As the old adage goes, the road to the heart begins in the stomach, and no one knows that better than the culinary artistes of the world. We get talking with Anand Morwani, head chef and co-founder of Mumbai’s much-beloved microbrewery, Brewbot, for our latest edition of Chefs Eat Out, a digital series that will take you on a journey of food, flavour and taste, as seen through the eyes of the great masters of their art.
“I love cooking food that makes people feel good. Comfort food and soul food, that’s my style” Chef Morwani says, “I don’t like to overcomplicate things. I use what I have around me and bring out the best in it.”
Food has always been an integral part of the young chef’s life, tracing back to his earliest memories of weekends spent at his grandparents’ house, and the Marathi thaal feasts that awaited him there. “There was mutton, and chicken, and fish with every meal- all the proteins had to be cooked!” the chef reminisces. From puff-pastry-textured phulkas to bombil fry and vaatis full of daals, bhajis and more, these weekly feasts were, as the chef tells it, the beginnings of a journey of flavours and taste that has brought him to where he is today.
With avid travellers for parents, a young Anand found himself jet-setting from one place to the next, but the emphasis on food was never dulled. “On these trips, I was never allowed to eat Indian food, or scout for the nearest McDonald’s,” the chef explains, “it was always about experiencing local culture, and for us, that came through their cuisine,”
This wanderlust carried on into Anand’s adult life in a big way, as did the many flavours he picked up along the way. One of the most prized tools in a Chefs repertoire, these flavours, collected over years of experience are, as Anand explains, a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. “As you experience different cultures, you learn new ways of doing things,” Anand explains, “Through travel you are introduced to flavours, which you can then use in the same way as an artist uses paint.”
When asked about which restaurants he would visit for the ideal day of pigging out, Anand reveals that his ideal day would start with a breakfast of South Indian Coorg Idli and Mooru Idli at Banana Leaf, followed by a heavy seafood lunch of Bombil fry and Tisrya Koshimbir at Gajalee, before finally ending the day with Japanese flair with a yellowtail & jalapeño carpaccio and a toro & hamachi tartare at Wasabi at the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Honing his craft at such reputed institutions as Les Roches in Switzerland and Cordon Bleu in London, and having apprenticed at a number of restaurants, Chef Morwani returned to his home in Mumbai, where he admits, his life truly began.
While Brewbot officially opened its doors to the public in the year 2014, the project had been in the works since the year 2010. Starting off as a brewery with no brewed beer, Chef Morwani remembers a time when, due to the bureaucratic restrictions of the government of India, the brewery was legally not allowed to brew and sell craft beer. After a rough start, the brewery finally acquired their license, and have never looked back since. However, Chef Morwani’s struggle against the powers that be was not meant to be a thing of the past.
“At the moment microbreweries are not allowed to bottle, if we were, we would already be in it.” Anand says, “ I think it’s really stupid for the government to be restricting us, whereas in the West. the government helps you along the way. They don’t have to help you, but it’s the way you grow your economy, by growing local business and small businesses. We don’t have that support from the government,”
As we talk, the folly of the government in this regard becomes increasingly apparent. Besides an atmosphere of healthy competition for the bigger names on the market, Anand explains that this period in history is especially significant for artisans such as himself, who hope to breathe a little life back into the Indian economy, by celebrating what makes our country so quintessentially Indian. Unlike larger manufacturing outfits, Anand believes that craft breweries would rise to the challenge, championing local produce and flavours for their beers. “We are craft, we would love to use local products to make our beers.” Anand explains, “All of us want to make Mumbai’s Beer, or Pune’s beer, or India’s beer, something that is for us people and made by us, the people.”
With an estimated 70% of layoffs in the hospitality industry alone due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the future is bleak and uncertain, but Anand believed the key to economic revival lies in the government placing its trust in its people. “This period is a huge opportunity, a transition period, and I think right now the government should really allow us to bottle, because this is the time for going pro-national.” Anand explains “You need to help local businesses get back on their feet after such a time of crisis. How else do you grow the economy? How else do you create jobs?”
°The New Normal
The nationwide lockdown has wreaked havoc on industries in every sector, with the hospitality industry being the worst affected. With no customers to speak of, a halted supply chain, and an atmosphere of fear and hesitation towards anything beyond our own four walls, Anand paints a picture of a future rife with change, where the old ways are but a memory of a time past, and a New Normal lingering upon the horizon.
“It’s a difficult time- the waters are muddy, and looking forward, they are even more clouded with opinion.” Anand explains “It’s a time for emotional intelligence, where hard decisions need to be made based on the facts presented to us. This is a time to be real and not optimistic.”
When asked what measures restaurateurs and business owners are likely to take in the future, the chef visualizes a future with restaurant tables void of place settings and cutlery, digital menus that may be operated from one’s own smartphone, waiters clad in face-shields and masks, and a logbook of sorts, to track the movement of both customers and employees going in and out of the establishment.
“It’s all about safety now. We are responsible towards our team members, just as much as the customer, and we can’t afford to leave people blind to the possibilities,” the chef explains, “There will be those that are put off by this, and don’t want to come. That’s their own free will, and they are free to exercise it as they wish,”
With a customer base that has been financially debilitated, and fears leaving their homes, Anand believed that fine dining, in particular, will take a backseat. With lower revenue-generating prospects for restaurants, menus will be reduced to more sustainable versions of themselves, imported ingredients like expensive cheeses will be heavily taxed, making way for local vendors to shine, but even they will likely be overwhelmed by the economic crisis. From nightclub entertainers like DJs and musicians to local farmers, Anand emphasises the importance of community support. “It’s not about individual survival, but about the survival of the industry, and every industry related to it.” Anand explains, “It’s scary, but it’s inevitable. This is a dark time for hospitality, as it is for a lot of industries, but the community must support each other, and get through this together”
As with most of us stuck in isolation, Chef Anand Morwani found himself looking for ways to occupy his mind. Being a chef, Anand gravitated towards the kitchen, trying his hand at new recipes and experimenting with flavours he previously had little time to explore. Egged on by his wife, Anand decided to do something he normally would never consider and began uploading recipes and short cooking tutorials to his Instagram page.
Inspired by many interactions with friends and amateur chefs, Anand named this digital series for his most common response when confronted with his peers’ technique and skill. That is how #URDOINITWRONG was born, with an aim to educate, inspire and instruct viewers on the road to cooking restaurant-style meals at home, using readily available ingredients, in uncomplicated manners.
“The most amazing thing is you never know where this is going to go, I woke up the next day receiving calls from people I hadn’t spoken to in years, asking me for substitutions to my recipes!” the chef laughs.
Having been a professional chef for a number of years, Anand never thought to share that part of his life on his social media. Having done so, he explains, he found his following skyrocketing, with amateur cooks to be found lurking at every corner.
“It was amazing, people were watching it, and more importantly, people were actually doing it!” the chef says. “Though I have been a chef for a long time, I guess my friends never saw me as one because I wasn’t posting about my job, and now suddenly I’m getting calls asking me how to make a basic tomato sauce!”
As our conversation draws to a close, Chef Anand Morwani leaves us with a bit of advice he hopes will help others on their way to achieving their culinary dreams.
“Work hard, and learn every day, experience is the most important thing. Going to culinary school doesn’t make you an executive chef.” Chef Anand explains, “Make sure you work, see ways of doing things, and learn how the industry works. If you see a future for yourself in India or America, be sure to amass experience in those countries, because it’s important to learn how the local industry works, too.“
We at TheVibe eagerly await what @chefmorwani brings to the table, both from his current and future kitchens. Stay tuned for more culinary tales from the masters of their art, and be sure to follow the chef for quick and easy solutions to restaurant-style cooking made at home!
All images used in this article are courtesy of Anand Morwani, and belong rightfully to their original owners.
*Chefs Eat Out is a TheVibe original IP, in which we follow our nations most celebrated chefs into their favourite spots to eat.
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