Slurrp Exclusive: Tête-à-Tête With Chef Jaskaran Gujral Over Christmas Brunch
Image Credit: Image: Crowne Plaza Today Gurugram

The festival of joy - Christmas is here and so is one of the most festive times of the year. With the winter almost at its peak and the end of the year around the corner, there are more reasons than one to celebrate, sip on some delicious mulled wine and revel in the festivities. Food is a very important part of Christmas celebrations and there is plenty of delicious options to enjoy during the festivities. However, a traditional Christmas spread is something that is hard to prepare at home. Fortunately, a number of restaurants and hotels in metro cities are getting you as close to an authentic Christmas celebration as they can, through a delightful Christmas special brunch. Crowne Plaza Today Gurugram, for instance, had an elaborate Christmas brunch buffet, complete with soulful live music and live counters, that left us drooling. 

Helmed by the hotel's Executive Sous Chef Jaskaran Gujral, who recently won the ‘Young Hotelier Award 2021’ by Hotelier India, the Christmas brunch was a grand affair with multiple highlights. As a seafood lover, I was hooked at the starting itself with a special seafood counter full of salmon sushi, fish cakes and cold cuts. Next to it was a cheese counter with about four homemade cheeses to choose from- another one I’m guilty of noshing upon way too much. As we moved ahead, there was a very inviting roast turkey along with Asian treats including Khow Suey and Sea-food in XO sauce. 

Besides the fish tikka, chicken tikka and Subz Galouti in the Indian section, what impressed me much was a live counter for Palak Patta Chaat and sweet potato chaat- both got us asking for more. Along with this, the live counters boasted of tepanyaki, pasta, Seekh Kebabs, Appam and stew. The centre of the brunch was definitely the dessert bar. With the likes of Beetroot chai pudding, Chocolate Buche de Noel, Linzer torte, Christmas cake and Plum pudding with rum sauce, do you think anyone would not want to have it all? While I may have missed a few things here and there, I did not forget to nosh upon the scrumptious mutton biryani from the Indian fare. I also loved the juicy melange of flavours that the Lamb Shanks offered. Post which I was too full to move and help myself. Thank god I made sure to get myself a glass of mulled wine to go along with all of it much before.  

Post all the Pet-Puja I was intrigued with a lavish spread and wanted to get behind the mind of it all- Chef Jaskaran Gujral. A young, vibrant man full of ideas and fresh off the win of Young Hotelier Award 2021, I sat down with him for an exclusive chat about his journey, inspiration, favourites, and more.  

1. When did your culinary journey began and what inspired you to become a chef? 

I used to be a boarder in a boarding school in Mussorie. And since you don’t really get good food to eat in boarding, you tend to start cooking. Since then, I was inspired as we used to watch MasterChef Australia. I saw it for the first time in 2010 and got very inspired. The class, the perfection that they showed is what I thought India lacks and maybe we can do something about it. And before I wanted to be a chef, I always wanted to open a restaurant for myself, that was my dream since school. When everyone wanted to be a doctor or an engineer, I wanted to be a restaurateur. That was my passion and it just turned me into a chef.  

2. What's the most difficult cuisine to cook according to you? 

Still Indian. Because it is too difficult to cook Indian food perfectly if you don’t get the right palette, the right spice. For western, there could be fixed recipes and quantities in grams. But for Indian there is no fixed amount of ingredients. We both can cook different butter chicken dishes despite following the same recipe, since the way we put our masala makes all the difference.  

3. One dish you love to cook for your customers. 

The Burmese Khow Suey. I learnt it from a Burmese chef when I was working in Goa. 

4. Your comfort food of all times.

I still go back and eat Maggi, which is my comfort food. But I love to explore, so if somebody ask me what do you do when you are off, I go explore a new place to understand new things and ideas, to innovate on my own.  

5. One staple ingredient in your own kitchen.

I love Parmesan because of that saltiness. So mostly when I do modern Indian food, I love to use that. Or Olive dust- I dehydrate olives and make a powder of it and give that crunch as a garnish.  

6. Since it is Christmas, what's your most favourite from the brunch? 

The Braised Lamb Shank. 

7. What's your personal favourite cuisine and why?

Thai. Because Indian and Thai are two cuisines in the world that are most difficult to learn and once you learn both the cuisines, you can master anything. Thai also has that spice, those chillies, the herbs, Indian and Thai are inter related to each other. Go towards the coastal side, most of our flavours are common. Massaman curry is much near to the mutton stew of Kerala, so the palette is very similar.  

8. What's one Indian dish you think deserves more recognition at the global level? 

I would say Raan. The way it is cooked, the process, a lot of people don’t know much about it. A lot of good hotels and restaurants also aren’t serving good Raan. Outside India people love lamb chops or pork chops, so I think Raan can take it to a different love.  

9. Three tips you’d like to give to budding chefs 

Do what makes you original, don’t copy. Feel free when you do something, and don’t hesitate. When you are cooking, do it with love.