The real masterchefs

They might not have lofty degrees from catering schools, or boast of Michelin stars, nor would they have gained culinary experience in global kitchens — but they remain unseen forces who aid celebrity chefs at our favourite restaurants

Ruchika Kher listened in to four Commis 1s (deputy chefs in the kitchen) and sous chefs (those who work directly under the chef), about how they whipped up success stories in some of Mumbai’s biggest restaurants.

Le Café — Chef Suman (Commi 1)
Chef Suman’s love for cooking made him travel from Kolkata to Mumbai where he stumbled upon an opportunity to turn his love for food into his profession. The HSC-pass had indulged in local training but he was exposed to global culinary cuisine at his present workplace. Giving us a peek in his life, the commis 1 says, “Le Cafe is packed usually, so we hardly get time to breathe; this is its beauty as there is so much to learn! At times, it gets tiring but we work with perfection to meet guests’ expectations; it keeps us on our toes, always.” However, inspite of putting in hard work, Suman is unperturbed that his efforts don’t get translated into popularity. “I don't feel disheartened that my efforts are not visible to the patrons and our chefs are the face of the kitchen. My chefs motivate me all the time. I look up to them, and also feel proud as I am getting trained under them,” announces a satisfied Suman.

(From left) Chef Suman of Le Cafe, Chef Aditya Patil of Waterstones Bar + Grill, Chef Laxman Singh Negi of Masala Zone and Chefs Sameer Juvekar and Satyan Rai of Lemon Grass(From left) Chef Suman of Le Cafe, Chef Aditya Patil of Waterstones Bar + Grill, Chef Laxman Singh Negi of Masala Zone and Chefs Sameer Juvekar and Satyan Rai of Lemon Grass

Waterstones Bar + Grill — Chef Aditya Patil (Commi 1)
At 25, Virar boy Aditya Patil comes across as confident, grounded and comfortable with his responsibilities; he has a team under him that he manages all day. He credits a majority of this to his Chef, who inspires and mentors him. “I look up to him and aspire to be as skilled and experienced as he is,” he shares. Patil, who has been with Waterstones for the past three years, started early; he joined the hospitality sector as a 16-year-old. His early experience in the kitchen has taught him to not let stress get to him and he just concentrates on the work at hand. Apprising us about a typical work-day, he informs, “If I am on the morning shift, the day starts as 7 am, where I get started with the breakfast buffet for the hotel. I take a count of the things available in the kitchen and mentally calculate what needs to be done ; I ask all the ‘bachas’ (juniors) to prioritise, accordingly. Once the breakfast is done, we start rolling and preparing for the lunch and then for dinner.”

Masala Zone — Chef Laxman Singh Negi (Commi 1)
With a culinary lineage, commi 1 Laxman Singh Negi can easily be considered a born chef. With a father, who was a cook in Shimla, the place he hails from, and a grandfather who has whipped fare for royal guests including the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Negi has the art of Indian cooking in his blood. Hence, to pursue his calling, the 30-year-old, who completed a course in culinary arts from the Institute of Hotel Management, Hamirpur, landed in Mumbai. He loves cooking Indian dishes and says that “an Indian kitchen is always lively.” Commenting on his head chef, Negi expresses , “Our head chefs are our inspirations as they teach us a lot. One day, when we will become head chefs, we hope to gain the same name and respect as the have (gained). I believe taking things positively is the best path to success.”

Lemon Grass — Chef Sameer Juvekar and Chef Satyan Rai (Sous Chefs)
Sous chefs Sameer Juvekar (28) and Satyan Rai (34) have an early start to their day. “We need to get all the work done before service begins. Another area is to take care of all the supplies that reach the kitchen. Also, we must check the food quality before it is consumed by guests,” says Juvekar. But the sous chef along with his partner, Rai, have no qualms because they are encouraged to participate in innovations, and have to deal with a consistent team that knows its work and understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses. While most outside the kitchen are unaware about the real hands behind the perfect meal, the sous chefs are more than content. They’ve even created dishes for Lemongrass including Sesame Crusted Silken Tofu with Wheat Noodles and the Thai Spicy Veggie Dumplings.

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