- August 11, 2017
- Posted by: Planet Goa Team
- Category: Stories on Goa
On a rainy Goan evening, I had a chance to catch up with the new Executive Chef at Taj Exotica Goa, Chef Shyam Longani. Delhi born and an IHM graduate, he has close to two decades of experience, having worked at and launched some of the best restaurants not only in India but the rest of the world. His most recent stint right before Goa, was Cape Town, where he spearheaded operations as the Executive Chef at the Taj property; needless to say we had a detailed chat about how the two markets compare, which started with Chef Longani referring to Goa as the Cape Town of India, perhaps because of the large and diverse tourist crowd which descends upon our beloved state.
Chef Longani’s professional career, affiliations and qualifications, literally spill over into pages. To just give you an idea about how lucky your taste palate will be, if you choose to dine at Taj Exotica in the months to come, Chef Longani has won the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition & the Best Indian Chef of the Year Competition, both in the same year (2002-2003). He was also part of the first ever Indian team which took part at the Culinary Olympics in 2008.
It seems Chef Longani has a penchant for learning, as after his Diploma from IHM, he also completed a Bachelor’s degree in his field, and a few years back, completed a PG Diploma in Business Administration too. Perhaps, it is this desire to excel and grow, which has ensured that several prominent recognitions in the restaurant industry, have gone to the restaurants which Chef Shyam Longani was associated with. The latest feather in his cap being Bombay Brassiere at Taj Cape Town, which has been consistently ranked as the best Indian restaurant in Cape Town. He has also worked at the award winning Zodiac Grill.
Chef Longani comes from a family where “food was a celebration”, and traces his origins to Afghanistan, which is where his forefathers hailed from. As a Punjabi, he remarks that “Punjabis are born for food; they only believe in eating”; and thus the inclination toward learning about food was quite natural. However, becoming a chef was never the sought after career for Chef Longani; you can say that because he was naturally good at it, it was the most obvious choice. Today, when he looks back at his journey, he comments on how exciting this has been, and is glad that he took it up as a career.
In Chef Longani, we have someone who is looking forward to digging deep into regional cuisines and perhaps reinventing them too. While at the moment, he certainly seems geared up to experiment and showcase the beauty of the Goan cuisine, in the future we can expect to relish innovative takes on other regional cuisines of India, which have not yet received their due, for instance the Coorgi delights. Taj Exotica Goa’s new executive chef specializes in French, Italian and several other Western & European cuisines and has also worked with Mexican & Latin American cuisines.
Being a North Indian and a Punjabi who hails from a foodie family, shouldn’t Chef Longani’s favourite cuisine be North Indian? While he does love to work with it, he says rather aptly that North Indian cuisine has been quite overdone, and mentions that though his focus will be regional cuisine for some time to come, perhaps he will work on reinventing the way modern North Indian cuisine is presented.
We asked Chef Longani, what comparisons he can draw between the food culture in Cape Town & that of Goa. This set him on a detailed description of the prominence that local produce finds in the food cooked all over Cape Town; something that he hopes he can do in Goa as well, beyond what is being done already.
Still settling down, Chef Longani aims to look for sustainable produce for his kitchen at the Taj Exotica Goa, with the sole idea of giving the diners quality stuff, which meets and hopefully, surpasses their expectations. With a couple of restaurants at the property under renovation, we look forward to the culinary magic waiting to happen, at the hands of this dynamic & talented chef.
Text: Shobhika Jaju
Images: Taj Exotica Goa, Shobhika Jaju