We meet interesting people, say butter chicken types and some are the typical tangy, minty, spicy chutney kinds and Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar is one such person. Have known him for almost a decade now, infact the familiarity was more with his food. He specializes in Italian cuisine and he can pass off like one of the interesting Italian men, if you know what I mean!
He heads the kitchen brigade at The Park Hyderabad, A very interesting hotel that is truly a grand boutique hotel carrying the glimpses and the legacy of the Nizams. I love every visit to the hotel and look forward to the next one. Its a designers delight and scintillates every possible sense that you might have. Mesmerizing is the right word for it. Most of the trips to the hotel are on work, that means there's a very packed schedule in place but Chef Mandaar would always make it atleast one dinner with us. My personal favourite being Aish, the restaurant serving Andhra and Hyderabadi cuisines. Haven't had Haleem and Andhra food better than Aish.
I was there recently for a training schedule at the hotel, as usual had a very packed one and Chef Mandaar was busy too with many high profile events that he had to personally oversee the culinary part. But it was on my agenda to meet Chef as his first book is out called Romancing the Chicks! Infact what attracted me to the book was the title. I had to meet him and get to know a bit more about him as a person and also the story behind the book. I love stories and I know for the fact that people love them too. Infact the participants in my training programs always compliment on my real life anecdotes and stories as examples. Hence proved....this sounds so Maths isn't it? Doesn't matter if you liked maths or not but stories certainly go a long way.
Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar - Who?
An alumnus of the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, New Delhi, Chef Mandaar started his career as a management trainee with The Park hotels in 1993 at New Delhi.
He was one of the only 12 winners worldwide, of the ‘Foundation for the Future’ scholarship awarded by the International Hotel and Restaurant Association for the year 2000-01.
In 2006, he was rated as one of the Top Young Chefs of India in an independent story published by the Taste and Travel magazine and in 2013 he found place among the Celebrated Chefs of India - a definitive book by Marryam Reshi brought out by the Times of India group.
He credits his early learning of European cuisine to the Spanish restaurant, Las Meninas at The Park New Delhi, but he is more famously known for Italia, the suave and iconic Italian restaurant that he opened and ran for 10 years at The Park in Bangalore.
His work with Antonio Carluccio, one of the biggest names in Italian cuisine, has made him one of the foremost foreign exponents of Cucina Italiana, to the extent that it made Carluccio call him “my extension in the east”
More recently he was awarded the ‘Chef of the year 2016’ by the Times Food awards at Hyderabad, for his revivalist work with Hyderabadi cuisine at the award winning restaurant Aish at The Park Hyderabad.
He loves to travel and explore cultures and cuisine and is an avid writer with a keen sense for capturing details in his unique literary style. He also loves photography and playing the guitar.
Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar is the Area Director, Food Production of The Park, Hyderabad, a contemporary Indian boutique hotel and during his six year stint there he has worked a lot on traditional recipes and explored the cuisine of the Nizams in great depth.
He lives in Hyderabad with his wife, Meenakshi – a trained classical musician and son Aadi- a budding young cricketer.
Hope you found his story interesting.
The conversation I had with him was even more.... interesting! This time we couldn't manage to have a meal together so no food suggestions from him but I had to meet him and get an autographed copy of his book. I am a die hard romantic, how could I miss on getting a bit of romance myself? I met Chef around 8.30 pm after my dinner at Verandah. He was in an event but the kind of person that I am, with the never give up attitude managed to get 20 minutes of his time. That's when I heard his story and what brought him into the kitchens of the Park Hotels.
Hotel management by chance
He comes from the army background, during his 12th he had gone to pick up a form for NDA entrance exam. The lady at the counter didn't have the change so she offered him the National Council's hotel management joint entrance exam form for the IHMs. On the day of the entrance exam for hotel management, his friend came on his moped to pick him from his home. Mandaar was sleeping, it being a Sunday. He didn't want to go for the exam but the mother force woke him up and asked him to get going as there was money paid for the same. A DD of Rs. 100, that was a big amount in 1990, mind you and Indian mothers want value in everything. So Mandaar went for the exam by accident of sorts as the sight of other candidates carrying thick books, guide for the entrance exam scared him. The result was out and he secured a seat at IHM Pusa, one of the top colleges in the country.
He was interested in Food and Beverage service initially and wanted to go to Cidade de Goa for his internship in the second year of college. His reason was to chill out in Goa. But again there are some good friends and advisors, especially for the parents. Following the good advice, they asked him to train in a city hotel where the exposure would be good. He finally interned from The Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. That's where he developed interest for the culinary. Rest is history! He has so many awards in his kitty, done newspaper columns, articles for journals, TV shows and what not!
The book - Romancing the chicks!
He started off as a column writer in the Deccan Chronicle, the editor liked his content and the writing style so much that he offered Chef a full page weekly feature on culinary. Which he undertook for a good time. Then a lady from Westland books asked him to try putting his interesting stories about food in a book. He gave it try and approached the publisher, the result of that is a book that is not just a cookbook but the one that celebrates food.
I simply loved this book, the stories that are woven make things so very, ' in front of your eyes'. I loved every chapter. The recipes are a must try with so much gyan and interesting tidbits in between. Appetizing sense of humour and cool incidents as well as names served for dessert. I strongly recommend this book to all the chefs, chefs in the making and the chefs at heart. A great book for gifting as well. Its available on amazon if you wish to feel a bit of the romance, show some love! Would say its a very different book on culinary, a collectible for sure. At The Park Hotels we call it Anything But Ordinary!