Anil Kumar is the Executive Sous Chef Waldorf Astoria in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In May 2005, he started his career at IHM Panipat to pursue a specialty diploma in culinary. His broad culinary path encompasses local and international exposure in countries such as India, Egypt, Maldives, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia, starting with ITC group of hotels, Fortune Select Global Gurgaon, Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon, Sunrise Diamond Beach Resort in Egypt, and at The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Beach Spa & Resort a luxurious and resort with 221 villas and 11 food and beverage outlets.
Chef Anil was hired as the Chef de Cuisine for the newly opened Indian fine dining restaurant ‘Ginger Leaf’ at Waldorf Astoria in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Do you have a favourite time of the year or set of ingredient that you look forward to working with?
Being a chef today is quite challenging as culinary scenarios have changed tremendously. No matter what the season, guest expectations are always high and I love the challenge of pushing myself beyond boundaries to meet the demands. Each season I have the opportunity to work with seasonal ingredients to design new dishes, which gives me an opportunity to sharpen my skills.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I grew up in a farmer’s family and that is one of the main things that kept me connected to food. Looking out on green fields, seeing all the vegetation around is an incredibly wonderful and energetic experience. While I was a chef, my interest in law studies still lingered; if not for my job as a chef, I would have studied law.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
My personal preferences don’t always influence the menu. My top priority is my guests’ preferences, but I also introduce modern trends, techniques and approaches to a certain degree in order to maintain a balance between the two.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend currently?
In my opinion, people sometimes go too far in the name of fusion/innovation, such as momo ice cream or butter chai. I believe one must understand the authentic flavors first before creating modern fusion or contemporary food.
When are you happiest?
It is one of my most rewarding feelings to research and develop dishes in a modern way while keeping the traditional flavors intact. Seeing happy guests is a feeling that I enjoy most and celebrate with the team.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
Whenever I am not in my chef’s jacket, I spend time with my son, telling him stories about our traditions, culture and food. And the interesting part is that he is so curious about how I spent my childhood.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
Well, I love to travel to many places. Chennai Darbar is on my top list where I love to take my family to enjoy traditional south Indian food, and in India the Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba on NH-44 is my next stop. Nothing beats having a meal under a tree in the open sky at my farm.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
My favourite takeaway is Shawarma roll, samosa and biryani.
What makes the local food scene so exciting?
There is a wide variety of cultures and local products in every country, but what always stands out is the appeal of local ingredients and freshness. Highlighting local products is a very popular trend in assisting and encouraging local communities.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
Chenna Truffle Kofta came into being when I was designing a set menu for a 6-course tasting menu and when I saw truffles in the hotel I felt compelled to experiment and it worked really well.
You’re having friends over for dinner tonight. What’s on the table?
Home cooked Matar paneer, Jeera pulao, Dhaba style chicken curry, Tawa parantha and kheer.
Name your favourite city that has it all: food, culture, and nightlife.
I would say that Delhi and Gurgaon NCR are my favorites for unlimited food choices from street food to high-end dining, shopping centers, fairs, traditions, culture and night life especially in Gurgaon is top notch. Embraces the culture of all religions and serves beyond boundaries.
Can you tell us more about the cuisine at your restaurants?
Al Safina – All Day Dining, serving buffet and Ala Carte global cuisine
Café Vienna – A patisserie shop with tea or coffee
Ginger Leaf – An Indian specialty restaurant, Discover an epic journey of culinary delights where a mélange of effervescent flavors and exotic ingredients come together for an authentic regal spread.
Manhattan – American diner’s choose from a range of delicious all-American favorites at the Manhattan Sport Diner. From hearty burgers to tender steaks there is a dish to suit every taste.
Aromi – An Italian fine dining restaurant with vista views of the Red Sea and an Italian Menu that has enticed critics for over 80 years all around the world, Aromi and Qasr Al Sharq form the perfect partnership to cater to even the most discerning of tastes. Mataam Al Sharq – Lebanese cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine finds a Royal home at Mataam Al Sharq where a renowned Lebanese Chef awaits to take you on a gastronomic journey of ancient tastes and bouquets of smells that have influenced and fulfilled the region for centuries.
Al Shourfa – A boutique cafe where tea, coffee and tranquility are the order of the day. For quiet reflection or a meeting amongst friends and family, Al Shurfa is the perfect setting to unwind and relax.