“Most people eat to live, but there are a few who live to eat” — these words, spoken by Chef Manav’s father, instilled an appreciation for good food that transformed into a passion to create.
Beginning his career in the southern state of Kerala, India, Manav discovered the food alchemy that takes place in the kitchens of luxury hotels across India and Mauritius. Opportunity knocked when Chef Manav was invited to work at London’s legendary Chutney Mary restaurant. In less than a year, he was promoted from sous chef to head chef. In 2019, Chef Manav had the chance to reopen the highly acclaimed Tamarind, one of London’s first Indian restaurants to receive the coveted Michelin Star. He joined Rosewood Hong Kong 2020 and opened the restaurant CHAAT, sharing his knowledge with his culinary team and striving for excellence, the restaurant received a Michelin Star in 2022 . Chef Manav’s passion for sharing the flavorful dishes of his homeland comes through in each and every bite of his cooking.
What is your perception of U.S. food and beverage products?
The products are excellent. All the products are consistent, and they can meet all of our production demands.
What U.S. food ingredients do you normally use, and which ones are your favorite and why?
It is the tomahawk, which I used for my menu. Tandoori tomahawk, I think probably CHAAT is the first restaurant that has ever done it. In terms of U.S. products, it is my top one. I do use Tabasco sauce, all of that, but it (tomahawk) stands out, and the quality is always consistent no matter what.
What are some of the new consumer trends/preferences you are seeing in the Hong Kong food service industry?
People are going for more value for the money. They are not spending that much. The sensible spending has come back. Earlier, people would go for rash spending. They would buy an expensive bottle just like that and finish it up then and there they might as well order another one. That is not happening. People are now having sensible spending, but people (restaurants) who are delivering quality, they are surviving very well. They are not getting affected by these ups and downs. But if you are not consistent with your quality, the people in Hong Kong who eat at least five to six times out in good restaurants, they know their quality. You cannot bluff them, if you make a mistake once, you are gone forever, probably for that customer. Being a small, intertwined market, the word travels very fast, so you have to be on your toes always.
Set menus are the “in” thing now. If you justify your price for these many dishes, people are more than happy to go for it without using too much of a negotiation power or deciding and calculating how much would (the restaurant) make at the end for that particular menu. We generally keep things very simple and straight. Whatever you see on the menu is what you get, people are very happy with that. I think there is a new trend of tasting menus. I think that would be it even for a restaurant which is serving à la carte. If they do tasting menus, tasting menus are selling more.
More casual concepts are coming in. People do not want to have very formal dining anymore. The formal dining is not doing so well, that is what I hear, as is a very casual concept but with a bit of refinement. So we do not keep things very sturdy. Now it’s casual, it is relaxed, it is family. We want to encourage sharing, which people really enjoy. That is the “in” thing, I think that is the way forward.