A familiar face on MasterChef India, Chef Ajay Chopra started his career in 1998 as a prep cook with TGIF and, in the past two decades, has worked with some of the heavyweights in the industry, like Oberoi, Marriott and Starwood. With multiple TV shows in his kitty, he is a household name in India.
As Brand Ambassador of frozen foods company Sumeru, Ajay was at the World on a Plate event held in Bengaluru recently where he showcased his culinary skills in a MasterClass conducted by him.
While Ajay has enjoyed working with the big names in the hospitality industry he reached a point where he wanted to use his skills and talent to work for himself but also help others in the process.
A multi-tasker who loves to do 12 things at a time, he ventured into consultation and, over the years, has helped restaurant owners who have the money and ideas but find it challenging to shapeit all into a complete package.
Whether it is the food, the concept or the menu, Ajay is happy to help. Though he is open to all kinds of foods and ideas he is selective about the projects he picks up. He is consulting with almost 15-20 restaurants. The ticket size of these restaurants is Rs 2 crore plus, with seating for at least 80-100 people.
“People have ideas but don’t have the patience and vision to see them through. So it’s not just about a menu, concept or putting sofas and chairs together, but it’s actually one’s heart and soul that need to go into a restaurant. You need someone to drive it through. I realised that there was a huge gap in the market and decided to address it."
Whether it’s brands or restaurants or chefs, Ajay says reinvention is important. “Take, for example, Sumeru. The brand is led by R&D and tech, but one also needs to understand the need for heart and soul, which I bring. It is my job to ensure that we double the sale of popular products by showing customers the multiple ways they can consume them,” he says.
According to Ajay, the market is huge and always in need of new things, especially when it comes to food. Hence, in the food industry, not just brands, but chefs too need to reinvent themselves as the demand is constantly changing.
As someone who has witnessed the Indian food industry boom and been a part of it for awhile now, Ajay offers some interesting insights.
According to him, there are three big trends that we can look forward to...
"Home cooks will become a larger body and will get a lot more attention. People will see that eating in will increase as traffic woes worsen. Also, the need to spend time with family will mean people will eat in.”
He opines that in a few years India will be ready for DIY food kits, which will not cost as much as they do today.
Secondly gourmet food will be simplified. “The trend will be about deconstructing gourmet food,” he says.
Thirdly, people will start taking pride in local cuisines. He says...
“Regional food has become important. Today, people are proud of their regional cuisines and don’t shy away from them."
As someone who loves to do multiple things at a time, Ajay enjoys playing the guitar and is into photography. And as far his favourite food is considered, dim sum manages to hit the spot every time.
When it comes to his food philosophy, the celebrated chef says, “Keep it simple.”