive dishes that include Classic Eggs Florentine, Grilled Chicken Meatballs, Homestyle Grilled Vegetable Lasagna and more. Also, avail the Supersize Your Brew* offer between 4:00 – 8:00 PM, where you get to guzzle down their unbeatable selection of artisanal, craft brews.

The White Owl’s selection of artisanal, craft brews

Häagen Dazs:
indulge in Häagen Dazs’s Easter Egg Surprise made with decadent dark chocolate, filled with fresh summer flavours and ‘nutty’ goodness available across all the outlets in the city.

Easter Eggs at Haagen-Dazs

The Rolling Pin:
Recently launched cafe, boulangerie and patisserie – The Rolling Pin is all set to serve unique vegetarian treats in Easter eggs that will leave you asking for more. These delicious chocolate coated eggs are filled with tasty goodies like candies, sweets and candy floss! The freshly baked Easter Eggs are pretty on the outside and delicious on the inside.

Easter Specials at The Rolling Pin

Fantasie Fine Chocolates:
Indulge yourself in their lip smacking Easter menu that includes delicious chocolate, almond, marzipan eggs, chocolate horses, roosters, bunny’s, chocolate baskets, bunny lollipops and more.

Easter Eggs at Fantasie Fine Chocolates by Chocolatier Zeba Kohli

Le 15 Patisserie:
Le 15 Patisserie is known for its range of scrumptious macaroons, cupcakes, tarts and more. Relish delicious Easter special cupcakes available at all the outlets across Mumbai.

Easter special cupcakes at Le 15 Patisserie

Indigo Delicatessen:
Tuck into Easter favorites like Hot cross buns, Walnut and cinnamon rolls, Chocolate and marzipan Easter eggs and more with Indigo Delicatessen’s special Easter menu.

Easter Eggs at Indigo Delicatessen

Bombay Baking Company, J.W. Marriott:
An exotic display of Easter eggs along with traditional simnel cake, nougats, hot cross buns, bunny buns and hand molded figurines will be on display and available for purchase at Bombay Baking Company.

Simnel Cake at Bombay Baking Company