Chef Sajosh Peetayil has almost two decades of experience with a rich experience in hospitality industry. He developed passion for cooking as a kid while cooking with his mother. Growing up with special interest towards food, he relished Kerala delicacies which inspired him to pursue his carrier in this field.
He started his carrier as a trainee at a five star hotel in Bangalore and during his course of career has established high profile restaurants such as Caperberry, Olive beach, Windmills Craftworks and Farzi Cafe. It is his expertise that has worked in his favour, when it comes to instant local connect and understanding regional food sentiments. Working with chefs from different parts of the world has helped him to associate and connect to diverse techniques to prepare innovate food for local preferences. Insatiable curiosity and unique ideas have aided him to specialise in European cuisine as well.
He believes that a complete meal is a ‘celebration of all senses’. The food should comprise of wonderful aromas and tastes, followed by the visual presentation and varied textures of the ingredients, ending in a way that all of the above elements harmoniously blend together on a plate.
When and how did you decide you wanted to enter the food industry?
I grew up in a family where food is a very serious topic and everyone cooks well. Some are good with authentic dishes and some are good with innovations. So as a kid I was lucky to get to eat lots of good food. Also when I was at home, my mother used to make me taste everything before serving it to anyone, and I used to enjoy those small tasting sessions. I think the love for good food and cooking rooted in me as a child, which later became my passion and helped me in choosing this as a profession.
How long has it been and how has the journey been? What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
I have spent over 17 years in my cooking career. When I started my career found it tough working in the industrial kitchen and I struggled a lot. All those struggles made me stronger and more focused.
In the beginning, everything seemed to be very challenging – long working hours, work pressure, very strict seniors, the heat of the kitchen, not eating food on time and staying away from the family for the first time and all that. Slowly I started enjoying the pressure, people started coming and helping me and I settled down.
What have been the highpoints of your journey so far?
I was lucky to work with best chefs, award winning teams and most of the top places in Bangalore. I consider that itself is a high point of my career.
What are the places you consult at?
Right now I am not working as a consultant. I am working with Otto’s and also I own a small restaurant called Karnataka Kitchen where we serve authentic Karnataka food.
How do you keep innovating and reinventing every time? What keeps you motivated?
I keep updating myself and I keep experimenting working on the dishes, ingredients, combinations, etc, and that helps me with the innovations. My passion for cooking and willingness to be innovative keeps me motivated.
What are the latest trends in the food industry? Please share on the trend of the cloud kitchens as well.
Going local is the trend right now, if you see all the good restaurants are focussed on local products right now. Also home chefs and cloud kitchens are in trend now. Not everyone can afford starting a new restaurant, so for them, cloud kitchens are the best options to showcase their cooking skills. If their food is good then of course there will be a demand and that will help them in setting up their restaurant.
Any advice to the budding chefs? Where do you think the industry is heading now?
My advice for the budding chefs will be “stay focused, never treat this as just a job, enjoy the pressure and keep updating yourself.”
Now the industry is changing rapidly, it is going forward. People are coming up with new interesting concepts. People are being more focused and innovative. And whoever is doing good, is getting the well-deserved recognition, which is a good sign for the industry.
What has your work been like in the south of India and where all have you worked at in South India?
I am from South India, and I enjoy working in south India. I started my career in Bangalore, after that, I never thought of leaving Bangalore for any other south Indian city. I worked with a US-based cruise line and also worked as a food consultant for a restaurant in UAE, both for a short period.
Something about the south Indian cuisine you like and have incorporated in your various dishes?
I started my career in a western kitchen, and for a long time, I was cooking western food. But I always wanted to cook south Indian food. I am very familiar with south Indian flavours and ingredients, so it is easier for me to work with them. Now I started concentrating more on south Indian food, especially in Kerala and Karnataka cuisines. Because of that you can see south Indian influences in my menus.
Which is your personal favourite dish?
Homemade food is my favourite. I have a soft corner for seafood, so prawn Biryani is one of my favourite dishes. Since I grew up on seafood I find it easier to work with seafood, especially prawns. I get good appreciation for my prawn dishes.
How do you balance personal and work life?
Being in this industry it is something which is very difficult. But it is very important to have a balanced personal life and a work life. I prioritise and plan my work so that I finish it in the restaurant itself. Same way I don’t sit and think about my personal issues at my work place.
Some of your favourite ingredients and some of your favourite kitchen tools?
When it comes to my favourite ingredients first preference is always seafood. Then the seasonal local vegetables and the spices.
And when it comes to favourite kitchen tools, knives are at the top of the list, then comes plating tweezers, offset spatula and micro digital weighing scale.
What are your future plans?
Like most chefs, my dream also is to own a good restaurant, where I will be serving best of the dishes. And I am working towards it.
– As told to Namita Gupta