In the heart of Pune is a bistro so chic and delicious, it quite literally exemplifies the new vogue-word ‘awesomesauce’ (And yes, their sauces are indeed awesome!) While this hot and happening nook, Le Plaisir, is giving its charming neighbourhood a new dimension, it was totally my plaisir talking to its owner and head chef, Siddharth Mahadik.
Le Plaisir has recently relocated to a bigger, more stylish place. So what has this journey been like?
It was great! A lot of experiences, a lot of learning – experience-based learning, rather. And we didn’t really have a business model or a list of milestones that we wanted to achieve when we started 3 years ago. We just jumped into it and kept learning as and when newer things kept coming at us. And we were driven less by business and more by our love for food.
Where did this love for food begin for you?
Well, I have been cooking since I was 8. I basically come from a very liberal kitchen. My mother used to work and I used to be at home with my grandmother and she’d often let me make my own evening snacks. So I started experimenting in the kitchen very early. Then I started buying cook books though I didn’t understand a word of what they said and I watched food shows on lifestyle channels. So the love just kept building. And it’s been my thing for the longest time.
In today’s day and age, every industry is being hit by globalisation. So how do you think this phenomenon has affected the culinary and hospitality industry?
Globalisation has lead to a direct increase in tourism and that is always a blessing for the food and hospitality industry. Globalisation along with advancement in technology has also made a lot of information available to people. So the minds of people have become open to accommodate newer cuisines. I basically owe a portion of my macaron sales to the MasterChef series. (laughs) Globalisation has also made the availability of various ingredients possible locally.
And while globalisation is bridging the gap between cultures, it has made international cuisine ubiquitous. Do you perceive that to be a positive or a negative change?
It is undoubtedly a positive change. Like I said, people travel and watch TV shows and they want to be able to eat what they saw when they come back home. I think this really helps in unifying cultures from around the globe to create one global culture.
But don’t you think that this local availability of world cuisine holds the potential of decreasing the wow-factor of visiting a new region?
No, not at all. See, pastas are available all over the world but eating it while in Italy is a part of the complete experience- the culture of the region, the language that people around you are speaking, the climate, etc. That is the wow-factor.
Coming to one of the most exciting parts of this interview, how were your 3 years at Cordon Bleu, Sydney?
Nothing of that sort existed in India back then, sadly. Cordon Bleu had a practical approach which we hardly see in the education system here. So going to Cordon Bleu gave me quantitative, professional knowledge about cooking. But no matter where you go and how amazing a faculty you have, you need to be two steps ahead as a student and need to have the willingness to learn.
Do you think the knowledge of English made your life easier in Australia?
It definitely did. See, I wanted to go to the Cordon Bleu, Paris. But I don’t speak French. I really wish I did. But knowing the local language of the region is extremely crucial as it makes your life easy.
And not just English, but do you think knowing any other foreign languages benefits a chef?
Oh totally. Chefs need to travel in order to explore newer dishes and get inspiration by dabbling into newer cuisines. And knowing foreign languages will actually help because we will be able to communicate in a much better way with the locals who have so much to give. And knowing more languages almost opens up new worlds and helps us develop. Given a chance I’d learn all the languages possible.
As a parting shot, what message would you like to leave aspiring chefs with?
Put your head down and work. Speak less. Do more. Be passionate and let your food do the talking!