Chef Shailender Singh
Group Director of Food & Beverage Operations, Sarova Hotels
Describe your role as Group Director of Food & Beverage Operations at Sarova Hotels, what does this demanding position entail on a day-to-day basis? This is a very multi-faceted role which entails every touch point relating to food and beverage experiences including, but not limited to, restaurants, bars, banquets, conferences, events, kitchens, pastry, cleaning, procurement, suppliers, vendor development, equipment and upgrades. I am responsible for overall F&B revenues for Sarova which is a large chunk of the company’s revenues. As a director and part of the core team at Sarova, the biggest advantage I have is being both a chef and a manager which is essential in overseeing every aspect of food and beverage operations.
What do you enjoy most about your role at the Sarova Hotels group? I have been here for over 10+ years and really enjoy my role, and would say we have both grown along this amazing journey. I am truly proud of our teams and the hard work we have all put in to see Sarova’s Food & Beverage concepts develop into the award-winning brands they are today. When I first joined as a group chef, I was able to pursue my passion in the culinary arts, cooking and also in front-house presentation, client interactions, as well as, sales. Having grown with and within the group, my role today now brings me instant gratification because I know that the effort we all put in ultimately makes us more successful on all fronts.
Chef Shailender your illustrious career as a chef has led you to craft meals for some of the world’s top-most public figures, including; Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Chancellor Schroeder, Premier Zhu Rongji, Cherie Blair, Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Sir Elton John, Brian Adams, Roger Waters and many many more… Who else would you really want to cook a meal for, and what would be on that menu? I have actually served more celebrities than these and am currently catering for his Excellency President Kenyatta and used to cater for former President Kibaki too. Apart from that, all the regional East African heads of state have also been my guests numerous times when in Kenya. In India, I also served numerous celebrities, politicians and presidents. As to what’s on the menu, I love to create exotic meals, using new innovative cooking methods and enjoy being a very instinctive cook, I like using what’s in season and also like setting the mood. The meals I prepare are influenced by cuisines from every corner of the globe and reflect all cultures and heritages. I would really like to cook for my friends and family, especially my parents, who I have learnt so much from.
You launched a superb initiative to create healthier meals at Sarova Hotels when we spoke last, which saw the group embrace a more health-conscious culture when preparing meals for your clientele… Can you tell us a little bit more about how that’s going, and what has been the result of this great initiative so far? In terms of creating healthier meals all ‘Kitchens of Sarova’ uphold the same high quality standards, this includes a chef’s garden which produces fresh greens, herbs and fruits which are used to augment the supplies we buy locally. This process makes for fresher, healthier and more organic produce being used. We also work with our meat and poultry suppliers & counter check what feed is given to the animals, and also invest in backward integration projects that allows us to create higher quality and more healthier meals. We have also initiated newer cooking techniques used in our kitchens thanks to our young, vibrant and innovative chefs, and as the group is a front runner in the hotel industry, I get invited to most of the culinary and food trade shows worldwide - keeping me ever informed about the newest developments and latest techniques. We are also moving away from the use of saturated fats to refined oils which makes for lighter cooking. We are very proud of serving great quality, healthier and more wholesome meals with everyone in the team aligned to this ethos.
What inspires you, and what is your vision for Food & Beverage experiences at Sarova Hotels? I am inspired by colours, textures, nature, music, society in general, rituals, lights, landscapes and seasons. Food is a canvas to portray this inspiration, it is a combination of inspirational art & science, and needs to reflect a way of life. The vision for Sarova is to continue to make a difference wherever we operate, continuously working to be an avant garde and eclectic hotel group with a heavy emphasis on this reflected within our F&B operations. We continue to live upto our slogan ‘Refreshing African Hospitality’.
In the 1st Chapter of the Chefs Delight Awards™ your Sarova Hotel teams won several top awards, including you winning the prestigious ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for your unwavering commitment towards culinary excellence and as a major driving force behind building & enhancing Kenya’s culinary service sector on global levels. What can your Chefs Delight™ fans expect from Sarova Hotels this time round? It was a big surprise! I was glad and proud to have won and it was great to be recognized. I have worked closely with our Sarova teams to raise the level of our food and beverage experiences to what it is today. As a team we have managed to overcome challenges and this recognition from our diners is what it’s all about. My aim is to constantly train young chefs, inspire youth, create employment, and get our profession the respect and recognition it deserves.
On a lighter note, when in the kitchens what are three pieces of equipment you simply cannot do without? In the kitchen, I definitely need pots, pans, knives and good fire power.
Without giving too much away, how do you ensure Sarova Hotels remains at the very forefront of the culinary industry providing the best ‘wine & dine’ experiences out there? Without giving too much away, we will continue to up our game, practice quality and maintain the highest levels of standards in our industry. It is our responsibility to give our clients superior culinary experiences to always remember us by, as well as, integrating the backend to ensure suppliers provide us with exemplary products. One way we remain at the forefront is through innovation and by telling guests a story through our F&B experiences.