Executive Chef Sandip Narang

Taj West End, Bengaluru

Sandip’s passion for cooking was ignited with a chance reading of Harold McGee’s landmark book “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”.
His culinary training began in the kitchens of The Taj Mahal Palace and Towers Mumbai.

Over the years he worked in various kitchens of the Taj all the while developing his own culinary style.

Sandip has led and been a part of various teams catering to heads of states and celebrities both in India and around the world; he has done food promotions in Bangkok, Taiwan, Hanoi and Singapore.

In 2002 he was the personal chef to the Prime minister of India on his trip to Kazakhstan and Russia.
He extensively toured the Middle East in 2001 on behalf of the Taj group researching Middle Eastern food and was the opening chef of the extremely successful restaurant ‘SOUK’.

In 2004 he was named Executive Chef of the stunning Taj Lake Palace Udaipur – considered by many as one of the most beautiful hotels of the world. His innovative menu ideas and streamlining of kitchen operations were instrumental in the success of the Food and Beverage operations.

Neel Kamal (literally meaning “Blue Lotus”) the fine dining restaurant at the Taj Lake Palace specializing in ‘Wood Fired’ Rajasthani cuisine served from an open kitchen, considered one of India’s finest restaurants was selected as the best specialty restaurant of the Taj group in 2005.

In 2006 Sandip became the Executive Chef at Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Maldives where he brought a remarkable variety of influences and styles.

In 2010 Sandip took over the kitchens of the iconic Taj West End Bangalore where he leads a team of extremely talented chefs in running the operations of the hotels three restaurants including the award winning ‘Blue Ginger’ and continues to develop innovative concepts and signature dishes.

Some of these concepts include:
The Colonial Experience – This is a tasting of colonial dishes to commemorate the hotels 125th year anniversary.
The Vietnamese Bento– Taking a cue from the Japanese Bento, an experience has been created showcasing the various regions of Vietnam.
Equilibrium Cuisine - Nutritionally balanced cuisine focusing on using fresh natural products including organic vegetables, fruits and herbs, lean meat and poultry, fish and fresh seafood gently prepared to keep in all of the vitamins, and minerals.
This eclectic cuisine takes the best from several schools of thought, that includes raw food and slow food styles of preparation featuring a wide selection of ‘Live Food’ which is essentially 'raw' or that has not been microwaved, radiated or heat processed above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of Sandip’s signature dishes are:
• Five-Spice Baby Lamb Rack with a Black Truffle Mascarpone Cheese Risotto.
• Olive Oil Poached Hamachi with Pickled Melon and Nori Salt
• Warm salad of roasted squab with creamed cabbage and bayonne ham, grilled sweet potatoes; vinaigrette of squab liver and winter truffles.
• Ceviche of ahi tuna crudo on beetroot carpaccio with herb gribiche quenelles; blood orange and tomato confit vinaigrette and micro greens.

Sandip’s food philosophy is that “The key to serving a memorable dish is the quality of products and the care that goes into preparing it”. His aim is always to create dishes with full bodied flavors and eye appealing arrangements using a combination of fearlessness in experimenting with new flavors while still keeping a healthy respect for tradition.

Q & A with Executive Chef Sandip Narang

The main influences that made me interested in food and cooking as a career...
That credit goes to a chance reading of Harold McGee’s iconic book “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”. I picked it up from a used books sale and have been hooked ever since. Was completely intrigued reading about the magical reactions that cooking has on the various ingredients and the amazing stories and history of the various foodstuffs.

My earliest memory in the kitchen and my favourite dish from childhood..
The earliest memory is of my mother making pickles on the roof of our house. My favourite dishes from my childhood… My mother’s “jaggery stuffed paranthas”, Gujarati lunches served at my school dining hall, Sheer khurma and biryani during eid from the house of our neighbours.

My favourite dish to cook
The perfect fried egg made in an iron skillet (really dislike non-stick pans!) and various types of pickles.

A cuisine that I want to learn …
For a Chef, that’s a tough question! There are so many but particularly cuisines from the North East of India, Kashmir, Peru,Kathiawadi (part of Gujarat) among a never-ending list…!

My secret to great food…
Start with the freshest ingredients, respect tradition in food, however be fearless in your zeal to push the boundaries (this somehow shows in the final dish)

The last cookbook I bought….
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking By Michael Solomonov

A culinary show or movie that I love to watch
When I do find the time, I enjoy watching other chefs cook on TV. Stalwarts like Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and other eclectic chefs like Emerille Lagasse, Rachel Ray, Vicky Ratnani, among others

In my free time, I like to....
Watch Amitabh Bachchan classics and make up for my sleep deprivation from the week!

The kind of adaptations I have had to make while combining two cuisines/palates / guest taste – for e.g.  Indian and Intercontinental
In my kitchens, we try to stay away from “(Con)fusion Food”. These days we have found that guests looking for authenticity in their food experiences.

My guilty pleasure…
Fountain pens… I have a secret collection that I am very possessive of.

I will describe my restaurant/hotel to a first time customer...
Describing The Taj West End is all at once easy and difficult. The hotel is an icon in the city and truly one of its kind. Its USP is that there is a strong emphasis on originality and authenticity in the lap of luxury and nature. Each corner of the hotel tells a story and each award winning restaurant is part of a culinary legacy.

My menu design.... (What kind of research goes into its preparation, can you walk us through the process?)
Well, we first by studying of what’s selling and what isn’t. Then there’s the analysis of why it’s not selling. The next questions we ask ourselves as a team are: Where do we see this restaurant in the future, in the next 12-15 months?What trends are we looking to set? We also keep an eye on competition to see the opportunities for us to grow.

Then comes the first draft of the menu which can have up to 5 times the number of dishes as the final menu. We then have tasting sessions and select the best, review and make changes to them.

In order to ensure we get a global view on the menu we call in influencers and focus groups for their feedback; these are both internal and external stakeholders. We’ve found that our servers oft times give us the best feedback. Once we have all the feedback we go back and look at our final menu, make tweaks and then… launch!

My recommendations at the restaurants in The Taj West End …
While there are many signature dishes at each restaurant, my favourites are: 
At Blue Ginger:Shaking Beef with Jasmine Rice
At Masala Klub: Tandoori Nalli
At Mynt – Grills and Mezzes

4-5 personal tips that I would like share with our guests...
Ask the wait staff for recommendations – they know the menu better than anyone else!
Always trust your instincts while cooking
Stay true to the integrity of the ingredients when experimenting
If you’re unsure of what to order on the menu, peruse through the tasting menu. You’ll be able to try signatures without the stress of having to choose!