Currently working as the Executive Chef at Vivanta by Taj MG Road in Bangalore, the chef started his culinary journey almost 25 years ago with the Taj Group itself. “I graduated from the catering college in 1985 and started working with the hotel immediately after that,” recalls Selvaraju.
However, convincing his parents that he wanted to become a chef was much tougher. “When I used to visit my mother during the vacations, she would ask me questions such as ‘Why do I need to study to cook?’ and that the neighbours were enquiring about what I’m doing with my life. It was tough to make them understand, because in those days, men didn’t take up such professions,” he says with a smile.
Specialising in European cuisine, the chef enjoys cooking Mediterranean and Italian food as well. “When you cook with passion, it ensures that nothing ever goes wrong with the dish. I never go and speak with the guests, but they often come and tell me what they enjoyed,” says Selvaraju, who has prepared dishes for eminent personalities like Pope John Paul II, Amitabh Bachchan and former President Abdul Kalam Azad amongst others.
The chef enjoys cooking on weekends for his kids. “Sometimes, they demand Italian and on other days, I make Oriental dishes for them,” says Selvaraju. And whose cooking does the culinary star enjoy himself? “My wife’s,” he smiles. Well, chefs are husbands, too!
The Food I Met
Being a Chef gives me a great opportunity to fulfil my passion for cooking by travelling around the world. I feel extremely blessed to be in a profession where I get to learn and explore new things every day. My love for travelling has not only helped me explore new places but also gives me the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, try out food from different cuisines and get acquainted with exotic ingredients. These special ingredients are great to play around – as they test one's creativity. They also lead to some experimentation with unique and innovative recipes.
I believe it takes a great understanding of gastronomy and palate along with little creativity to bring forth some delectable recipes. One such recipe, which is really close to my heart is Pan seared John Dory and Sweet Potato Mash along with Martini Veloute, Red Wine Sauce and Buttered Vegetables.
1. Where did you grow up?
2. When and how did cooking start as a profession?
- My mother was my inspiration. I developed an interest in cooking because of her. I won my first medal in 1984 at the Chennai Catering College Food Competition. After that, in 1985 I won at the Chennai IHM. That’s when I realised that I actually could look at this as a career.
3. How long have you been a chef?
- 28 years with the Taj Group of hotels.
4. How has the culinary journey been for you?
- It has been a wonderful process. I have learned so much from everyone that I worked with. I had the opportunity to work with Chef Cyrus Evalia from the London Hilton. He worked at Rendezvous at the TajMahal Hotel in Mumbai. I learnt the nuances of cooking from him. My work ensured that I travelled a lot and I worked with Chefs in the United States, Oman, Muscat, Dubai, Lebanon, Morocco, Germany and Italy. The exposure and experience did wonders to my understanding of taste, quantities and presentation.
5. What do you enjoy more? Cooking or creating?
- Experimenting with various ingredients and different flavours is something I enjoy the most.
6. What do you think of the dynamics of the food culture in Bangalore?
- Bangaloreans know what they are eating. They appreciate, give suggestions and feedback. They are full of energy when it comes to giving their views and they don’t hold back when they wish to encourage you or appreciate you. They know their food. A lot of them know a lot about cooking.
7. Do you feel there is virtue in preserving the authenticity of cuisine?
- Yes, I strongly believe in retaining the authenticity of the cuisine.
8. What dish do you like eating the most?
- For me, it is my grandmother’s fish curry with steamed rice.
9. What’s your least favourite dish?
- I’m not a big fan of red meat. I also try to avoid using lot of spices.
10. How long have you lived in Bangalore?
- Almost 23 years
11. Do you like it here?
- Absolutely, the pleasant weather and the warm and friendly approach of the people are endearing.
12. What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?
- (Smiles and says) I think I could fit into a mentor’s role quite well. I work with a lot of young chefs and they have been regularly winning medals, prizes and recognition. My advice to them and any young chef would be that they should follow the recipe without deviation. Use the right ingredients, don’t use alternatives, don’t take any short-cuts, follow the procedure and guidelines and they will be fine.
Vivanta by Taj –MG Road, Bangalore
41/3, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bangalore 560001, India
Tel: +91 80 6660 4280