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Amol Takkekar

Sous Chef at Lava Dining at the Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort, chef Amol talks to Food and Travel about his passion culinary likes and favourite spots

Earliest food memory The dish which comes to mind is the Poha. Familiar to people living in coastal communities and consisting of simple ingredients, it is a flattened rice dish mixed with spices and fresh grated coconut. Growing up in Northern India, this was a dish which grandmother typically made especially during family reunions in the summer. I remember it just like it was yesterday; my grandmother making her way through the backyard to pick fresh coconuts, cooking on the wood stove and the aroma which filled every corner of the house as the rice slowly cooked. She would grate the coconuts, add a dash of spices and mix them with the rice. This is a memory which I still savour till this day.

Inspiration Inspiration can be derived from many people and places. If I had to name one, it would have to be Chef Gaggan Anand. Compared to Japanese, Thai or Chinese, Indian cuisine is not as famous when it comes to Asian cuisine, especially in Asia. However, Chef Gaggan has really taken our food to a refined level. His restaurant recently ranked the 7th best world-wide and 1st in Asia, by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2017. He is highly passionate and determined which is evident in his achievements; and has definitely raised the bar for Indian cuisine which is why I strive to follow in his footsteps.

What made you become a chef? I chose to stray away from the family legacy of serving in the military. It took me a bit of research as well as some trial and error to discover my passion for cooking. I was captured by the discipline and creativity that goes into the final outcome – most importantly, the pride of being a chef. My ambitious and younger self took on the challenge thinking “Let’s do it!” Thirteen years later, I still enjoy it as much as the day I wore my chef’s whites for the first time.

First job in a kitchen? When I first started my hospitality career, I worked two jobs. By day, I worked at The Oberoi Amar Villas in the garde manager kitchen, where I was responsible for making all the fresh juices used throughout the resort. In the evenings, and I worked in the AAA rated, Chef Oscar restaurant for extra experience.

Favourite city for food? It has to be Dubai! Through the rich mixture of nationalities in such a highly diversified community, comes the greatest culinary experience. It’s very easy to try out different cuisines with their authenticity intact. Fresh ingredients are easily accessible in the UAE, making it a foodie hotspot, and I am sure it will soon become the culinary capital of the world. 

Favourite place for a vacation? The Far East is on my travel bucket-list – there is much to learn in terms of culture as well as in culinary terms. The historical influence on how some cuisines developed was always a fascinating aspect to me and a source of inspiration.  However, home; near the ocean and surrounded by lush greenery will always be my favourite destination.

Favourite comfort food? Comfort food to me is classic, simple dishes made homely, such as a dish like seafood curry. Which is what I aim to create at Lava Dining, taking comfort food to the next level by serving the classics with a creative twist. Caesar Salad skewers, and Goan prawn curries served in parchment bags, are favourites.

Images: Fairmont Hotels; iStock; Gaggan Anand.

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