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CHEF OF THE WEEK

Chef Priyam Kumar began his training at the age of 17 at the prestigious Oberoi group in Udaipur. Six years on, he was Senior Chef de Partie at Fabrica — a bespoke F&B Consulting Company. It was here that he experienced the nuances of successfully running and operating restaurants and cafés across various cuisines.

Devang House was the next step, where Chef Priyam spearheaded a contemporary and chic organic vegetarian restaurant as the Executive Chef wherein his stock in trade was wholesome, delicious and innovative with seasonal menus and an array of healthy foods for retail. Since the aim of the restaurant was to offer holistic experiences, he also curated events such as cooking classes, Sunday brunches and pop-ups.

Currently, he is working at the iconic United Group and heading the United Coffee House Rewind outlets in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon and Epicuria, Nehru Place.

Professionally, Chef Priyam’s goals are to expand his horizon of cultures and cuisine, creating a perfect balance of delicious and unique dishes; and consistently pushing the envelope of creativity in food.

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

Your philosophy on food?
I strongly believe in using home grown ingredients from different geographical regions, for a variety of cuisines. My endeavour is to create food that is simple yet elegant, by combining indigenous flavours with local produce, herbs and enticing spices.

Your favourite cuisine?
I tend to favour regional Indian cuisine.

Your idol?
My idols have been Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain. As a child I always had a curiosity to follow their work and adventures in pursuit of diverse and unique ingredients with the most stunning flavours, which pair up to make the memorable and iconic dishes. I am also endlessly fascinated by the kind of techniques that are used locally across different countries and cultures across the world.

Your favourite spice?
Cinnamon because it’s incredibly versatile – beautiful in various cuisines, in desserts and cocktails. Plus the fragrance is just so comforting!

Your hot selling dish?
Currently at UCH, the hot seller is the ‘Chicken Pepper Steak’, consists of a succulent leg of chicken stuffed with an array of fresh herbs, garlic, olives and minced chicken, finished and napped with a traditional brown sauce flavoured with red wine and mushrooms.

But my personal favourite creation is a South Indian Beetroot Khichdi-risotto. I make this with idly rice, flavoured with mashed beetroot, chillies, curry leaves and herbs – finished off with a dollop of goat cheese. A contemporary twist on an Indian classic, this is my go-to dish for when I’m craving something wholesome yet delicious.

Lessons learnt in the kitchen?
Throughout my career, I have learned in abundance from kitchen life. Apart from the most obvious aspects of cooking, creativity and handling a team of chefs; dealing with stressful situations, and planning. A mentor Chef once told me, no matter how tough a situation may be, if you plan well, you will always succeed.

How do you like to de-stress?
I’m lucky that I’ve picked a career path that is my passion, so I eliminate a lot of stress by doing what I love most, on a daily basis. Having said that, anyone who has seen the back-end operations of a kitchen knows how demanding it can be and does require regular rejuvenation in order to cope on a day-to-day basis. My go-to de-stress methods are listening to music, getting in a great workout at the gym, meditation and playing FIFA on the PlayStation.

How do you define yourself?
For the most part, I’m quite laidback and believe in living and working in a fun and easygoing environment. But when the situation requires, I do tend to take on a firm stance as well. I’m extroverted, love interacting with people; and immensely enjoy hosting and entertaining as well.

What are you passionate about?
Apart from the obvious, I absolutely love animals, especially dogs and have two adorable ones of my own. I love sports, football in particular and watch matches voraciously. Gaming is another hobby-turned passion.

Last meal on earth, what would you choose?
My mom’s iconic meatball curry with rice.