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Desi hits
- A cantonment cuisine spread
Sujoy Gupta. Picture by Rashbehari Das

He was flown all the way to Washington DC, with knives and ladles in his travel bag, to cook for the visitors at the Maximum India Festival in John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Sujoy Gupta, sous chef of Taj Bengal, has returned home happy, humbled and wiser after the stint. He gets talking...

The team

Hemant Oberoi, corporate chef of the luxury division of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and Ananda Soloman, corporate chef of Taj Group’s premium hotels, hand-picked 10 chefs from Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces from across the country to supervise the KC Café and Rooftop Terrace Restaurant at Kennedy Center during the festival. India being the theme of the event, chefs Oberoi and Soloman decided on a desi menu. “Our preparation started on February 22 after we reached Washington. Our days would start at 7.30am or 8am and we would go on till 11pm, never complaining or taking a day off. We were wearing India on our sleeve,” says Sujoy.

The job

The first task was a four-course sit-down dinner for about 550 people, including the who’s who of Washington DC. Sujoy passed the test with flying colours. His trump card? Maachher Paturi! “We didn’t get bekti but sea bass is similar in taste and texture. Chef Oberoi okayed the dish on the first trial!” he says.

From March 2-20, Sujoy manned the KC Café. “The first day, when we opened at 5pm, we were prepared for 500 people but we ran out of food by 6.30pm. That’s when our back-up team with chef Rajesh Wadhwa had to step in,” he recounts.

March 3 onwards, Sujoy and his team would rustle up 3,000 portions. “We would start preparing from the night before with 80kg of boneless chicken for Murg Tikka Masala in Pita Pockets and Murg Tikka Makhani Palak,” he adds.

The dishes were all cooked traditionally on clay ovens “rented from a Sardarji”. Other sellouts included Prawn Koliwada, Lamb Kathi Roll and Dahi Bhalla. Also, Chhole Kulchey from the chat counter. KC Café’s daily revenue shot up from $6,000 to $18,000 a day.

The final task was a dinner on March 4 for 250 people where Sujoy cooked Chingri Malai Curry, Chholar Dal, Luchi and Gobindo Bhog Chaaler Bhaat. “I got the biggest compliment when chef Oberoi said my Malai Curry was better than the one he eats at home!” says Sujoy.

Three things he learnt:

Pre-plating Indian dishes. It controls wastage and makes the food look more appetising.

Using machines to save both manpower and time.

Cooking with less oil.

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