The new executive chef of Taj Bengal Kolkata
An Insight into Chef Sonu Koithara’s ventures as he takes over as Executive chef of Taj Bengal
Chef Sonu Koithara was excited to take up the role of the executive chef Taj Bengal Kolkata. More so because, as a 5 star property with various in house guests, dignitaries from different countries and the local food connoisseurs, it was bound to be a challenge for the worthy.
Walking into the huge lobby of Taj Bengal is always like a deja vu moment for me. Whenever I walk in, it is like a quick recap of the days that I spent here as the HOD of the Human Resource department, morning meetings at 9 AM, getting to learn the excellent TBEM (Tata Business Excellency model), meeting some inspiring professionals and the friendships with excellent colleagues. Speaking about friendships, I have spent many hours discussing about kitchen, with the then executive chef Sujan Mukherjee. Chef Sujan got transferred last year and Chef Sonu Koithara replaced him. We walked in and waited at the Promenade Lounge as the Chef walked in.
Chef Sonu has been a part of the Taj group since 1995 and has had an intermittent sting with Four seasons in between, which made him travel almost all across globe. He had also had an opportunity to work on his Japanese cuisine at Nobu London, Italian cuisine with Michelin Star chef Bruno Loubet of Osteria d’Isola London and Turkish cuisine with Chef Jerome Tauvron of Ozer London. The last 10 years as Executive chef has seen him travelling across various Taj properties like Kumarakom, Kovalam , Umaid Bhawan and now in Taj Bengal.
Taj Bengal Kolkata has got 8 restaurants through which different cuisines are offered to the guests. While no introduction is needed for Sonargaon, the Indian cuisine speciality outlet with the culinary influences of British, Islamic and now partitioned Bangladesh on the menu, Chef has carefully studied the menu and 20 percent of the slow moving items have been removed/ replaced with new additions. One significant addition has been Gondhoraj fish tikka to add to the local flavours.
Souk has been a new entrant in the league with a spread of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare with food from Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and UAE and as it is slowly gaining popularity, Chef Sonu is very enthusiastic about it and does not want any significant changes right now.
Chinoiserie, legendary Chinese fine dining restaurant has been always been a go to place in the city for lovers of oriental cuisine with significant presence of Sichuanese and Cantonese flavoured dishes. As Chef says that the latest trend observed in the restaurant has been more of steamed and boiled food moving away from the deep fried ones, he plans to introduce more dimsums and steamed varieties in the menu.
Hub, the all day dining has seen the introduction of Esplanade special menu from 1980s, as there are guests who keep on coming back to this place asking for the same.
The Grill by the poolside has become the food lovers paradise for the city during the winters, where the best sea foods and grilled meats can be enjoyed by the poolside with live music and this place is open from October to March. Last winter Chef Sonu was instrumental in the introduction of black rock grill.
The banquets are the occasion where one can display their culinary excellence and in few of the banquets that have happened in Taj Bengal in the recent times, Chef Sonu has offered innovative menu from Peruvian, Sri Lankan and other international cuisines and he plans to make the banquets the most sought after and exotic variety in the city.
Shooting (with rifles) and cooking is a very rare combination. When Chef Sonu said that shooting is his passion and hobby, we were little awestruck. He has been shooting since his college days and other than shooting, he loves to drive around the cities that he stays in. Goes without saying that his job entails him travelling across different countries, states and cities. While he was in Rajasthan – he travelled almost 24000 km in 2 years to the remotest part of Rajasthan to try the local village food.
In the brief period that he is in Kolkata – he has already travelled to Purulia, Digha, Bardhaman, 24 Parganas and other places. Trying out local hotels, getting involved in the process of making Nolen Gur, are some of the best memories that he has got till now.
It has now been 14 months that Chef Sonu Koithara has joined Taj Bengal as the executive chef and the hotel and the guests are experiencing a slow and subtle change in the food, which is traditional yet tweaked to meet the contemporary demands. Here’s wishing him and the hotel all the best.