Chef Thomas feature

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Behind The Apron: Chef Thomas Zacharias

1 Nov , 2015  

Executive Chef at The Bombay Canteen, Chef Thomas Zacharias or Chef T Zac (as he calls himself) shot to fame almost overnight.

Dishing out innovative India-inspired contemporary dishes, he loves to travel and incorporate his journey in the food he serves.

His love for creating unique food can be summarised in one of his statements to a leading daily:

“Ideas for new dishes constantly going through my head are often what keep me up at night and get me out of bed every morning.”

FineDineLove: Interview - Bombay Canteen

Falooda Sundae at The Bombay Canteen

How did your culinary journey begin?
My culinary journey began at home. I grew up learning how to cook from my grandmom and wanted to make people happy through food and cooking like she did.

What was the experience like, working at the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Bernardin in New York? How was it different from working at The Olive, Bangalore?
Le Bernardin is different from other three-star Michelin restaurants because it is an extremely busy restaurant serving 300 to 400 people a night. That’s over a thousand dishes in a 4 hour period! So it was an amazing learning experience to see how to maintain such high standards at that massive volume.

At Olive Beach in Bangalore, I was privileged to work under Chef Manu Chandra, a fellow CIA graduate, and a very intelligent chef. While at Le Bernardin I was still grasping flavors and techniques, at Olive I was also focusing on leading a team and helping run a kitchen effectively.

What would you call your Signature dish?
I believe that my signature dish is not decided by me but by our guests.

We change our menu quite frequently at The Bombay Canteen so the favorites keep changing. Any dish that truly reflects our philosophy of using local Indian produce and bringing regional cuisines to the spotlight in fun and exciting ways could be considered our signature dish. A perfect example is the Sindhi inspired Arbi Tuk topped with various chutneys and a mugri (rat tail radish) kachumber.

FineDineLove: Interview - Bombay Canteen

Arbi Tuk at The Bombay Canteen

What is the ultimate comfort food you would cook for a loved one?
I think a nicely made omelet is a beautiful thing.

Any advice or tips for aspiring chefs?
In your initial years of culinary training, focus on things like basic knife skills, working clean, staying organized, being focused, planning out each day ahead of time and getting faster and more efficient. The kitchen habits you form during your initial years stay with you for life. Recipes and cuisine specifics can be learnt later. Also, taste every single thing over and over again. That’s the only way to develop you palate over time.

FineDineLove: Interview - Bombay Canteen

Chicken Chettinad Tacos at The Bombay Canteen

Tell us what restaurant you would frequent and why?
As a chef, I don’t get to eat out a lot but when I do, I go to restaurants that get their comfort flavors just right. A great example of this is Jai Hind in Mumbai.

Fine Dining to you is…
About giving people a special experience they want to come back for. Fine dining restaurants often give a vibe of coldness and snobbery. I believe that a good restaurant should be approachable and comfortable for people, and most of all, consistent.

One invaluable dining tip to all our FineDineLove readers…
Keep an open mind when dining out. Most restaurant menus usually have both safe and exciting options, and it’s the latter that truly shows the chef’s creativity and skills.


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