FnB columnist Riccha Grrover in conversation with Chef Saransh Goila to know more about his GOILA BUTTER CHICKEN in London and launching meal-kits & a nationwide delivery system in the UK
One of India’s most widely respected chefs, Saransh Goila has developed a cult-like following for his eponymous butter chicken recipe globally. Having garnered a legion of high profile followers after the opening of his restaurant Goila Butter Chicken in Mumbai in 2016, Saransh was flown to be a guest judge on Masterchef Australia in 2018 where he judged contestants’ iterations of his signature dish. In 2019 his Goila Butter Chicken won the ‘people’s choice’ prize at India’s famed food festival, World on a Plate (WOAP); and in February 2020 Saransh teamed up with the Templeton brothers for a sell-out fortnight-long residency at Carousel (Marylebone), before setting up a London-wide hot meal delivery service in November last year. He has been in the Forbes 2019 Celebrity 100 list and amongst Facebook’s 100 Future Tycoons of India.
RICCHA GRROVER- Tell us about your journey as a professional chef, across kitchens and FnB set ups from India to London. Did you always plan to be a chef or did you dabble into the profession as an extension of a hobby?
SARANSH GOILA- I grew up in Pitampura near Delhi. From a very young age, I had an inclination towards cooking. By the age of twelve, I started experimenting and cooking in the kitchen with my mom and granddad. Soon, I started cooking for my uncles and aunts and neighbours and my grandpa wanted me to pursue a career in cooking looking at my aptitude and interest. I believed in his vision of converting my hobby into profession and someday being a chef like ‘Sanjeev Kapoor’ and decided to pursue culinary arts from Institute of Hotel Management- Aurangabad, India.
After completing my professional studies and work at the Leela Hotels in Bengaluru for a couple of years I wanted to try something different. I wanted to be on television in order to teach people more about India Cuisine. After many failed attempts, I secured a spot as a contestant on Bollywood celebrity Madhuri Dixit’s comeback show, Food Food Maha Challenge, which was being hosted by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I went on to win the show and that got me what I wanted a food travelogue that made me travel 100 days of India by road is search of lost regional recipes and street food artistes. It was called Roti Rasta Aur India (which meant – Bread, Roads and India).
After the show, I found my space in the FnB industry in Mumbai (the city of dreams!). I came up with my version of butter chicken by a happy accident. I wanted to make a dish that tastes exactly like butter chicken but without the chicken as I wanted my vegetarian parents to be able to taste it. For that made few tweaks to the classic recipe and balanced it out in a way that the base gravy would have all the tasting notes of butter chicken enhanced and well balanced. When my friends in Mumbai first ate it when I moved to Mumbai, they loved it so much that they started a Twitter hashtag, #GoilaButterChicken.
This soon became my signature dish, which I started serving through my outlets and pop-ups in 2016 and it was later also seen on the epic TV show, MasterChef Australia in 2018. It was after this show we got a lot of international acclaim which led us to do a pop in London at Carousel. Post which we built a great relationship with the Templeton bros (founders of Carousel) and that took Goila from Mumbai to London.
RG- How is your butter chicken brand different from all the other Indian restaurants in London in terms of what unique food experience you offer?
SG-The secret to my recipe is the tomato to dairy ratio (80:20 as opposed to the usual 60:40), the all-important infusion of smoke and insistence that only the absolute best ingredients make it into the pot.
It all begins with fantastic tasting, ethical ingredients. That means truly free range, slow-grown, herb-fed chickens from Yorkshire, the creamiest French butter and eco-friendly charcoal from FSC-certified forests.
With less butter than the classic recipe calls for and absolutely no colouring, sugar or fluorescent orange additive, Goila Butter Chicken is made fresh each day by chefs who take pride in turning curry into an art form.
RG- Where does your menu take its inspiration from?
SG- Inspiration for this menu comes straight from my home kitchen in Delhi. It’s what my mom and dad find comforting and they’d eat for dinner almost every weekend. Sometimes less is more. There are six elements to the quintessential Goila meal experience: Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani, Jeera Rice, Sourdough Naan, Pickled Shallots and Coriander Chutney. I do believe… too much choice is overrated.
RG-Tell us about some of your highs and lows in the journey as a chef. What keeps you motivated and what’s been your mantra of success? What advice would you give budding chefs?
SG-Before I set out on my entrepreneurial sojourn, I was working as a chef at The Leela Hotel – Bangalore. I felt like a misfit although I had a stable and a well-paying job. The decision to quit that path for a road of uncertainties where the stakes were high, lack of staunch financial support and inadequate operational experience to run a business has been the most difficult yet rewarding decision of my life.
To have been able to make a self-funded homegrown brand in Mumbai to Masterchef Australia and then opening an outpost in London is a definite high which keeps us motivated to keep innovating and pushing the boundaries further to grow the brand and make Goila Butter Chicken a global brand. What keeps me motivated is to keep promoting Indian cuisine across the globe, our cuisine is so diverse and full flavours and we need to make sure that the world knows about it!
My basic quote for all the young chefs out there – Be true to yourself! Do not replicate a recipe fully. Add your personal touch to it and make it unique to yourself. Your own rendition of the dish will make it a memorable one. For all you know, you may just be able to do more justice to it than the original creator of the recipe! Cooking is an amalgamation of science and art – so experiment and express your inner-self through your food, don’t forget to infuse love into it!
RG- What is your vision for your food brand in the UK- do you have plans of expansion?
SG-We envision Goila Butter Chicken to be available all across the UK at your doorstep in the next future. Meanwhile our meal kits are already doing that! We plan to expand our cloud kitchens all across UK and will also be indulging in some pop-up stores that will reflect more diversity and innovation in the menu. We really want Goila to be the first choice for people in the UK, whenever they think of curry!
Chef Saransh Goila’s world-renowned butter chicken is now available to diners nationwide in the UK, for the first time ever, through the launch of Goila Butter Chicken meal kits. Along with the butter chicken, the feasting meal-kit box is complete with Dal makhani – developed by Saransh to be the perfect accompaniment – as well as Sourdough naan fired in a pizza oven, crunchy and tangy Pickled shallots, Coriander chutney and Jeera rice. Vegetarians can replace the chicken with paneer.
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