Sunday, 13 October 2013

India’s First Ritz Carlton Opens with Michelin-Starred Anupam Banerjee as Executive Chef

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

BANGALORE and Bengal are powered by two entirely different mindsets, but our own Silicon Valley’s culinary scene has been dominated for years by a Bengali. Abhijit Saha grew up in Delhi, studied Hotel Management at IHM Pusa and Oenology at the Johnson and Wales University, USA, started out as an industrial trainee at the Taj Palace in his home city, earned his spurs at The Park, where he launched IT.alia in Bangalore with guidance from the famous Antonio Carluccio, and then has had his adopted city eating out of his hand at Caperberry (and subsequently Fava).
Now, there’s another probashi (expat) Bengali chef who’s set to storm Bangalore’s culinary scene as executive chef steering the seven restaurants with which the country’s first Ritz Carlton has opened in the southern city. Anupam Banerjee, who grew up in Ranchi, where his mother is a professor of economics and his father an engineer, was the head chef of Rasoi by Vineet at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva when it became the first and only Indian restaurant in Continental Europe to get a Michelin star and 15 points on the GaultMillau.
Banerjee’s ties with the Michelin-starred chef-restaurateur Vineet Bhatia, the force behind Rasoi, goes back to their days at The Oberoi. When the Mandarin Oriental Geneva chose to open with the Indian restaurant in 2008, Banerjee naturally was the hotel’s first choice for the position of head chef. Banerjee, who turns 40 next years, has spent nine years with the Mandarin Oriental, having worked at the group’s hotel at Hyde Park, a favourite of Indian fat cats, and in Washington, D.C., where he was head chef before he got his Bangalore assignment — or, to use the famous Ritz Carlton expression, was inducted as one of the “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”.
An IHM Chennai graduate, Banerjee completed his education at the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development (OCLD) and worked at La Rochelle, where he honed his French culinary skills, before it made way for threesixty degrees at The Oberoi New Delhi. When he was 25, he won a cooking competition for chefs at The Oberoi and was chosen to represent the hotel at a ‘Taste of Asia’ promotion in Singapore.
Ranchi's Anupam Banerjee (do you see a resemblance here
with M.S. Dhoni?) is the Executive Chef of India's first
Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. Image: Courtesy of Destination
MO, online magazine of the Mandarin Oriental group
It was there that he was spotted by a chef from The Raffles and was inducted into the historic hotel, where he also met his Singapore-Chinese wife Fung. In the two years he spent as stand-in chef at The Raffles, he got to work in all of the hotel’s 18 restaurants, which prepared him for bigger roles at the Mandarin Oriental. Banerjee has also worked with Alain Soliveres at his Michelin two-star restaurant in Hotel Vernet, Paris, had a short stint with Pierre Gagnaire at his Michelin three-star restaurant, also in Paris, and worked alongside with Charlie Trotters, Jeun Fleury and Lea Linster.
A world-travelled chef who has lived and worked in three continents, Banerjee comes with an impressive CV and a heavy load of expectations on his shoulders. The Ritz Carlton Bangalore will have three specialty restaurants — The Market, an all-day dining destination where the main highlight will be the chef’s table where Banerjee will showcase his culinary repertoire; The Lantern, a lantern-shaped Chinese restaurant and bar designed by Super Potato; Riwaz, a Bukhara-type North West Frontier restaurant with a whisky and wine room; and Bang, an open-air rooftop bar offering panoramic views of the city from the 15th floor. That’s an impressive inventory to command, but Banerjee has the experience to slip into his role seamlessly.