From cooking for royalty to working for Raymond Blanc and now ensconced at one of Cornwall’s finest hotels, The Headland. Chef Sanjay Kumar is a bit of a local hero.
Striving for excellence
Back of House
Apr 2015 - by
A highly talented Indian chef who’s worked with some of the top British chefs in non-Indian restaurants, Sanjay Gour is now heading up Zaika of Kensington. He talks to Tandoori
For someone of Brahmin faith, it was a given for Mumbai-born Sanjay Gour that vegetarianism would be an integral part of his upbringing.
Then, aged 14, an innocent Sunday lunch with a friend changed everything. Quite by chance, thinking he was eating something else, he was told no, what he was eating was in fact chicken! What’s more is that Gour thoroughly enjoyed it and the rest as they say is history. Not only did he change his culinary habits, Ghour was also to follow a career path in the culinary profession.
Having studied in hotel management in Goa and then worked at Mumbai’s Juhu Centaur Hotel, Gour decided to up roots in the year 2000 and worked in the pastry section under top British chef Angela Hartnett, in Dubai, before coming to London four years later. Remaining under Hartnett at The Connaught in the same post, Gour decided it was time for a change.
“One requires a degree of precision in pastry, “says Gour, “and I suppose I was picked for that particular section because I had an eye for detail. I rather enjoyed it. Yet, I feel that as a chef, you have to project your career a few years down the line and keep in mind what you might want to do in five years time. So when the vacant post of pastry chef came up at The Connaught and Hartnett offered it to me, I thought it would be restrictive and I wanted to learn about each and every section of the kitchen.”
Instead, Gour ended up running the larder section, overseeing a team of seven chefs, the hot and cold starters along with the whole service. He then moved on for a short stint at the Savoy Grill before returning to work for Hartnett again at her Murano restaurant. Only this time he took the post of head pastry chef.
Much as though Gour admits that he harboured ambitions to be a top chef, particularly as he was well aware of the high level of success certain London Indian chefs were achieving, he was realistic enough to know that culinary good fortune doesn’t quite come overnight. With a baby and the long hours he was already putting in, Gour took another break before working under chef Gary Hollihead at the Corinthia Hotel. But with his days as a pastry chef coming to an end, he next took up his post in the kitchens at Tamarind of Mayfair before being appointed by the group as the executive chef of the “reimagined” Zaika of Kensington.
With a menu, which is inspired by India’s Awadhi cuisine, not surprisingly, Gour has executed a repertoire of dishes, which are highly refined, intricate and skilfully rendered with oodles of flavour to boot. Equally though, it’s no surprise either that with high-level food and surroundings, price levels at Zaika aren’t for the faint hearted either!
Gour though is delighted at his post at Zaika and whilst well aware of the restaurant’s Michelin start in its previous guise, he says he’s “striving for excellence” and consistency. He adds: “There are so few quality Indian restaurants and I want to make the best of the fantastic team and concept we have here at the restaurant. If I get a Michelin star it’s because I deserved it, not because I ran after it!”
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