Chef Nitin Mathur comes from a family where celebratory cooking is a way of life. His grandmother, mother and aunts were great cooks. Growing up in this environment, surrounded by delectable aromas, Nitin developed his passion for cooking. The family relished vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare with equal fervor adapting and inculcating the changes in culinary trends into their kitchens at home.
Nitin started his career with the Taj Group in 1993 at the Taj Palace Hotel New Delhi as a chef in the Bakery & Pastry section. The past 24 years have taken him to different cities with the Taj from the Taj Jai Mahal Palace Jaipur to Taj Gateway Hotel in Varkala, Kerala, Taj Bengal Kolkata and The Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi, each one adding to his culinary repertoire. This has played a huge role in his maturing as a Chef with immense skill and knowledge of regional Indian cuisine.
His tenure at The Taj Mahal Delhi was a highlight where he was part of the team that successfully launched the Wasabi by Morimoto, a world-class contemporary Japanese restaurant and Varq, a beautiful union of cuisine and art.
The last 8 years Nitin has been at the helm of the kitchens at Taj Krishna Hyderabad. In his capacity as Executive Chef, he has continued to build the legacy of the hotel’s iconic restaurants, Firdaus serving authentic Hyderabadi cuisine; Golden Dragon which showcases the cuisine of the Sichuan and Canton provinces of China. The food at the hotel is second to none and Nitin along with his team of dedicated chefs continues to raise the bar.
1. The main influences that made me interested in food and cooking as a career :
My mother and aunts are great cooks. Our home was always wafting with delectable aromas. I didn’t always think I would be a chef. Infact I was a very keen maths and science student. But destiny has its own way and I joined Catering College after completing my schooling and the rest as they say, is history. You can say, the fragrances of my youth were silently guiding my career path all along.
2. My earliest memory in the kitchen:
Watching my mother and aunts cook. The love and bonhomie they shared came alive in the kitchen. I understood much later that one of the main ingredients in great food is ‘love’.
3. My favourite dish to cook:
Nalli Gosht - it’s a simple and unpretentious dish but even the slightest variation can alter its taste.
4. A cuisine that I want to learn:
The food world is a deep and vast ocean. So much to do and so little time. But if I had just one chance then Japanese cuisine would be one that I would like to narrow down.
5. My secret to great food:
6. The last cookbook I bought:
The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore by Harold McGee. It’s an old book which was gifted to me by one of my mentors at Taj. Over the years it has been borrowed by many and finally lost its way back to me. I was delighted to find a copy again
7. A culinary show that I love to watch:
Master Chef Australia – the sheer joy and fun in cooking is best captured here and of course the Aussie humour is always a great way to let your hair down.
8. In my free time, I would like to:
Hone my photography skills.
9. The kind of adaptations I have had to make while combining two cuisines, palates, guest taste:
Baking being my first love, how can chocolates be far away. Combining chocolate to marry with Indian desserts without letting the chocolate becoming the overpowering ingredient has always been a challenge. So also selecting wines with Indian food – when we were choosing the wines to go with our Chef’s tasting wine paired menu, it was a challenge to ensure neither the wine nor the food clash with each other. In fact the key here is to make sure they balance each other. So a lot of trials of different grape varietals with the meats finally resulted in a beautiful marriage of wines from the Indian repertoire and authentic recipes from the kitchens of Firdaus.
10. My guilty pleasure:
Chocolate... single origin chocolate... the bitter it is, the better it is
11. I will describe my restaurant to a first time customer:
Firdaus recreates the soul of Hyderabad. The focus is on culinary traditions and expertise. The interiors, music, food create a place to experience Hyderabadi hospitality at its finest OR Taj Krishna is an urban sanctuary nestled within beautifully landscaped gardens over 13.5 acres and a rich collection of trees and flowers. It is a perfect harmony of Indian and European styles with mother of pearl inlay work and Belgian chandeliers and European artefacts. Just half an hour away from the airport, the hotel is conveniently located for travellers both for business and pleasure.
12. My menu design:
Research is a combination of retaining our signature & most loved dishes, guest feedback, competitive scenario – new restaurants opening in the city, food trends – healthy ingredients, artisanal and organic produce, local spices to retain the authenticity.
13. My recommendations in FIRDAUS restaurant:
Haleem, Nalli Gosht, Kachhe Gosht ki Biryani, Hyderabadi Khatti Dal.
14. What is the unique dining experience In your hotel. How was this conceived:
At Firdaus itself, the Shahi Dawat or tasting plates are a unique dining concept that guests have now come to associate with the restaurant. Firdaus was always about authentic Hyderabadi food and the Shahi Dawat menus are an amalgamation of the dishes that emerged from the kitchens of the Nizams and old families of the city. It was clear to us that these have to occupy centre stage in our restaurant. While the renovation at the restaurant has seen a complete transformation of the interiors, one thing that has not changed, is its signature dining experience.