She attributes her success in a fairly male-dominated industry to her genuine love for food. In a career spanning 14 years,Chef Amninder Sandhu has received a National Award for the Best Lady Chef, and come to be known as the ambassador of Indian cuisine.
In a candid interview, executive chef Amninder Sandhu of Juhu's newest bar, A Bar Called Life talks about the challenges she had to face, working at the Taj and more.
Tell us about your overall experience working in the industry. Share an incident that you cherish even today.
It has definitely been a lot of hard work. One needs to sacrifice a lot to be successful in this industry. It is also very taxing, physically and otherwise. But, I think the reason I have made it this far is because food has been my true calling.
I still remember the moment before I went on the stage to collect my award for the Best Lady Chef in the country, and how truly unreal it felt. That is a moment I really cherish till this day.
What was it like working at the Taj?
Taj is like home to me. I studied at the Taj Culinary School, was a management trainee with them and then went on to work with them across the world. So I owe a lot to them. Whatever I am today, it is because of my experiences there.
Did you have to face any challenges to become successful?
Yes, the industry is still very male-dominated, and I still face many challenges even today. Being a woman one still has to prove oneself each day. So the initial few months of working at any new restaurant or kitchen are a little difficult because you need to establish yourself with your co-workers and only then can you move ahead.
Is there a glass ceiling?
Yes, as I said, the industry is still majorly male-dominated and many times people doubt your capabilities even if you have proved yourself time and again.
Why do you think there are less women chefs in the industry?
Well, we still have a long way to go. I think it is important that people who are at a certain level encourage more women to work in the industry, because till the time the ratio of both men and women isn't equal in the kitchen, there will be a gap.
What qualities a chef should possess to thrive in the industry?
I think a genuine love for food is important. And that implies not only to this field, but any other field. If you genuinely love what you do, you will be successful.
What is your thought process like while setting up a professional kitchen?
The basic thought is to design a very functional kitchen. Everything should be convenient.
Is there any one dish that you are most proud of cooking till date?
I am very proud of the Bamboo Smoked Mutton that we have on the menu at A Bar Called Life. It is served with jasmine rice and the presentation is very dramatic.
Do you treasure any recipes from you mother or grandmother's kitchens?
Yes. There are many recipes that are inspired from their cooking, and it’s not just my mother and grandmother, I have taken recipes from many other homes as well.
Do you have any role models from the food world?
I am a die-hard fan of Marco Pierre White. I am also inspired by Chef Aniruddha Roy, the executive chef of Taj Lands End, Mumbai.
Going by industry standards, Indian fusion cuisine is here to stay. Why do you think it took us so much time to celebrate it?
With evolving economies, we are exposed to many different cuisines that come with their individual flavours and tastes. It is only after exploring it we go back to our roots and start appreciating it a lot more.
If you were a spice, what would you be?
What is your guilty pleasure?
Baby back ribs and cheesy fries.
If you had 10 minutes to put something on the table, what would you make?
Butter garlic prawns or squid.
Would you rather - eat horrible food for a week or not cook for a month?