For a chef, culinary enthusiast, and someone associated with F&B, it is essential to travel and explore the flavours of different places and their food culture. This is what Chef Mahesh has been doing to capture the diversity of world cuisine in its unfiltered form
Travel to far-flung lands brings one closer to the unexplored cultures and food habits of those natives; this has been proved by Chef Mahesh Padala. His knowledge of world cuisine can be compared to an encyclopaedia. He is a seasoned culinarian and hotelier with nearly two decades of work experience, and his passion for cooking led him to travel to major cities worldwide. It opened portals, enabling him to work alongside numerous high-profile chefs and experience the vast culinary world. Simultaneously, he could learn about different countries' various cultures and food concepts. Throughout the course of his many years of experience, he has pioneered several culinary innovations. His forte is European, Thai, South Indian, and North Indian cuisines.
Mahesh Padala is one of the most adaptable F&B directors in the sector, with hands-on business knowledge. He was conferred with the 'Award of Culinary Excellence' (ACE) by Marriott International for his distinguished excellence, unwavering dedication, and never-ending passion for the culinary arts. He is also MasterChef India Judge (Telugu). With his entrepreneurial perspective, he has developed a detailed understanding of the workings of a restaurant. Currently, as the Cluster Director F&B for SAMHI Group, he manages 13 Marriott Hotels across India with a focus on delivering quality and consistency in food and beverage offerings.
Thus, when the world is gearing up for the coveted Thanksgiving, Mahesh Padala, Cluster Director F&B, Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel, appeared as the perfect repository of knowledge to share about various nuances of this celebration; the past, present and future.
Mahesh Padala in his jovial self
When asked: How has food been an integral means to convey thanks or gratitude to others?
He simplifies the interconnectedness between food and emotions and replies:
"Food plays a vital part in any celebration across the world. Food brings people together. Thus, the idea is to unite, and bond with loved ones over food, especially the grub made using family recipes to offer gratitude came about."
Q. Why does Thanksgiving have so much prominence?
This day gives people a chance to share their gratitude towards those who make a difference in their lives. Needless to say, we must educate our future generations about gratitude and its significance.
Thanksgiving is a big day in America and quite a few select countries. With a large ex-pat population in India and most of the international chains being from America, the festival has gained much prominence over the years in our country. It is an important day in the calendar for many travellers. Since many are unable to go back home in time to celebrate it, hotels ensure guests staying with them do not feel homesick on this special day. The idea is to create an environment that gives them a chance to experience Thanksgiving's essence, surrounded by familiar food that has the power to transport them home.
Q. What has been the traditional culinary spread during Thanksgiving?
Some of the signature dishes of this joyful feast are Butternut squash soup, Roasted Turkey, Stuffing, Roast Gravy, Mashed potatoes, Cranberry sauce, Pumpkin Pie, Sweet potato Pie, Pecan pie and Cherry pie.
Q. Why are these foods chosen for this occasion?
Many of these thanksgiving dinners are made from the ingredients of native America, and turkey is one of the most celebrated food in the United States. Pumpkins, gourds and spices plentiful are the key elements of this season and hence the spread as well. Such culinary amalgamation also reflects the colours of Fall on the table – the oranges, yellows, browns and cranberry reds.
Q. What changes have you observed in recent years regarding food preparation during Thanksgiving?
There are many more adaptations witnessed nowadays. The menu has evolved over the years to appeal to audiences beyond those who follow this tradition. The current generation is all about experiences. They want to learn about other cultures, try different food and be a part of festivities beyond their own. We see creations with seasonal and local ingredients on the Thanksgiving menu, and there are many creative ways of serving turkey or festive desserts.
Q. Is there anything that has gone missing and can be restored?
Traditional cooking methods need to be restored, which are losing their ground in contemporary Thanksgiving dinners. For example, slow-roasted turkey, chestnut stuffing, and roast gravy from the pan are fading away. Sometimes the modern culinary generation needs to catch up on these traditional methods on these special occasions.
Q. What are the newer culinary trends you are observing around Thanksgiving?
Sit-down dinners with chefs' innovative recipes and presentations, wine parings, enticing new flavours for the turkey, trending pumpkin recipes, different kinds of pies and healthy salads on Thanksgiving dinner menus have been observed as modern trends. Thanksgiving dinner buffets play a significant role in Indian hotel restaurants to serve traditional feasts along with local signatures.
Q. Would you like suggest any particular dish for this occasion?
I would like to share the recipe of the hero dish for Thanksgiving and would be glad if people try it at home.
Roast Turkey with Giblet gravy and Roasted vegetables
Roasted turkey, Image Source: Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel
Serve: 8-10 Guests
Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours
Slice the turkey and serve it with cranberry sauce
Tip- Roasting time of turkey 45 minutes per KG!
Tip: You can add red wine – it goes very well with giblet gravy
For Roasted vegetables
Wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. It's time to express gratitude.