you are a Sydneysider, you have either eaten at zaaffran or
would have heard from a friend about it. zaaffran, located at
Darling Harbour, is probably the first Indian restaurant in Sydney which has
introduced traditional Indian taste combined with great style and grace to the
To introduce you to the force behind this great set up, we called up the
owners of the restaurant. I was put through to Mr. Rush Dossa, who after
knowing our intentions, very proudly introduced me to their head chef -
Vikrant Kapoor. In Mr. Dossa’s words, “ It is indeed Vikrant’s hard work
and his repertoire of experience which has brought zaaffran
to this point”.
Let us introduce to you Vikrant Kapoor, the head chef of one of the best
Indian restaurants in Sydney, zaaffran.
Born in Bombay, schooled in Dehradoon & Bombay, Vikrant did his Hotel
management from one of the premier institutes of Bombay– ‘Institute of
Hotel management, catering technology & applied nutrition’ (IHMCTAN). He
specialized in kitchen training for one year from Taj Mahal, Bombay and then
Vikrant’s portfolio is full of remarkable achievements but we have
highlighted only a few to present to you. Vikrant joined Raffles in Singapore
in July 1993. In 1997, he was awarded a Silver medal in ‘Salon Culanaire’
- cooking competition for New Asian food. While he was the head chef of the
tiffin room in Raffles, the hotel was awarded for one of the top 100
restaurants in Asia by the Tattler magazine in Singapore. Whilst in Raffles
(Tiffin room), he was invited to St Mortiz, Switzerland to showcase his style
amongst the best professionals. He also has travelled to Hawaii in the same
context. Vikrant had an opportunity to visit Paris at ‘Hediard' (boutique
grocer) in order to launch the Indian spice range. Vikrant also had an
opportunity to work with one of world’s very well known chefs, Mr Allan
Ducasse, amongst others.
Vikrant’s portfolio has been published in quite a few prestigious magazines
of the hospitality industry here in Australia and overseas, such as, Bon
Appetite, New Asia cuisine scene and Gourmet Traveller.
Here we introduce you Australia’s most articulate chef, who brings the very
best of Indian cuisine to your plates on a daily basis at zaaffran.
Q. What inspired
you to open zaaffran?
A. It was always my dream to have a place of my own.However the kind ofplace I
envisaged for myself was far beyond my means. A chance encounter with Freddie
and Rush provided the window of opportunity. Freddie and Rush, two brothers
from Mumbai, were looking for a good chef for an upmarket restaurant in a
superb location. We discovered that we all shared the same goals and we were
equally passionate about the new venture. The rest of course is history.
Q. How do you
define your restaurant's theme and cuisine?
A. To define the cuisine in zaaffran I will have to draw from
our mission statement "that Indian cuisine can be as subtle and finely
balanced as any of the world's greatest cuisines". By that statement it
is very clear that our express intention is to show-case only the best
flavours, tastes and textures from the various regions of the Indian
sub-continent. It is my belief that the best Indian cuisine originates not in
commercial kitchens but in the 'gharanas' or households, where there are many
old treasured family recipes. Therefore, having researched this we came up
with many unique dishes which feature in our menus. However, we have also
included a few common items such as Vindaloo, Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken),
Tandoori Chicken etc. just to make the unadventurous feel comfortable. We do
ensure that even these dishes are the best. I also believe that this is a
great time for Indian cuisine with the increased popularity of spices and
other herbs ? not only for their flavours but also for their inherent
medicinal values. This exposure has lead to Indian cuisine gaining similar
momentum as Chinese and Thai did in the last two decades. We at zaaffran
are of the opinion that the next decade will be the 'golden era' of Indian
cuisine. We are gearing up to take it to the next level where we will
introduce a teaser/tasting menu, matched with wines and served in a similar
format to French food?plated and with accompaniments. One might call it a
renaissance in Indian cuisine.
Q. What kind of difficulties did you find in
starting this venture and how did you overcome them?
A. The most obvious ones before we got started were to find a suitable
location, and a reputable interior designer. After we got started the most
frustrating one was the fact that in most cases people around Sydney were used
to a generic menu which hardly changed from one restaurant/takeaway place to
another and people expected us to offer the same fare. Whereas we wanted to be
the bastion and set the trend, in doing so we had a lot of resistance.
Eventually we did prevail, however because once one tried zaaffran,
one was always impressed. Of course I believe in providing our patrons with a
'memorable moment' be it food, service or that little bit extra. I trust this
is what brings most of our patrons back.
Q. Were there any specific reasons for choosing
Australia rather than any other country?
A. Choosing Australia was perhaps a logical one. After having travelled to
almost all the continents either for work, promotional work or leisure and
having experienced the weather, people, environments and most importantly the
produce, to use a cliché it had to be 'God's own country'. This is a magical
setting for a restaurant and I feel I am truly blessed to be here.
Q. How do you rate the likeness of Indian food
here in this country? What is an approximate percentage of Indians and
non-Indians in your clientele ?
A. Well the similarity of food being served here and back home is almost 100%
for those restaurants that presently pride themselves with a manageable menu
and do not believe in the '3 pot' method of cooking. Our percentages vary but
of late its almost 40% Indian which is considerably a lot since we are
situated in a neighbourhood very sparsely populated with Indians.
Q. What have been your career aspirations?
A. I have very lofty goals and have been able to fulfil some of my ambitions.
I always wanted to work in Asia where better to do it than at the 'RAFFLES'!
Eventually I wanted to own a place of my own and the opportunity came in the
form of zaaffran ? a partnership with Freddie and Rush . As I
said earlier, I feel I am truly blessed. Now the only objective for me is to
be instrumental in ensuring that Indian food is revered the world over as we
Indians know it should be. The complexity of taste and flavour achieved in our
food through the different spices and herbs used makes it a great cuisine
because of the art and skill required to do so. It is second to none and ranks
alongside the other greats namely French and Chinese. Besides ours is the only
cuisine which not only provides for physical well being but also spiritual. www.zaaffran.com.au