Meet Ever Learning Chef Giri Manni
Chef Giri Manni is the Senior Sous Chef at Citrus, Leela Palace. Chef Giri has curated the Namma Bengaluru menu that is available at Citrus every Saturday. The idea of this menu is to give guests a taste of Karnataka apart from just idlis and dosas. There is food from Coorg and beyond as well.
In conversation with Explocity, Chef Giri Manni says the Citrus brunch is the best because of the good ingredients that make authentic dishes. He chides, “I can share my recipes but the true taste comes from my hand.” Back home his son wants him to cook more but being the smart man he is, he does not dispute his wife’s cooking.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh. In the temple city. I have three sisters and I’m the only son.
What led you to becoming a chef?
In my village there are lots of people who are chefs. I’d say about 70% of the people are chefs from all parts of the hospitality industry.
I was also a big foodie as a child. So it was known that I would become a chef.
I spent a lot of time learning the history of food in the Southern states. Spent time with grandmothers and farmers to learn the local cultivation.
I was interested to learn. The same dishes are called different names in different places. The Chutney in Karnataka, Tovial in Tamil Nadu and Pachadi in Kerala are the same.
If I hear a new ingredient that I haven’t heard of I travel to those places to learn more about it. This is the chef training I received.
How long have you been a chef?
Past 22 years now. I worked in hotels like Taj and ITC and restaurants too. I have been, 14 years, with the Leela now. In Taj Coromandel there was a lady who used to come to the hotel and I learnt most of the best cooking from her. This was my best opportunity. South Indian cuisine follows the Ayurvedic standards so not everything is unnecessarily spicy. Being a chef is an ongoing learning for me.
What do you enjoy more? Cooking or creating?
Both. There is no creativity without cooking and the other way around. Through cooking I get to experiment. As a chef I first need to make the guest happy and then focus on cooking and creativity. So guests feedback is really what makes me a better chef.
Do you feel there is virtue in preserving the authenticity of cuisine?
I think there is a balance in this as well. The taste has to be authentic. So there is creativity with originality.
What dish do you like eating the most?
I like breakfast dishes like my Idli and Vada the most. As a chef I need to taste and eat everything.
What’s your least favourite dish?
Dark chocolate. Just don’t like the taste.
How long have you lived in Bangalore?
Almost 18 years.
Do you like it here?
100%. It’s the best city. I love Bangalore. Especially my stint at Leela. The Late Capt CP Krishnan Nair gave me the freedom to run the kitchen the way I liked. His son Dinesh Nair is so involved in the food. He’s my favourite. Some of the recipes for the Indian restaurant came straight from Leela Ma’ams (Late Capt’s wife) kitchen. This really is the best hotel to work in, and for a guest, one of the best places to stay. The luxury of the Leela group is really embodied.