Did you ever stop to think about how the menu you dine from was created? I’m not on about the physical printing of the menu or how you got to choose to dine at a particular restaurant above any others, maybe you researched the restaurant in advance using many of the methods now readily available to us, maybe you visited following a recommendation from a trusted source, or maybe your visit was an ad hoc dining whim whilst passing a particular place. Maybe the visit is for business, for a celebration, to remind you of a recent holiday and a favourite cuisine or just a functional need to eat. The reasons behind your dining experience tell your story.
But there is another story, the story behind the menu. The story of how an individual followed their dream to be a chef, how they worked their way up through the ranks until they became the Chef telling their story through their menu and the food which is served. How their dreams and passion about food came to reality, and how their story changes to reflect or make trends, to reflect the market or geographical area in which they operate and of course to meet changing customer requirements.
Now we have two stories coming together through a dining experience, a merger of sorts, at a few points where the two stories come together. But the story continues and develops, firstly as you experience the food and secondly as you get home and start to share your story, the story of how your trip to a restaurant became reality. Now your story merges with the story of the Chef, Chain, Hotel or Brand that you visited. But actually, because of the social interaction happening, the use of internet and other social media platforms, what used to be a two dimensional story with mutual touch points is now becoming less of a story but more of a conversation about food.
The conversation takes place on so many levels with technology driving a significant part of that conversation. The use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram make the conversation more of a visual and engaging two way conversation often with multiple parties to the conversation while the use of electronic customer reviews and feedback on individual dining experiences on forums such as Zomato, Trip Advisor etc make the conversation more readily available to a wider audience. Add to conversation a multitude of other media interactions including professional reviews, official ratings, blogger articles and reviews, publications featuring articles covering topics such as “The Best …. Restaurant” , “50 Restaurants to dine in before you die …” etc and various professional accolades and awards and the conversation magnifies itself hugely.
Social media now plays an important part in all of these conversations and each and every party to that conversation has a voice, a way of imparting and sharing information which helps build on the original story and perhaps help to shape a new story and conversation.
This was the brief topic of discussion with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor who I had the chance to meet recently Signature when he was in Dubai to launch the new menu. Chef Kapoor explains how his brief to his chefs is for them to tell their story, to be involved in the menu and to shape it to meet customer requirements but also to include their own individual chef inspiration and flair into the menu whilst under his direction. His message is clear, he wants you to enter a restaurant thinking Sanjeev Kapoor but to leave thinking of the individual chef whose menu is being showcased at that restaurant. In this case Chef Akshay Nayyarat is at the helm of Signature in Melia Hotel and he and his team were heavily involved in the development of the new menu which we sampled over the course of the evening.
Chef Kapoor’s philosophy is built on thinking about what you can give rather than what you can get and he says this powerful philosophy has stood the test of time for him. In testament to this, when you look at his website, as well as recipes and information about Chef Kapoor’s career, his restaurants and accolades etc, there are pages about his team, Team Kapoor if you like, stories about Khana Khazana (company) ethos and employee stories all embellishing the story behind Chef Kapoor and his success at Signature and his many other business ventures.
It’s difficult not to find Chef Kapoor so very endearing (seems I’m not the only one as the number of views on his website and viewers to his TV shows are extremely high) the more you chat to him and the more I read, the more intrigued I am about what makes this guy so successful and what makes his story richer and more interesting. And if I’m honest, it’s one I’d love to be involved in – note to self check out the Job Openings section of his website – just in case …..
But on a serious note, all too soon, my conversation about food with Chef Kapoor is brought to an end as he needs to get ready for the official launch (and his signature) of the Signature menu and many chats to his guests about food and such like. But just before the discussion ends I ask him to answer three different questions from what I imagine his usual questions have been, and these are relevant to my site – his favourite Coffee, it’s a south indian drip coffee, favourite Cake – apparently it’s whatever his wife is having at the time (very diplomatic) and his favourite exercise – Running.
In just in case you were wondering, the story doesn’t end there, the story continues as Chef Kapoor reminds me, he focuses on inspiring others in his team to make their way forward and to share their story with others. He’s currently encouraging Chef Akshay and many others in his team to develop their menus and ultimately to develop their careers, stories and conversations too.
And the story continues again, as all this talking about food is making me hungry, and I realise that I need to go back to Signature to try out the new menu which inspired me to write this post in the first place and was the start of this conversation about food.
Thanks to Melia Hotel for the invite, for Chef Sanjeev Kapoor for his honest conversation, and congratulations to Chef Akshay Nayyar for winning “Chef De Cuisine of the Year” at the 2013 Hotelier Middle East Awards!
All Photo Credits to Melia Hotel
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor brings a unique range of kitchen products this Diwali (thehummingnotes.com)