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SUCCESSFUL INDIAN OF THE MONTH
Rooma Nanda is currently in the finance industry, working as a residential mortgage consultant. She has over 10 years work experience with various corporates, such as, IBM and Yellow Pages. Rooma has done her MBA from Sydney, and is passionate about learning on a constant basis.  This column is to highlight the achievements of certain individuals who could be a source of inspiration for others. Email 

Vikrat KapoorIf 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 Australian palates.
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 in ‘Tanjore’.

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

 

 

 

In the Previous Issues:

Anupam Sharma
Vikrant Kapoor - Zaaffran Restaurant
Rashmi Mehrotra 
Dr. Jagnnath Mazumdar
Naville Roach - Fujitsu Australia
Dr Arapaut Sivaprasad - WebGenie Systems
Suda Navada
Jeet Bindra - Caltex
Dr. Bhuvan Unhelkar
Safina Uberoi - My Mother India Anupam Sharma Bobby Singh Sheba Nandkeolyar
Media Release
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