Chef’s Table: Q&A with Vijay Anand from Armani Hotel Dubai
Where are chefs finding inspiration for their food? What cooking trends and techniques have been inspiring them recently? Our Winnow Chef's Table series brings you interviews with chefs from all over the world, sharing some insight into their culinary origins and philosophies.
We had the pleasure to speak to Chef Vijay Anand, The Executive Chef at Armani Hotel Dubai. Read on to find out more about his sustainability efforts using Winnow and what he has learned along the way.
How did you start working at Armani Hotel Dubai?
I was part of the pre-opening team, so it’s been 9 years since I started working at Armani Hotel and 22 years in total I’ve been working all around the world.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My inspiration came quite early in my life. Both my mother and father were wonderful cooks, our house used to be full of aromas. That inspired me to start cooking quite early in my life.
How does Winnow help you in your day-to-day operations?
We have cyclical menus that change on a weekly basis. After using the Winnow system we made a lot of changes to the kind of dishes we prepared so that we were able to combat the waste better. Moreover, the Winnow team was very supportive, they were always just a call or an email away. It was a combined effort to reduce food waste. The technology has been helping us cut food waste by 47%, saving us 150,000 AED in food costs. This reduction translates to an estimated 117,000 meals.
What initiatives have you implemented based on the data Winnow provided?
Based on the daily and the weekly reports, we have briefings with my chefs. We go into the details of each and every section. We are able to see what items are the most wasted, and through this, we decide what dishes can be rotated or omitted from our menu. We’ve managed to make a lot of dishes from ingredients that would have otherwise been wasted. For example, we have started making empanadas with the leftover vegetables or meat.
We noticed a pattern were a lot of rice was getting wasted, so we have started making an Arabic/Mediterranean style dish that involves stuffing baby bell peppers with rice and baking them.
We have also started creating more focaccia from the cold cuts left over from breakfast that are still good for use. The Winnow system tells us which ingredients are getting wasted, and based on that we rotate our cycles and our dishes.
If you could give one piece of advice to chefs on how to tackle food waste, what would it be?
Start seriously looking at your food waste. It’s enormous in most restaurants and buffets. You’ll be surprised by the sheer amount of food that’s being wasted by the hospitality industry across the world. This is the right time for us chefs to look into investing in a food waste management system. The Winnow system is a smarter way of calculating your food waste. You’ll be amazed to see the kind of saving you’ll make in just a couple of months. It also gives you better control of your entire buffet or banquet operation.
What does being sustainable mean to you?
For the past couple of years, we’ve been working with a lot of local farms for our ingredients.With EXPO 2020 our whole focus is to use more locally sourced and sustainable products. The sustainability pavilion is a part of the EXPO 2020 theme, so we have to commit to being more sustainable and implementing more farm to plate concepts.
To give you an example, we started sourcing a lot of sustainable fish which is caught in the Abu Dhabi and Dubai waters.
Is there a Chef you admire the most?
Mr Jiggs Kalra - food critic, consultant and chef. He was my inspiration when I was a young aspiring chef.
What is your favourite dish?
It has to be food cooked by my mom. I think most chefs will tell you that. When you go home you look for simplicity - one or two ingredients, and that works phenomenally well. As a chef, you get more satisfaction from simple foods.
What’s your most recent fascination?
For the past few years, I’ve been a big fan of Sous-vide cooking. It’s a slow way of cooking meat and proteins, it keeps the natural juices intact. We practice it in all my kitchens and banquets. It makes a massive difference in quality. We follow the same techniques irrespective of the number of people we serve.
What is your favourite place to eat in the world?
My love for one cuisine stands out above the rest and that is Indian cooking. I was born and brought up in India. When I go back there, to Delhi or Mumbai, I want to be on the streets eating from food stalls where one guy makes one dish.