Neeraj Rawoot is the Executive Chef at Sofitel Mumbai BKC. Bringing over 21 years of adept culinary experience, Chef Neeraj is responsible for curating and presenting innovative dishes with a distinctive twist. He is responsible for spearheading operations and culinary teams of all the outlets at the luxury property offering exquisite and modern gastronomy to guests.
Neeraj’s area of gastronomic expertise predominantly lies in Indian cuisine, with proficiency in Thai and Nouville Western cuisines, as well. He firmly believes in curating an epicurean experience for his guests by constantly experimenting with varied ingredients. Having studied in Delhi, Neeraj, a food and beverage enthusiast, has worked with some of the renowned hotels including The Leela Ambience Hotel & Residences – Gurgaon, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – Bangalore, Hilton Chennai, Grand Hyatt – Mumbai, President Park Bangkok and more.
Q & A
As a chef what interests you about plant protein?
Plant protein is healthier in my opinion. It requires minimal handling when being translated into a recipe. You don’t need to put too many masalas or too much marinade. Meat can absorb a lot of masalas, but here the flavors are more delicate and the naturalness can be more easily retained. And that’s very exciting for a chef; to be able to provide tasty, fresh food with minimal intervention.
What kind of plant protein are you using in your kitchen operations?
I use 2-3 variations of tofu extracts like silken tofu, dehydrated tofu, tofu sheets and soy chaaps from tofu milk. I use a lot of beans, pulses, and dal, for instance like the kheema.
How have customers responded to the new dishes? Do you find an increased demand for these dishes?
Customers have responded very well to these new dishes. At a banquet, for instance, we do a kheema live station, but using the chickpea kheema. Customers get excited about these innovations. Mumbai has a large vegetarian community and therefore they’re more receptive. At our Sunday brunch to I’ve introduced a Thai Kra Pow Gai, where I’ve substituted the chicken with silken tofu. On a bed of tofu, we layer the stir-fried vegetables. Chilli chicken is a very popular dish across India; for our brunch, I make it with dried tofu. It’s become so popular that even meat-eaters opt for i1t instead of the one with chicken. We’ve been requested to put it on banquet menus as well, by repeat guests.
A plant-based diet is a diet that consists of food primarily from plants and limits or eliminates the consumption of animal protein. Eating more plant-based can significantly contribute to animal welfare, ensure better public health and reduce our ecological footprint. Global institutions are also advocating for a paradigm shift towards plant-based eating as a necessary step to secure planetary health.
What HSI India is doing?
HSI India runs one of the largest meat reduction campaigns in the country that aims to encourage people to opt for sustainable diets by choosing to eat more plant-based food. Our team conducts educational programs to sensitize the youth about the detrimental impact of the food industry on animal welfare, environment, and public health. We also engage with hospitality institutions across the spectrum such as hotels, restaurants, cafes, etc to encourage them to fill up their menu with more plant-based items and also increase awareness about the importance of eating plant-based to mitigate climate change.