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Chef of the Week

The man behind the brilliant flavours at Smoke House Deli, Chef Shamsul Wahid, is a seasoned professional whose experiments in the kitchen have always been driven by science, exploration and the chemistry of various ingredients. Chef Shamsul started his career with the Taj Palace in the capital. After a brief stint there, he joined P&O Cruises as a chef trainee and subsequently also worked for Costa Crociere, an Italian cruise company as well as Holland America Line.

The years spent sailing across the oceans exposed him to different cuisines, fresh produce and an array of ingredients from around the world. In 2007, on returning to India, he joined Impresario as a Sous Chef at Smoke House Grill and since then has defined the novel flavours the brand’s restaurants have come to be known for. As the ‘Group Executive Chef pan India’, Shamsul follows a holistic approach to cooking with the aim of adding a twist to his dishes.

When he isn’t in the kitchen whipping up sinful combination of flavours and ingredients, Chef Shamsul relishes time with his family. An avid blogger, he documents all sorts of kitchen notes — from old recipes to interesting fusion flavours. He describes his job as rewarding because it allows him to be creative every single day. He says, “Every morning is a Monday morning and every night is a Saturday night for me!”

In a candid conversation, he reveals more about himself and his work:

What is your philosophy of cooking?
Simple, wholesome, flavourful food is the key to any successful dish.
What is your source of inspiration?
I don’t have one source. I am inspired by the local produce, and also by memories. Inno-vations and trends also help, so does an interesting piece of art or a nice cut of meat.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
I think being a part of some great innovations for our restaurants has been rewarding. Little things also make me feel happy and fulfilled. It feels great when people love my dishes.
What skills are necessary to be a good chef?
A good chef should think quickly and be able to adapt and rise to any occasion.. creativity is also essential.
What prepared you the most for your career?
Working in cruises helped me in innumerable ways. Creativity, quick-thinking and gruelling hours can really work wonders for any chef!
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I think being hardworking and creative has worked to my advantage in this field. I can be stubborn — if I believe in something, I will stand by it no matter what anyone says.
How do you rate yourself as a chef?
(Laughs) I always think there is room to learn and grow. If I rate myself as 10, it would mean I am not learning.
What are your hot-selling items?
Smoke House Deli’s pastas are very popular as are the pizzas and steaks. Social’s curries, kebabs and appetisers are in huge demand.
What are the lessons that you learnt in the kitchen?
Being able to cooperate and work as a team is one of the best ways to ensure that your kitchen is always functioning efficiently.
If you could choose your last meal on earth, what would you choose?
Has to be Nihari! It has a lot of culinary meaning and holds many memories for me.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Honestly, I take each day as it comes.
What is the position of chefs in India nowadays?
I think chefs have more power in today’s India. People are finally understanding their craft and identifying their styles, and there is more focus on what they bring to the table.
What is the best career advice that you have received?
Put your heart and soul in everything you create, and travel to understand different cultures and people.
What would you recommend to someone interested in becoming a chef?
Be focused, take criticism in a constructive manner and don’t be afraid to be bold.

Five Favourites

Favourite cuisine
I absolutely love Mughlai food
Favourite spice
I love the richness fennel seeds add to any dish.
Favourite dish
Has to be the Nihari- so many layers of flavours!
Favourite equipment
The Vacuum Packer, it’s a handy tool
Favourite diner
I like all our guests. As clichéd as that may sound, even the difficult ones present a new challenge for me and keep me on my toes.