Slurrp Exclusive: Chef Viraf On His Culinary Journey And Nuances Of Cooking

Chef Viraf Patel is the Director of Operations at Miadiamante Foods and Beverages Pvt Ltd. At the company's helm, he is responsible for offering a new canvas of newer culinary and beverage trends with utmost honesty and dedication laced with many eccentricities, conviction and belief in truly honest cooking. Chef Viraf brings over 24 years of expertise to the table, having worked and consulted at some of the country's most prestigious restaurants, including the erstwhile Indigo, The Tasting Room at Good Earth, The Table, and the Impresario Group's Salt Water Grill and Salt Water Café.

Viraf began his culinary experiences at an early age and pursued his education in Hospitality Management from the esteemed Les Roches School of Hospitality Management. Post education, he worked at Restaurant Zur Rossweid, Zurich, where the essentially methodical and technique-focused Chef Attinger became his mentor and challenger. As a result, Viraf attributes much of his culinary attention to detail technique and understanding.

Viraf's cooking approach reflects his respect for his ingredients and attention to technique. Viraf is well-versed in soul food, world flavours, and ingredient and technique knowledge, and he is continuously working to understand the roots of dishes and make them relevant to our time. His passion and perseverance have allowed him to achieve several milestones. First, he established Cafe Zoe, which has won Mumbaikars' hearts and taste buds. He also created The Table in Colaba, India's best high-end stand-alone.

In a nutshell, Viraf thinks that within the food and beverage industry, fraternity and camaraderie are the only ways to withstand storms, and he's been one of the first to try bringing chefs together and maintaining solid friendships among numerous people within the food and beverage industry.

Tell us something about Independence Brewing Company, its services, offerings, and USP? How long have you been associated with IBC?

In 2020 the Trenton Investments group acquired Independence Brewing Company, which US Investors previously owned. On taking over the company, the management decided to elevate the Craft Beer experience, from merely Pubs to well-designed restaurants with a penchant for great food and great beverage deeply steeped in the mindset of all things craft. Although I was previously associated as a consultant with the company before it acquired IBC, since July 2021, I’ve been working full time with the company as Director Operation while also involving myself in all the culinary aspects of the business. 

What is your childhood memory of cooking?

I spent most of my childhood in my grandmothers home in Hyderabad, it was a traditional kitchen, and she cooked everything from scratch. I remember us even having a meat cupboard instead of a fridge, a giant mortar and pestle on the ground where all spices and masalas were ground. I spent a lot of time in that kitchen, which was among the largest rooms in the house. So seeing food made and relished is one of my virtual memories.

Share some quickest munchies to prepare for a movie night with friends and family?

We’re big on Rice in my family and always have some leftovers. One of my favourites is frying the rice in mustard oil with garlic and a slit green chilli and topping it with a crispy fried egg. I also love to make homemade matchstick potatoes and toss them up with Timur, chilli powder and salt.

What made you pursue cooking? 

I practically grew up in Hotels (where my mother worked), and I enjoyed free access to all hotel parts. Only the kitchens/ and Maintenance areas were generally off-limits for safety reasons. But when I did get a chance to visit the kitchens, I was enamoured by their enormity. The sounds and aromas left a lasting memory. Growing up, I felt drawn back to that. 

What is your greatest takeaway or lesson as a chef during the lockdown?

The pandemic left our industry in the pits, with no genuine support from the government. As a result, the sector, which always bends backwards for its patrons, saw its back snap-in days. All income streams came to a standstill - while many chefs took to home catering, incubating and growing delivery platforms, the returns were bleak. However, chefs tend to be highly adaptable to situations - we adapted. 

Now with the opening of the world, what are the places you cannot wait to go to?

The way I work and the cuisine I present in my restaurants are clean and sophisticated and always lean towards European with global flavours. But, deep down, I am a street food kind of person. So I want to experience street food from places I've never visited, Pakistan, Africa, Western South America, Japan and Korea.

Tell us about the journey, the success and roadblocks

I always knew I wanted to be a chef and restaurant owner. I started by going to a reputed Hotel management school, Les Roches, back in 96’ - Finances were the most significant roadblock for us as a family. Still, my family did everything to support and I, in turn, skipped semesters to earn enough for the next. I had a great mentor in Hr. Attinger in Switzerland helped me with prepaying my fees and working in repayment. She had the massive trust that I wouldn’t just disappear after he had paid my fees. Today I base most of my work relationships on trust. The climb accent from Cook to Sous chef took its time. After having consulted some of the best restaurants in the country, I finally had a place to call my own in 2011, Cafe Zoe.

The pandemic has profoundly impacted the F&B industry. How has it affected you personally?

When the pandemic hit, my company was in the consulting business. All accounts and retainers dried up overnight as restaurants shut their shutters across the country. We had a profound financial loss; we moved cities and eventually countries to save on expenses as a family. It was a challenging time indeed. The recovery is slow. 

Any piece of advice for aspiring chefs?

You won’t see quick results and instant gratification. The Job is tough on both the person and their loved ones. That said, the Gratification that comes will be worth all the busting. Be patient and keep learning. You will see that even when you have perfected something, there is so much more out there that we have no clue about. Keep creating, but be honest with your craft and respect your ingredients.