Armed with 14 years of experience and a penchant for gastronomical experiments, Chef Thayanithy from Signature Club Resorts is no ordinary chef. For one, the veteran has served US troops in the Middle East and been an executive chef in ‘DFAC B6.2 T-IRAQ’ and Head Chef in C3PO International Foodservice in Afghanistan. He has also worked with the best of their ilk in the culinary world of India.
Here, the innovative genius dishes out on what makes a chef extraordinary, tricks of the trade, cooking tips and more…
What sparked your interest in the culinary world?
Pursuing culinary arts as a profession has always been in our family. My father used to own a restaurant in Madurai, and whenever I had free time after school, I used to help in the business. That’s how I also inculcated an interest in this profession.
Could you tell us a bit about the journey? Were there any struggles along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
After my culinary education, I struggled to get a proper placement in a reputed hotel, so I settled at doing any jobs that came my way. Fortunately, one of my acquaintance got me an apprenticeship in residence towers in Chennai. In the initial stages it was a bit of a struggle to cope up with long hours and tedious workload, but once I made up my mind to make the culinary world my profession, I looked at this opportunity as my first stepping stone and made the most of it.
How did your family react to your line of interest?
As I am dissident of a family with a culinary background, my family was very supportive of my decision.
How is it being the Sous Chef at the Signature Club Resort?
It’s been a challenging and exciting journey so far! The management has been very supportive in implementing my new ideas and experiments. I have been very lucky in retaining the core chefs’ team who have been with me from the inception of our resort.
What kind of an experience can a customer enjoy here?
We have always succeeded in providing a homely experience by offering exemplary services. Whether it’s a corporate gathering, family outing or a group of friends, there is something for everybody. Right from our restaurants to various sports facilities and the presence of lush green combined with serene atmosphere, our guests to have a memorable experience.
You have 14 years of culinary experience. What are the key things you have learnt along the way?
For any chef to succeed in his career, he should be innovative, keep up his knowledge on emerging trends and modify his working style as per workplace requirement. Most importantly, he should always believe in teamwork.
You have also served as an executive chef in ‘DFAC B6.2 T-IRAQ’ and Head Chef in C3PO International Foodservice in Afghanistan. Please share your experience.
During my tenure in the Middle East, I was imparted with valuable experience in the aspect of food safety and hygiene, exposure to bulk cooking and maintaining consistency. It showed me the importance of implementing HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) standards.
How has it shaped you when it comes to your approach towards cooking?
What I am today is because of the experience that I gathered from the Middle East.
Your experience of serving the US troops in the Middle East makes Afghani and Middle Eastern cuisine your forte. What according to you is the key to preparing authentic Middle Eastern cuisine?
The key is to retain the true essence of Middle Eastern flavours by using only authentic and homegrown middle eastern spices, condiments and other key ingredients. Using native cooking methods also plays an important role in preparing authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and retaining the originality.
What do you feel distinguishes an ordinary chef from an extraordinary one?
Any ordinary chef can become an extraordinary chef by being innovative, trying new techniques in cooking and never being afraid of failure. An extraordinary chef always looks at options to delight his guests with new recipes and flavours.
What are the little tricks according to you where one can balance eating healthy and tasty, especially with all the festivities on the way?
Any chef can bring balance when one uses nine grains (nava dhanya) in their recipe as they carry substantial nutritional value at the same time, produces tasty dishes. My favorite being ‘Pearl millet payasam’
What is your take on the below food trends?
• Going vegan
My personal suggestion on this is that one can opt to go vegan in their late forties, as my experience in the army has thought me so.
• Going organic
My personal suggestion in going organic is that it is just a fad and many have misinterpreted the concept of organic food.
Do you have any favourite ingredients for cooking and how do you feel that they transform the dish?
Saffron is one of my favorite ingredients, as it completely transforms any dish to which it is added by its vibrant colour and rich flavour.
Are there any tips to make regular home food interesting?
My personal opinion is any food made at home is always special, especially when it prepared by the mother. To make it interesting, all one needs to do is experiment with the usual recipes with unique ingredients and cooking methods.
Do you have any tips for fussy kids?
Short eats in the evening is the best option!