Brace yourself gourmands of Delhi, Pullman has a new culinary director, and it is none other than the popular chef Sandeep Kalra. After years of working in the country’s most reputed restaurants, chef Kalra brings his culinary genius to Pullman, which has been a forerunner of sorts when it comes to innovation in dining and sustainability. Chef Sandeep himself believes in supporting local farmers, vendors and wants all his ingredients organic. His love for traditional techniques and zeal to create something new and memorable is what makes him an exciting chef. We met him at Pluck café for wine and cheese. Excerpts from the quick conversation. 

Tell us about the transition and how you are planning to turn things up as the new culinary director.

In my professional career of 26 years, I have witnessed many changing trends and patterns in the hospitality industry. My approach has always been towards sustainability and here at Pullman, we achieve this by using organic ingredients, promoting support for the local vendors and practising concepts like ‘farm to table’. The aim is to develop a purposeful team that collectively works together to provide exceptional and sustainable culinary experiences. I make sure that traditional cooking techniques are effectively processed to create authentic taste. Lastly, I strive to include the emerging trends in my curations to stay ahead of the hospitality trends.

Now that the ‘farm to table’ concept is picking up everywhere. How are you planning to make your kitchen more ‘sustainable’?

At Pullman, we bring purpose in every approach. We have accomplished this by getting in touch with the local farmers and aligning them with the concept of Farmer’s Basket at Pluck. The notion is simple, we use fresh local ingredients procured from the local vendors around Delhi NCR in our cuisines. The primary aim is to promote the farmer’s hard-earned produce and simultaneously deliver organic dishes to our customers, practising a mutually beneficial process.

What are your pet peeves while working in the kitchen?

Being a perfectionist, I have an eye for detail, and I constantly check for standardised preparations and recipes. One of my biggest pet peeves while working in the kitchen is poor presentation. I wholeheartedly believe in the transportive nature of food and take the art of flavours and culinary presentations very seriously.  

What is your comfort food?  

The definition of comfort food, I think, varies at different places for everyone. When I'm dining outside, I love eggs in any form as I believe that it is the most versatile food in the kitchen and exhibits different flavours with different preparations. On the other hand, when I’m in the comfort of my home, I love the simplest dishes like Dal & Roti. 

A dish that takes you back to your childhood, or any fond food memory.  

I love home-cooked meals and Aloo Gobhi must be one of my most favourite childhood dishes. As I have spent most of my early childhood in a small town, the memories of freshly cooked Aloo Gobhi in an earthen pot on our homemade chulha still bring a smile to my face. 

Do you remember the most special compliment you received on your journey as a chef?

Yes, I remember the instance very vividly, it was when the chairman of one of the leading hotel chains in India complimented me by stating that I have prepared the best fish in the entire organisation. The name of the dish was ‘Panseared Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule’ and it remains to be one of my special creations.

Your advice to budding chefs.

My advice to budding chefs will always be to be passionate about your work and treat your ingredients with respect. By keeping in touch with modern trends and learning about different palettes, there is always room to grow further and be a better version of yourself.