Akshay Nayyar is an energetic young celebrity chef, passionate about delivering excellence in the culinary arts. Excelling in various international cuisines, 29 years old Chef Nayyar is now an entrepreneur and expanding his restaurant brands across Asia including Kopper Kadai, Tum Tum Asia, Tourist-Street food bar, Office Canteen Bar and few more in the pipeline
Why did you want to be a chef?
I grew up watching lot of travel and discovery TV series. By the time, I turned 12, I decided to experience world cuisine and make travel & food as my career. Since an early age I always had a love for food and cooking and being the only child of my parent’s I was fortunate to pursue my dream of becoming a pro chef and make this my bread & butter. Both my parents were teachers and I was left alone at home post school. All that excited me in those hours was experimenting with a pack of Maggi and creating new versions. I still remember preparing over 70 different recipes including a funny marigold Maggi.
When I was 15 my uncle who was a big foodie often invited me to cook over weekends for him and boosted my confidence.
Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration is my own passion and dedication. I strongly believe that only you can motivate yourself. Hard work blended with smart work leads to success and one must get inspired by one’s own success to scale new heights. However, I have role models like Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Marco Pierre White with whom I got an opportunity to work closely.
What do you think is the most important requirement in a chef?
Like every recipe has few key ingredients every profession has some main attributes. For a chef, I believe precision & consistency are two main requirements. Learning is something that comes with training but one must have focus and will to learn.
How has the Indian food industry grown over the last few decades?
Indian food has made a big impression globally over the last few decades. With increase in travel, job relocations and tourism there has been immense demand for our native cuisine not only in India but also worldwide. With advancement in culinary techniques and its application there has been a sharp increase in food industry. people today are welcoming changes and are open to experiment new things. This has given chefs a reason to innovate and present something new which helps industry grow at a rapid pace.
Is the restaurant culture different in different metros across India?
This reminds me immediately of how people react to restaurants in South. For instance, our restaurant in Bangalore called Kopper Kadai which serves north west frontier food had to change recipes of biryani and basic curries because diners there complained of low to medium spice levels and rice should be overcooked. At the same time trend for vegetarian food is much higher in these states if compared to North states like Delhi and Punjab. Another important point to understand is value for money factor especially in a city where majority of population is salaried and restaurant options are immense.
How are Indian chefs regarded internationally?
I remember my days when I shifted to Dubai in 2011 with a fear in my heart that how will I survive in this ocean of expat and well known chefs. Just in 1 year I had an answer to all my questions. “It is not your nationality or country of origin but it is you and your very own skills that gets you recommendation in any part of the world”.
What challenges have you faced in your career? Any interesting incidents you can recall?
It was in 2008, Hyatt Hyderabad I was assigned to look after a PATA fam trip. At 2 am when I was just about to finish my shift suddenly my executive chef appeared and asked me to show all the things that I had prepared for next day. Out of the entire batch there was a salsa that wasn’t evenly cut and he threw away entire batch in bin. Now imagine chopping 20 Kgs of tomatoes, 5 Kgs onions, 1 Kg Jalapeños at 2 am. Since that day, I made it a point never take short cuts and ensure similar hygiene in my kitchens also.
Which is your favourite dish? Favourite cuisine?
I love Spanish food, my favourite dish being Paella with garlic sofrito.
Besides these salads from different countries is my comfort food.