In the business of food

Pressing the refresh button for your career isn't really a bad move, says chef Sudip Misra

Chef Sudip Misra

A sit-down meal with a chef can be a revelation of sorts. The conversation not only gives one an inside view of a commercial kitchen but also sheds light on the challenges of running a successful business. Sudip Misra, the newly appointed executive chef of Bengaluru Marriott Whitefield Hotel, has experienced both ends of the spectrum.

“Real success comes from self-actualisation. We don’t know what we are capable of. The entire journey of knowing my capabilities has always motivated me to rediscover myself. Change is good, it keeps you on your toes, saves you from complacency,” says the 43-year-old chef.

Learning curve

Having started his career with the Oberoi Group of Hotels that lasted six years, Sudip gave it all up and journeyed abroad, first to Spain where he worked at La Finca restaurant, and then to New Zealand, where he worked at the Indian fusion restaurant Malabar, and later went on to own it. “My wife and I were already working at the restaurant — she as manager, and I, as a chef. We realised that the restaurant wasn’t doing well because of the fallout between the previous owners and saw an opportunity there as we knew the potential and the market.”

But running a business came with its own set of challenges. Sudip had to unlearn, relearn and constantly motivate himself. The quest for improvisation and honing his skills took the young chef back to the drawing board and he interned at Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong (Bo Innovation) and Singapore (Jaan). It was the knowledge and expertise he learned there that kept him in good stead.

Speaking about his experience of working with “demon chef” Alvin Leung, Sudip says, “He is an entrepreneur in the true sense and being untrained makes him a genius. The most important lesson that I learned working with him was about leadership. As a chef, you need to have soldiers who, when you are not around, perform to the best of the standards that you have set.”

“I was at a precipice at the time. Those five weeks with Alvin were a boon. During one of our chats, I asked him, ‘What would you advice a young chef like me who wants to improve his restaurant?’ His response was a simple, ‘Just stay true to your strengths’,” he says with a smile. His internship taught him a lot about how to run a successful food and beverage establishment. “You need to find your own template, your customer base, and make the most of the produce you have at your disposal.”

And when he went back, Sudip decided to chuck the Indian fusion menu for Malabar and cooked food that was true to its roots. And after nine years of weathering many storms and tasting success in equal measure, Sudip decided to let go of Malabar.

New role

Sudip’s tryst with Marriott began after a 14-year hiatus from the culinary scene in the country. He learned the ropes fast at JW Marriott in Kolkata and was again pushed to make a fresh start. “When you are an entrepreneur in spirit, it kind of makes you realise what you need to learn quickly and what you need to let go of,” he explains.

And now, heading the operations of a hotel kitchen is a different ball game altogether. “I want the restaurants here to not only be popular with hotel guests, but also with people who wish to dine out. I want the restaurant to come into reckoning in that space, so the competition is with free-standing outlets as well. Hotel restaurants sometimes suffer from inertia. I want to shake things up!”

Given the culinary revolution in the country, Sudip believes that in the age of food apps and videos, a one-dish-wonder restaurant is a trend to watch out for. “But the mantra for success is always bettering yourself,” he concludes.

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