Dominic Chapman begins service at the Hyderabad Festival

The  Staff Canteen
Dominic Chapman jetted off to India last week to take part in the Hyderabad Food Festival in India. This is the second of three blogs he is writing exclusively for The Staff Canteen about his experiences. The Hyderabad and Curry Life festival started on the 12th of June, my menu offers 12 dishes. All  of these dishes need preparing in a new kitchen with a new team. Ordering ingredients in India is a massive challenge, when you order fresh herbs, you expect green vibrant herbs with a beautiful aroma, what you get is wilted herbs that are small and looking very sad. Dominic Chapman Vegetables are the same, joints of lamb are extremely lean and chickens small. There is not much pork or beef and anything of any quality is usually frozen and flown in from Norway, Australia or somewhere far afield. Fish on the other hand can be very good, yes the grand hotels do fly in sea bass, lobster and salmon, but the local prawns and bhetki (Asian sea bass) are delicious, huge in size and packed with flavour. It is vital that I use the best produce available to me, I need to adapt some of my dishes and make sure the produce is consistently of the right quality. Not easy in India! Produce can be good, but receiving the good produce, fresh from the markets, can be difficult. Opening day in the kitchen My team is nine chefs, my sous chef is chef Vamsi, a passionate chef, trained in Australia, with a real understanding of good food, stock controls and making sure everything runs smoothly. The pastry team  produce my desserts and they are immaculate, the hotel bakers produce all the bread and pastries in the hotel, ciabatta, sour dough, French sticks, brioche, delicious cakes, macaroons, madeleines and more, an outstanding outfit and my desserts are in safe hands. The rest of the team are also brilliant, extremely conscientious, knowledgeable about their craft and very interested to learn and work with me to get all of the prep done for the menu. We hold a staff briefing at 5pm every night, I cook every new dish on the menu for the entire restaurant team to see, the people of India are hugely resilient, they listen and adapt to varying situations. The food I am cooking is totally different to their usual menu, menu changes are always a challenge, making sure everyone understands the dish and can execute it properly on a busy service. These guys have a total menu to perfect and only a few hours to make it right. The first night briefing over, the team primed and ready for the challenge, it was time for service. The world's longest dinner table at Falaknuma Palace The opening night is always the hardest, we had a full restaurant, invited guests included, successful business men, media and food critics, the Hyatt management and British and Turkish diplomats, all expecting delicious food, (no pressure)! Tasting menus were the order of the night, a five-course menu - pumpkin soup, spiced duck, pickled bhetki,  braised lamb and buttermilk cream. India is a country were things happen, people get things done and no one is afraid of hard work, India is also a country that seems to thrive off total chaos, service began and that chaos seemed to arrive with it, our plan of service forgotten and headless chickens everywhere.   After a few strong expletives, the kitchen calmed, the restaurant staff regrouped, we were off. It was a good first night, a little chaotic at times, but this is far more the culture of the people, than the ability of the team.The VIP's, guests and curry life team were incredibly happy, I was unusually happy, my team worked well and we produced some good dishes. The first and hardest night down, the food can only be better. As much as I am in India to do a Job, I also want to experience some of the local culture and cuisine. Hyderabad is famous for its biryani's, I have been given many recommendations, one by food critic, Andy Hayler. He recommends I visit "Adaa" the restaurant at the Falaknuma Palace. Biryani's are the local delicacy of Hyderabad, mutton biryani, chicken biryani and with the area full of vegetarians, a wide range of vegetable biryani's. The biryani's are delicious, delicate pieces of meat layered with fluffy rice, spices and fried onions. Spice and vegetable marketsThe Falaknuma Palace is a grand palace, it was built by Nawab Vikar ul-Umra the prime minister in the 19th century, the palace had fallen into ruin when the prime minister had run out of money. It was taken over by Taj Hotels in 2005. The Taj group run the most beautiful hotels in Asia, and like all their hotels, have restored the Falaknuma Palace to its former glory. It is a magnificent palace.   India is a country of extremes and sitting next to this magnificent palace is a magnificent old city, Charminar, the old city of Hyderabad. The Charminar was built in 1591, it is a monument and mosque, It's the common capital area shared between the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The landmark has become a global icon, listed among the most recognized structures of India. Charminar mosque and monument The English name translates to "Four Towers", the towers are minarets, attached and supported by four grand arches. The Charminar is down town, the real India, colourful, loud and full of life, Charminar is where you either love India or you head straight for the airport and never return. Luckily, I love it and just want to explore the bazaars and back streets, everywhere you look, something will excite or shock you. Thousands of people on the streets going about their business, they may be selling mangos, coconuts or bananas, making fresh lemonade or limeade, preparing all sorts of delicious street food to tempt you, the further you walk the more you see, colourful spice stalls, different lentils, rices and every pulse imaginable piled high in bags. There are stalls selling mountains of Bombay duck and other dried foods, under makeshift canopies, they trade ginger, tamarind and garlic, tomatoes and pumpkins, the produce arrives piled high on the heads of women, or on the back of an old bicycle fresh from the fields, the markets are full of so much colour and so much delicious food. There is also much to shock a European cook, live goats, cows, chickens and sheep wander the streets, feeding on the previous days produce that's past its best for human consumption and been discarded in streets around the bazaar. This is fresh meat and the butcher's stall will kill these animals to order. Animals feeding on the street The temperature is 40 degrees C, the slaughtered meat is hanging from hooks on the streets with flies all around it, this meat is not for me, but the butchers provide a service to the locals and this meat will be sold that day, this is the culture to many of India's people and to me this makes India and its people, magnificent. After a brilliant morning at the markets, we caught a tuk tuk and returned to the kitchen for another service, I only wish I could visit the markets everyday and collect my herbs and vegetables.
In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th June 2014

Dominic Chapman begins service at the Hyderabad Festival