With a love of relishing myriad dishes that began during childhood days, Chef Vilas Dhankute was crystal clear with what he wanted to become when he grew up. The culinary artist got his first break at ITC Sheraton Jaipur and went on to cook a storm at The Oberoi Bangalore and Radisson Hotel and Resort. Today, he treats the taste buds of many as the Sous Chef of Grand Mercure Bangalore. Here we have the gastronomical expert sharing his journey and some interesting cooking insights.
What sparked your interest in the culinary world?
Since my childhood days, I had a fascination for different types of cuisines and food. At home, when my mother prepared poori bhaji for breakfast, I always asked her to make something different like pizza, poha or sandwich. It was this interest in trying various cuisines that made me decide on becoming a chef.
Could you tell us a bit about the journey? Were there any struggles along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, any industry has its challenges and they happened with me too. However, my interest and passion for hospitality helped overcome them. My first job was in ITC Sheraton Jaipur where I worked for two years and then moved to The Oberoi Bangalore. Later, I spent a couple of years in a cruise line and then decided to come back to India where I joined Radisson Hotel and Resort.
In 2009, I Joined the Accor group as a Pastry Chef. Like any other industry, being a chef in the hospitality industry has its own set of challenges. The initial days of training and learning to use cooking equipment and getting used to the hectic schedules were the toughest.
How did your family react to your line of interest?
I’m lucky enough to have a family who has always supported and encouraged me to make decisions for myself and follow my dreams. When I told them I wanted to do Hotel Management, they were happy to support me through it all.
How is it being the Pastry Chef?
Being a Pastry Chef has been a wonderful experience. I get to innovate and present food in several ways. Kind comments from guests about how they loved my food has always helped me do better each day.
The art of pastry making is a complicated one, what are the key things one has to consider while preparing a dessert?
Initially, it may seem complicated. However, time and passion for work make it easy. I have learnt that as a Pastry Chef, you must be calm for the pastry making process is a very delicate one. Always have all the ingredients required for making the delicacy ready, follow a procedure, learn from mistakes and never be scared to be innovative.
Where do most of the people go wrong?
Pastry making is a delicate process and requires an eye for details, texture and flavour variation. As I had already mentioned, you must be calm during this process and concentrate. You can go wrong while kneading the dough due to too much/ less usage of a particular ingredient and then there is no going back.
Tempering chocolate is quite tricky too, what according to you is the right way to do it? Are there any tips for the same?
I wouldn’t say tempering chocolate is tricky. You have to just follow the procedure and required some knowledge of chocolate.
What do you feel distinguishes an ordinary chef from an extraordinary one?
Being innovative takes you a long way. Any chef would know how tedious it is to come up with extraordinary recipes without being repetitive. Not all innovative dishes are bound to turn out great. That’s why never be afraid to experiment and always take note of where you went wrong.
Do you have any favourite ingredients for cooking and how do you feel that they transform the dish?
Yes, ingredients like chocolate, almond flour, hazelnut flour, etc. are some of my favourites. I would also say the quality of such ingredients can make a huge difference in taste and texture of the food.
What is your favourite dessert and why?
This is a tricky question for me, being a Pastry Chef I love what I cook, but Baked Cheese Cake and Linzer Torte would be my top favourite.
Are there any tips to make home dessert expert like?
Don’t hesitate to experiment with different ingredients. This age of live videos and millions of social media food pages is helping people to become better cooks and evolve the way we see food. It is no more just as a necessity.
In all of the years of the rich experience in the culinary world, what are the key things you have learnt along the way?
Nothing is difficult, you have to just start the work and things will work out.
Lastly, what advice would you give to those who want to become a Pastry Chef?
Do not work to be just a pastry chef. Work with interest, passion and try to innovate the food and aim to become the ‘Best Pastry Chef’!