Hailing from Ambala, with his father also being a chef and mother as one of the most successful women entrepreneurs of her time — Chef Sahil Singh planned to pursue his education in Business Management. However, with food in his DNA, fate had other plans and he proceeded to complete his Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Hotel Administration. Recognised as one of the finest Pan-Asian and youngest Executive Chef’s in the country, Chef Sahil, who is now the Executive Chef at TYGR, has with him over eight years of experience having trained and worked with some of the finest chefs in the international culinary field such as Chef Masaharu Morimoto. We speak to him as he decodes anecdotes from his flavourful journey. Edited excerpts...

Can you remember the moment you decided to become a chef—what inspired you and what obstacles did you overcome to achieve your dream?

I always had my heart set on either joining the Indian army or becoming a chef. I looked up to my father for a lot of things which included the inspiration to become a chef since he was one. Initially, I was a part of my mother’s business, but I soon realised, that I wanted to be a part of the kitchen innovating and creating to the best of my abilities.

You started your career with the Shanghai Club and TIAN Asian Cuisine Studio at ITC Hotels, and now you are striving under the leadership of the Prince of restaurants, Zorawar Kalra. What did you learn from each of those experiences and mentors?

I started my career as a management trainee. After that, I joined Alchemist, then Taj Mahal hotels resorts and palaces, and worked at Wasabi, the most prestigious restaurant at the time of Taj Mahal Hotels. Post that, I opened two restaurants with ITC Hotels. Before joining TYGR, each step in my career has helped me shape my growth. I’ve had a great learning experience since the beginning with Massive Restaurants. Apart from giving me the experience to run restaurant kitchens, which was different from what I had done previously, they have helped me to constantly grow as a chef as well as an individual, to keep up with the pace of the ever-changing trends of the hospitality industry as well as those that come from Zorawar.

How do you think of bringing in Thai heritage and authenticity to food in India? Also, do you think that there is any similarity when it comes to Indian and Thai cuisine?

Thai food is the most sought after cuisine in India after Indian food. I was always fascinated with the nuances of the food and the ingredients used, and the way the ingredients could be used in food. Th ere is no similarity as such between the two cuisines. Like their cultures, their food is also divergent and has unique specialties. 

Your dishes look avant-garde, but are typically constructed on simple ingredients and elements. How do you champion humble produce in such a modern aesthetic?

I want to cook food with authentic, rich and bold fl avours which I try to retain in a particular dish. Th e ingredients and the mix of ingredients in a dish are the ultimate heroes. I do like to add a twist to it so it’s even more unique for our patrons and that is where the modern aesthetic comes in.

What is the importance of constantly innovating the food you serve?

Competition and creativity are the two most important factors, and I think every chef should be aware about the unique ingredients and ever changing food trends. Also, being a young chef, I always wanted to push the boundaries and experiment and explore. 

How long did it take to develop your own style of cooking, and what advice would you offer to young chefs looking to develop theirs?

It is important to understand the basics fi rst and then move towards experimenting with fl avours. Like every other process, cooking also requires patience and tolerance.

With international ingredients now so easily available, how do you see the Indian market growing? Also how do you see the food scene changing in India?

The Indian market has seen a lot change in the past few years due to the availability of raw ingredients along with the ratio of people travelling abroad for work and leisure.

People are becoming more adventurous and are open to accept the changes and experiment with the fl avors. A lot of the ingredients are also imported so when one comes in to dine at TYGR for instance, they are instantly reminded of their trip, thereby eating the same dish they had there. It is a feel-good factor, reminiscent of a fl avourful experience.

What future challenges and developments do you foresee in the restaurant business?

As with any industry challenges are a constant and are what help in the growth and renewal of the industry. I don’t see too many challenges in the kitchen except the pressure to keep re-inventing which is what we are here for anyway.

What new things are you working on at the moment?

There are a lot of interesting things happening; we are also launching our new menu at TYGR with more authentic and traditional dishes. We have introduced dishes such as Thai Styles aromatic Duck with Sweet and Sour Dressing, Baked Avocado stuff ed Crab Tartare, Lamb Bolognese and a lot more.

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.