Interviews

‘The dining experience that both restaurants offer shall redefine the way Indian food is perceived’

Considered as the ‘man with a vision on a
mission’ of modern day Indian hospitality, Zorawar
Kalra
, the dynamic Founder & Managing Director of Massive Restaurants
Pvt. Ltd
. announced the launch of his much anticipated, genre defining
restaurant concept Farzi Café – Modern Indian Bistro, earlier in July. Having
introduced diners to his critically acclaimed, multi-award winning premium fine
dining concept serving progressive Indian cuisine Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra
and the hugely successful smart casual traditional Punjabi cuisine concept Made
in Punjab, with Farzi Café Mr. Kalra is set to redefine Indian dining
experience. In an exclusive interview with India
Hospitality Review
Mr. Kalra talks to us about his ventures, food industry
in the country and his take on it:

 The concept of Farzi
Cafe seems to be an experimental one. What are the challenges in maintaining
and sustaining the idea?

    Farzi Café – Modern
Indian Bistro serves progressive Indian cuisine, where you get your Indian
classics like the butter chicken and galouti kebabs with contemporary twists
and presentation. The menu at Farzi Café also uses extensive elements of
molecular gastronomy to add to the diners experience as well as an element of
surprise. I won’t agree that it’s an experimental concept at all; our vision
with Farzi Café is to bring Indian cuisine back “in-vogue” and make it
appealing to audiences across generations and demographics. While those who’ve
experienced the Farzi Café Culinary Experience have had nothing but praises
about it, the only challenge we feel is of the diner’s apprehension in trying
something new with Indian food. However, once they do give it a shot, they keep
coming back wanting more as we have experienced with our fine dining restaurant
Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in Mumbai. Though we have been serving and
promoting the concept of Indian
Cuisine – Version 2.0
, which is further being reinforced with Farzi
Café as well, for almost a year since the launch of Masala Library by Jiggs
Kalra in Mumbai last October, we feel there is still a long way to go before
diner’s start considering their own cuisine as a top pick while dining out,
over other cuisines.

 Do you think the
unique menu that Farzi Café offers has the potential of emerging as a milestone
in the field of Indian culinary industry?

 Like I mentioned
earlier, our vision with Farzi Café is to bring Indian cuisine back “in-vogue”,
making it appeal to audiences across generations and demographics. We are
hopeful that the cuisine served across both our restaurant concepts, Farzi Café
as well as Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, along with the dining experience the
respective restaurants offer shall redefine the way Indian food is perceived
and our guests continue supporting us in our endeavour to successfully take
Indian cuisine to the next level – Version
2.0
.

The mainstay of all
your ventures in food business has been Indian cuisine. Do you think the particular
segment needs a wholesale revival? If yes, how do you plan to contribute to
this?

 The first concept we launched
under our new venture, Massive Restaurants, was our premium signature fine
dining brand Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra which serves progressive “Indian”
cuisine showcasing the culinary strength from across the geographic landscape
of the country. While our casual dining concept Made in Punjab serves
traditional cuisine from the erstwhile Kingdom of Punjab offering guests the
flavours from across the Five Rivers, while presenting the cuisine with a
modern touch.

The impact of Indian
cuisine on the rest of the World, in the last 70 – 80 years since its
introduction to the West, can be seen with the presence of innumerable
restaurants / café’s / dhaba’s serving variations of the cuisine in all the key
culinary districts of the World. However, mostly, the concept of Indian
cuisine, outside of India, and to a large extent even within the country, have
been focused on the dishes found and served on the dining tables in North India
and need not necessarily represent the culinary landscape that the country has
to offer. Despite having such a global presence, the cuisine has lacked
authenticity, standardisation and a sense of panache.

Indian cuisine, over
the decades, has become quite boring with the same dishes and presentations
available everywhere, whether it is a high end five star restaurant or a small
roadside eatery. Sadly, the cuisine hasn’t seen much of innovation over time;
the portions are huge, with a focus on quantity rather than quality and
presentation much 1920’s. However, I am glad that in recent years there are
conscious efforts being made by chefs and restaurateurs alike in taking a more
modern approach in preparing and presenting a completely renewed Indian cuisine
experience to diners across the globe. We take immense pride in our cuisine and
thus our aim and vision with all our restaurant concepts is to showcase Indian
cuisine retaining it’s traditional elements, using contemporary techniques of
cooking and presentation styles to bring in an element of surprise for the
diners and renewed interest in it. 

Generally Indian food
is not seen as a cuisine which goes very well with the conventional idea of
bistro because of its richness. Is it a myth?

 I feel it’s an
assumption that we have chosen to make over a period of time without even
trying to explore how the robustness of Indian cuisine can be used across
various concepts. There is a lot that can be done with Indian food, than the
traditional way of preparing and serving it to guests and that is exactly what
we are endeavouring to showcase with Farzi Café. 

What kind of a role
does the choice of location play for fine dining concepts such as Farzi Café to
do well?

  Farzi Café is a
bistro / café concept, serving your classic Indian dishes using contemporary
cooking techniques and presentation styles, giving the diner a fine dining
experience, yet in a relaxed and casual environment and affordable price
points. For us location is and shall always be one of the key factors, as we
believe that if the location is right, half the battle is one. 

Since you have been
in the US, tell us how different and challenging is the industry here and also
in terms of the expectations of Indian diners?

I believe it is
unfair to compare both markets. The Indian F&B business is at a very
nascent stage and still evolving while the American industry is an established
one for over three decades. The working environment and challenges in the West
compared to the India are very different. 

We would like to know
from Mr. Jiggs Kalra about the changing trends of the industry, the
transformation from Hospitality then and now

The Indian
hospitality industry has always been considered one of the finest in the world
since time immemorial and that is one thing that remains unchanged. Having said
that, the industry has seen a drastic shift from special occasion dining to
dining 5 – 6 times a week by guests, atleast in the key metros of the country.
With time the focus on cuisine has also evolved. During the 70’s & 80’ the
focus was of showcasing traditional Indian food, without much emphasis being
laid on presentation or the wholistic dining experience. Over time, North
Indian and more importantly Punjabi & Awadhi food came to be considered as
Indian cuisine the world over and thus became representative of the vast
culinary history of the country. However, in recent years, chefs and
restaurateurs have been making extra efforts to showcase the culinary strength
of food from across various regions of the country, retaining its traditional
roots, while presenting it with modern influences and styles.

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