Critics Choice: Zorawar Kalra & Dildeep Kalra
Regarded as ‘the Prince of Indian cuisine’, Zorawar Kalra, after a successful exit from his maiden venture, is credited with introducing one of the most awarded regional cuisine restaurant concepts in India. He launched Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. in December 2012. Under the mentorship of his illustrious father and the Czar of Indian Cuisine – Jiggs Kalra, he established his brand with an aim to develop a premier chain of restaurants that specialise in targeting all segments of the market, while showcasing the evolution of Indian cuisine and putting Indian food on the global palate permanently.
Zorawar’s wife Dildeep, who is a strong businesswoman and has a meticulous eye for detail, impresses and earns her commendable position as the - Founder & Promoter of StyleHorn. Edited excerpts of our tête-à-tête with this power couple follow...
Tell us about your journey. How has your father, the celebrated gastronome and food columnist, Jiggs Kalra, inspired you?
Hailing from a family of food aficionados, food was always the centre of all dining table conversations and anecdotes while growing up. It always had me intrigued, and thus began my initiation into the world of food from a very young age. While growing up, my father had been consulting wth some of the biggest hospitality brands globally. I had the opportunity to experience some of the leading hotels and restaurants across the world. I saw him create such wonderful concepts and that’s what fascinated me to pursue this industry. While I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, the love for hospitality and an affinity towards Indian cuisine was the only natural progression for my own entrepreneurial venture.
You have introduced molecular gastronomy in Indian food. Do you travel extensively to learn more about such concepts?
The concept of molecular gastronomy has been received quite well by guests across different demographics and age groups within India. We witnessed an explosion of restaurants adapting and showcasing the use of molecular gastronomy in various forms across the country last year.
This has confirmed our belief in the concept of pushing the envelope in culinary innovation and being at par with international trends and experiences. Having said that, while the diners find the concept fascinating, there is still a lot to explore and a long way to go before they become aware about the nuances of the process.
At TYGR and KODE, we have extensively used a combination of modern presentation styles as well as modern cooking equipment like the Freeze Dryer and Josper Grill. The techniques work best with Thai, American, and Mediterrean cuisines, while retaining their traditional essence, which has been well received by our patrons. Aspects of molecular gastronomy, if used correctly and in moderation, truly adds value and an element of surprise to the dining experience. By employing modern culinary techniques, latest technologies, laboratory style equipment, and cutting-edge styles of presentation, the progressive cuisine at our restaurants aims to showcase food from around the world in a truly contemporary manner.
In a country that heavily relies on the traditional forms of cooking, you have launched a lot of fusion food. What challenges have you faced there?
We like to call ourselves a ‘progressive cuisine’ company. Progressive food is highly creative, not limited by geography, and imbibes the best of multiple cultures. I feel it is the present as well as the future. I am not saying traditional meals are going anywhere— we just like to be cuisine agnostic. Even Indian fare has global influences, but is still authentic in flavour. For foreign cuisines, we pay homage to the original recipe, but also play around with the ingredients and do something creative. I feel that is important.
“How long can you keep on eating the same food? Why not innovate a bit, but without losing the essence?” It is only human nature to push the envelope. It is vital to educate people about the difference between progressive cuisine and fusion cooking. The future of any cuisine is that of progression; staying true to its roots, while using contemporary techniques to present a whole new dimension, which we at Massive Restaurants refer to as version 2.0.
Since you started your company in 2012, how have you seen the Indian palate evolve?
Today, diners are looking for exceptional experiences not just at a premium restaurant but also in the confines and comfort of their own homes as well. Thus, a concept such as gourmet food delivery has emerged. The components of most gourmet dishes are complex and are presented with innovative plating so as to increase its aesthetic appeal. If restaurants can manage to recreate the visual appeal of a gourmet dish, as it is presented in the restaurant, and offer a premium fine dining experience outside the confines of five star hotels or standalones, this trend is likely to gain traction.
Indians are travelling all over the world and their palate has become quite refined. They want some of that food back in India. If you enjoy a good risotto, why should you have to go to Italy? I’d say the days of going to just Indian or Chinese restaurants are gone. People want to be surprised. They like innovation and are rewarding it in a big way. So, a lot of restaurateurs are taking risks that they never did a decade ago.
Dildeep, you are known as the perfect whiff of everything fashion. Tell us something about your app, Stylehorn?
I have recently ventured out as an independent entrepreneur with the launch of my ultra-chic mobile application— StyleHorn, which endeavours to redefine the way everybody experiences fashion. The idea behind StyleHorn is to delineate luxury retail— curating first hand experiences for the audience, where users share personal experiences through pictorial representation of various luxury retail brands that they purchase, and trends they follow, for likeminded fashion enthusiasts on the app.
Tell us about your international expansion plans and how do you see the F&B industry faring in the coming years?
The international market is very important for us. The world is our oyster, and we feel Indian food has unbelievable potential. We intend to present it there exactly the way we like to eat it. The vision and mission is to put Indian cuisine on the global palate. The future plans include opening new outlets, along with a new menu for our existing restaurants. We have restaurants opening in Peurto Rico, Bangladesh, Istanbul, Doha by year end and two more in tier two cities of India.
What’s next for Massive Restaurants and the power couple?
With God’s grace, Massive Restaurants is growing very quickly. We plan to open 12 restaurants in 2019-20, of which seven will be in India. A further eighth will be franchisee owned and will take the brand to tier two cities.