Innovation is the key in every industry and with the fast-changing world that we live in, it’s important to keep pace with the changing times. No wonder Chef-entrepreneur Tarun Sibal stays ahead of his game. Staying current and committed is his key to the thriving culinary journey of almost two decades. Every dish that the young chef creates, speaks volumes of his art on a plate, as he continues to passionately set milestones with new projects with each passing day.
Journey over the years: Tarun is a product specialist having core competence in food and beverage category across production, operations, food heritage and food and liquid culture. He was exposed to culinary arts from a very young age as he also belongs to the third generation of a family intimately involved in Delhi’s catering industry, which conceived ‘One Fine Meal’. An IHM Pusa alumnus, he started as a management trainee at India Habitat center in 2003 in Delhi. A designation of a Sous Chef in 2006 and an MBA later, he ventured into food and beverage marketing, helping Indian and international brands / food boards set up shop in India as part of his good old corporate days. He has also worked with the French Ministry of food and agriculture, the Irish Food Board and the Meat and Livestock Association of Australia. He also had his romance with wines and specialised spirits. He has worked closely with top wine houses across the globe, got the Bordeaux wine school to India, spearheaded the Marketing and Sales Department at Fratelli Wines and worked with the Mezcal Producers Association to get Mezcal into the country. A wine geek, Tarun has trained over 3000 people on wines.
“I started my culinary journey at IHM Pusa Delhi. An Industrial trainee at the Oberoi, a Management trainee with the Habitat World and a Sous chef were the three major milestones of the first phase of my professional life. Working and learning with the best chefs at the Habitat World, that period became the core of food sensibilities. Having said that my food dream was bigger than being confined to a kitchen, hence, I pursued my MBA and ventured into marketing of food and beverage, conceiving brands stories, and laying out path to the market for food and beverage brands. During this phase, I had the opportunity worked with three international food boards, Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board), Sopexa, (The French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) and MLA (Meat and Livestock Association of Australia) and understand how countries take pride in their indigenous produce.
The last leg of the second phase was surrounded by wines and specialised sprits as I took charge of the sales and marketing office at Fratelli wines, followed by being the Country Manager at Berenetzen Spirits. Very early in my life I decided to choose the path that I eventually took, and there were multiple reasons for the same. Firstly, it was the gene pool. I come from the first catering family of Delhi. But the gene pool was not the only reason, I remember correctly all I wanted to do was to be in the food business, as a chef, as a marketer and as an entrepreneur,” recalls Tarun.
Building the most sought-after brands: He has transformed the shape of looking at a cuisine and cooking altogether and has been instrumental in extensive detailed planning of restaurant concepts, kitchen design and layout.
“Lighting struck and I was back where I belonged. I left the corporate world to reiterate the family’s catering business and that’s when One Fine Meal saw daylight. A year later I had the opportunity to open my first café and Café Staywoke opened its doors. Sidecar and Loft, and also was born Street Storyss Bangalore, my multiple award-winning restaurant, serving craft vegetarian street food inspired dishes. I then opened “TITLIE” Culinary bar, Vagator Goa, based on collaborative cuisine and we have received unprecedented love from everyone. It has been voted as the Best Bar in Goa, and also the Restaurant of the Year,” shares the ace chef and consultant for Sidecar, The Loft by the clock tower, Ministry of Sound, The Urban Deck, Where we met and a few more.
Talking about how he keeps challenging himself every now and then, he says, “Being part of so many stories is the highlight of my journey. As an industry we touch lives of so many people, we become a part of their celebrations, we put a smile on their faces and that’s been the highlight. Every inch of it excites me. From conceiving a brand to putting it on ground, from getting the canvas right to painting, that picture is all extremely satisfying. But it’s actually my guests, whose lives we touch and become a part of, we put a smile on their face and that is what makes me happy. Our industry brings a challenge every day and gives one an opportunity to overcome it on a daily basis. Having said that, the past two years have been the most challenging and daunting with what transpired globally, but it has also given me the opportunity to evolve as an individual and as a leader.”
Sibal’s Signature style of Cooking: With Titlie, which is a Culinary Bar located at Vagator in Goa, he ensured that it debuts with a culinary experience like no other, with the concept of ‘Collaborative Cuisine’ – wherein ingredients and cooking techniques from around the world come together on a plate – took centre stage. It was welcomed with a huge acclaim from the diners.
While at Street Storyss located at Indiranagar in Bangalore, the global street food gets a modern twist with an all-vegetarian fare. The menu is carefully detailed and there is plenty to choose from with nouvelle craft vegetarian dishes being introduced every now and then.
He has also been a chef consultant with Café Staywoke in Gurugram raising the bar for café food and ‘Gourmet Casual’ cuisine – interpretation of global and Indian cuisine. It has been known for its seasonally evolving menu, more popularly for dishes like ratatouille Pav Bhaji and Ragi Upma to name a few. Furthermore, Sidecar in New Delhi which was voted as the Best Bar in the country, Loft by Clock Tower in Gurugram, Ministry of Sounds in Noida amongst other.
A few of his Signature dishes over the years have been: Butter Garlic Pepper Prawns, Rajma ghee Khichdi, with parmesan crumble, achar, chutney, Blue pea rice, yellow tofu curry, crispy chili kale, Wild Mushroom Vol Au Vent, Berry Thyme Jam, Duck Madras Curry, Flaky Parotta, Doughnut Toast, Bitter Chocolate Mousse, Cheery Compote, Tennessee Ganache, Hummus, Crispy Okra, Goat Nihari Torta, Ginger Pickle, Pull Up Banarsi Tamatar Chaat, besides others. Sibal has always believed in keeping food approachable and exciting, hence is personally invested in the thought of serving “warmth” and “joy” on a plate.
“I love eating out, trying out new places, new cuisines, meeting chefs, meeting home cooks, understanding food cultures, listening to food stories, so on and so forth. Excellence and being true to my craft and my guests drive me and keep me inspired. India has been the most influential country as far as my culinary journey is concerned, and it’s an ongoing process. There are many things and people that inspire me, from ingredients to a period of time, to a work of art. In terms of people who cook, I am big fan of Jamie Oliver for how he makes food approachable and what he is doing on the battle of nutrition vs junk. Other than my own country, France, Japan, Germany, UK, Thailand and Srilanka have left an impression on my understanding of cuisine and food,” reveals Tarun on his many inspirations.
When not in the kitchen: Tarun is a wine geek, traveller, music lover and a Bollywood freak. “I have many creative pursuits. I can binge on an OTT series, or Bollywood classics. I write sometimes, sometimes recite and sometimes I sing. I love eating out, travelling for food, host parties and I love spending time back home with my family. My taste in music keeps changing from Billie Eilish, to Nusrat Sahab, From Peaches to Fly me to the Moon. My favourite cuisine is popular and regional Indian.
Vegan and Plant-based cuisine: Plant based consumption is increasing and is here to stay. It’s a holistic approach towards life and deeper than any fad. Veganism is a natural extension to Vegetarianism and India in its true sense may have the greatest number of vegans as a sub set. Tarun reiterates, “Today as a chef you can’t plan a menu without including vegan and gluten free options. I love to cook Vegan meals. Two of the Vegan recipes that I have enjoyed putting together is – a Quinoa and Chickpea Cake with Pineapple and fresh Mango salsa, and a Salad – with fresh salad leaves tossed together with Sundried tomatoes and sundried tomato oil with salt and pepper.”
Latest trends in the food industry: “The industry is in disruption now and trying to be back on its feet slowly. But one thing is for sure, quality never goes out of fashion. I believe that no sub-standard ingredient will turn into quality produce. Places offering distinctive experience, places that are true to its form will prevail. For me it will be #GourmetCasual, my food philosophy, that I will move forward with,” confirms Tarun.
Advice to budding chefs: Stay humble, stay true, keep learning and pass on the knowledge.
Future plans: Survive and flourish! Learn and evolve as an individual, chef and entrepreneur. More restaurant concepts in the pipeline, taking Titlie international, and starting my butter chicken brand in Bangalore. TSBC, Tarun Sibal’s Butter Chicken.