God knows, but the last two years have been a special kind of hell for all of us, and for the F&B industry, no less. But through it, we have witnessed the emergence of some of the most amazing ideas, innovations and examples of fortitude. Whether it was the disappearance of physical menus from dinner tables or the mandatory hand sanitiser that replaced the erstwhile vase of chrysanthemums, a lot has undeniably changed in the hospitality space, especially this last year. So, we decided to step into 2022, with gratitude and appreciation for all those who kept dining out (and dining in) in vogue.
Be it innovating to stay relevant at a time when the industry was dealt one of it's most serious blows, paying homage to our culinary repertoire or reshaping the way we look at sustainability, the makers and shakers of the food world have worked together to those ends.
Of them, these chefs deserve special recognition for their unrivalled genius. So here it is, without further ado, our list of the 20 very best from F&B in India:
Manish Mehrotra (Left) and Prateek Sadhu (Right)
Ostensibly, a kahuna in the Indian food industry, chef Manish has done notable work putting our food on the global map. He is a visionary, in all senses of the word and stands out for his innate ability to reinterpret Indian food through a modern lense.
Whether it is his love for sea buckthorn, or his ability to give a new meaning to vattayappam, this chef has managed to reimagine Indian food like no other. We're stans, because he has brought several indigenous produce to the fore and woven magic with it.
Amninder Sandhu (Left) and Hussain Shahzad (Right)
Chef Amninder helmed the first gas-free kitchen in the country. Now, she is busy re-stitching the fabric of food delivery with her ventures that shed light on unexplored Indian cuisines and lost recipes.
Whether it is combining idli with chicken curry, or fusing chaat with lamb, the one word that comes to mind when you think of chef Hussain is, imagination. And god knows, he has tons of it.
Regi Mathew (Left) and Naren Thimmaiah (Right)
Chef Regi has put in a lot of effort to preserve the authenticity of the cuisines from Kerala. For him, authenticity is the evolution of food philosophy and adapting to the new normal of the food industry.
Chef Naren has devoted his life to exploring and reinventing recipes. He believes that going back to the root of each recipe unlocks the secret to its greatness. His belief in the evolution of food and flavours is what makes Karavalli—a venerated restaurant in the country—what it is today.
Chalapathi Rao (Left) and Pankaj Sharma (Right)
Chef Chalapathi is proud of the varied culture and heritage of South Indian cuisine. And retains that while understanding that food needs to evolve with changing times. He is as much a keeper of the traditions as he is relevant in the now.
Chef Pankaj Sharma has a singular focus on Ladakhi food, which is yet to come to the fore the way we'd like it to. In a world that is still obsessed with Western trends, dedicating oneself to cuisines that haven't had their share of limelight is in itself a huge feat.
Nikhil Nagpal (Left) and Vanika Choudhary (Right)
Anything sophisticated needs to have the basics in place first, is what chef Nikhil Nagpal believes. He is not afraid of experimenting with techniques when it comes to fixing a dish, however he also believes that keeping a dish close to its roots is what lends to its elegance majorly.
Chef Vanika understands that what matters is on the inside. Her specialty lies in her ability to remain true to the produce and her restaurant, Sequel, is characterised by just that. She's a true-blue champion of sustainability in food and that's what we love about her.
Anumitra Ghosh (Left) and Gresham Fernandes (Right)
Chef Anumitra has a unique approach towards food, which is evolved, responsible and intersectional, in equal measure. Her work with Goa-based, Edible Archives is worthy of all the adulation it has received and simply put, she's just too cool!
Be it identifying someone who barters scrap and waste for garlic, or reusing kitchen waste in ultra-cool ways, chef Gresham has a knack for creating some of the most delightful food, while drawing inspiration from corners that might have slipped the naked eye. Plus, he's a DJ!
Radhika Khandelwal (Left) and Dhruv Oberoi (Right)
Chef Radhika has mastered sustainable cooking techniques, ingredients and zero-waste cooking. She has curated many recipes around these concepts and we just love the spunk she brings to the table.
While many continue to look towards the West for sustainable practices in the kitchen, chef Dhruv stands out for his ability to look within the culture of sustainability, which is present in Indian cuisine inherently. Extra points to him for walking the talk by upcycling food in his own kitchen.
Alex Sanchez (Left) and Urvika Kanoi (Right)
Chef Alex redefined casual-dining for Mumbaikars, more than a decade ago. When he returned with his own venture, Americano, a few years back, he did so to heightened expectations. Not only did he live up to them, but also far exceeded them. Besides, we're just giving extra points here for the fab pizzas and tiramisu.
Chef Urvika recently came to Bombay with her baby, Cafe Duco in Bandra. A talented chef, with a focussed reverence towards our provenance, Urvika's strength lies in her ability to create bold dishes, while remaining true to them.
Jamsheed Bhote (Left) and Rahul Gomes (Right)
Chef Jamsheed Bhote has managed to plate the whole world. Putting together flavours from around the globe, using European techniques and presenting it with the utmost sophistication and elegance is one of the many things he is known for.
Better known as chef Picu in the industry, Gomes is the epitome of humility and that comes out in his food. He has managed to Indianise international menus at high-end restaurants and has received great appreciation for making desi flavours relevant in all cuisines.
Seefah Ketchaiyo (Left) and Sujan Sarkar (Right)
Seefah Ketchaiyo—the queen of Asian flavours—chooses to tell her story through food. Enthusiastic about introducing India to the aromatic flavours of Thailand is her mission and we have witnessed her carry it out with absolute finesse.
Chef Sujan Sarkar has left his culinary imprint in Chicago, London and Dubai. His brand of cooking is characterised by a blend of the East and West and is evocative of his own heritage and childhood. His speciality lies in perceiving global ingredients through a modern lens and the prism of molecular gastronomy.
Suman Quazi is a Writer, Host and the Food Editor with India Food Network and Start2Bake. She believes that while food is cultural, societal and intellectual, it is also deeply personal and is keen in contributing towards a dialogue around food in India that's meaningful. Her work has appeared in leading Indian publications like Midday, Living Foodz, Zee Zest, Deccan Chronicle, 101India and DailyO.