Indian Food Scene Is In A Happy Space Chef-Entrepreneur Tarun Sibal

Sibal, an IHM Pusa alumni, has more than 20 years of experience in the Indian food and beverage industry
In the interview, Sibal shared his insights on India's culinary scene. Photo Credit Pexels
In the interview, Sibal shared his insights on India's culinary scene. Photo Credit Pexels

Goa, the smallest state of India, is a paradise that boasts a treasure trove of natural beauty, a rich culture, and a vibrant history. Its sun-kissed beaches, swaying palm trees, and sparkling Arabian Sea waters have drawn beach lovers and adventure enthusiasts worldwide. Each of its numerous picturesque beaches has its unique charm and character, and its vibrant nightlife scene adds to the allure.

Amid this sleepy paradise, chef-entrepreneur Tarun Sibal has carved a niche for himself with his award-winning restaurant Titlie. As an IHM Pusa alumni with over two decades of experience in the Indian food and beverage industry, Sibal is also a product specialist with knowledge across production, marketing, operations, food heritage, and food and liquid culture. His success extends beyond Goa, with restaurants in Bangalore and Delhi&ndashStreet Storyss (Vegetarian Craft Kitchen) and Khi Khi (Contemporary International Bar).

In a recent interview with OT, Sibal shared his insights on India's culinary scene, his idea of comfort food, underrated ingredients and more. Read on for some excerpts from the interview.

Can you tell us about your background and how you got started in the culinary arts

I come from a family deeply involved in Delhi's catering industry for three generations, so I was exposed to the world of food from a very young age. I began my culinary journey at IHM Pusa. Then I became an Industrial Trainee at the Oberoi, a Management Trainee with the India Habitat Centre, and a Sous Chef. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best chefs in the industry, which helped shape my food sensibilities and strengthen my interest in cooking.

What sparked your interest in cooking, and how did you develop your skills

I grew up in a family where pickles and ketchup were made in-house. My mother, who ran the joint family kitchen, got me inclined towards the craft of cooking. Cooking was my obvious choice, and I never wanted to do anything else. I honed my skills by working with some of the best chefs in the industry and travelling to different parts of the world to explore new cuisines and ingredients.

You've worked with international ventures like the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Irish Food Board. How did that experience shape your culinary perspective

Working with international ventures was an enriching experience that helped me understand food and beverage in terms of produce, plate, and culture. Every dish and every bottle has a story that needs to be told. I also had the opportunity to work with the Meat and Livestock Association of Australia, which involved a lot of travel and gave me a greater understanding of people and what's on their plate. It made me a better chef, irrespective of the fact that I wasn't cooking in a kitchen.

You are known for "collaborative cooking." Can you explain this concept to our readers

Collaborative Cuisine was coined when I conceived Titlie. When two or more ingredients, food techniques, or inspirations come together on a plate, the result is more than the sum of its parts. It's abstract and all over the place, yet it forms a pattern and tells a story. For example, the butter garlic, black pepper prawns, with sambhar puree and Pol sambol is a take on a Singaporean dish, with a hint of Kerala sambhar and a Sri Lankan chutney. The idea is to make the familiar more exciting and the non-familiar more approachable.

How did Titlie come into being, and what is the philosophy behind it

Titlie was conceived as an Indian international hospitality brand for a beachfront. The first physical manifestation happened in Goa. It's the best of Indian hospitality for a global audience. The name "Titlie" represents the transformation and journey we take daily, just like a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly with beautiful wings and the ability to fly. Our food philosophy is 'Gourmet Casual,' representing a lifestyle. The offering is extensive, hearty, bold, and gourmet, yet unpretentious.

As a seasoned chef, do you believe that travel plays a crucial role in shaping your culinary style

Without a doubt, travel offers a fresh perspective on cooking. I relish exploring different food cultures as it enables me to think outside the box, inspiring me to return to the drawing board with novel ideas for collaborative cuisine. Countries that have left a lasting impression on me include Italy, where I adore the communal grazing tables where everyone sits together to feast. In the Southeast Asian belt, from Canggu to Lau Pa Sat, the streets have left an indelible mark on my cooking. Additionally, the reverence that the Japanese have for food is awe-inspiring. And finally, my homeland has so much to teach and offer more than any other country.

What is your take on the current state of the Indian food scene

The Indian food scene is in a happy space, with chefs celebrating indigenous, locally sourced produce and reimagining classic dishes. However, one must remember there is a fine line between experimenting with a dish and being successful in making it flavourful.

Is there an ingredient that you believe is often underrated by Indian chefs

I believe that fat or oil, as a cooking medium, is often overlooked by chefs. While it may seem unassuming, it is an essential ingredient in cooking.

How did the transition from being a chef to an entrepreneur come about

The shift from chef to entrepreneur was a natural progression for me. I wanted to tell stories through my plates and drinks, and being an entrepreneur allowed me to do so. It was a logical next step.


What is your favourite food book

"Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain

Who is a chef you look up to

Jamie Oliver

What is your comfort food


Finally, what is your favourite travel destination


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