Chef Ramasamy Selvarauj, was recently conferred upon, the title of Chef of the year by the ministry of tourism. The elated Chef Selvaraju tells us about how he began his culinary journey, how he mastered his craft and his best and worst moments in the kitchen
Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju, Executive Chef of Vivanta by Taj MG Road has been honoured with the International Black Box Culinary Award Australia for pre-plated fine dining twice already and more recently, the president of India presented him with the award of Chef of the Year, by the Ministry of Tourism. Chef Selvaraju accepts the laurels with humility, but asserts that satisfying diners (which include Pope John Paul II, Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton) is what makes him happy. In conversation with Chef Selvaraju:
How has the culinary journey been for you?
It has been wonderful. I've learned so much from everyone that I worked with. I had the opportunity to work with Chef Cyrus Evalia from the London Hilton. He worked at Rendezvous at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. I learnt the nuances of cooking from him. My work ensured that I travelled a lot and I worked with Chefs in the United States, Oman, Muscat, Dubai, Lebanon, Morocco, Germany and Italy. The exposure and experience did wonders to my understanding of taste, quantities and presentation.
What does winning the President's Award mean to you? What edge did you have over the other chefs?
It was an extremely proud moment. I was in the company of some exceptional chefs and many dignitaries. It's not easy winning an award when there are so many talented people in the same industry. It felt great. I don’t think I had an edge, but I did match up to the judges’ expectations. They had a number of criteria like innovation, hygiene, health content, cooking process (like slow cooking) and innovation. I use natural juice and herbs and maybe some olive oil or red wine, rather than fatty foods for finishing. I guess I scored highly in their view.
Can you tell us about your worst memories in the kitchen?
I wouldn’t call it a bad memory in the kitchen, but there is an incident that is memorable for the wrong reasons. It was December 26, 2004 and I was the Executive Chef in the Taj Exotica – Bentota (Sri Lanka). That was the day when the Tsunami hit. We were located close to the sea and the hotel was packed with guests. I remember seeing a huge wave coming towards us, our personnel ushering the guests to safety, water, running to save our lives, chaos. I’m glad to be safe!
What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?
(Smiles and says) I think I could fit into a mentor’s role quite well. I work with a lot of young chefs and they have been regularly winning medals, prizes and recognition. My advice to them and any young chef would be that they should follow the recipe without deviation. Use the right ingredients; don’t use alternatives; don’t take any short-cuts. Follow procedure and guidelines and they will be fine.