A Chat with Head Chef Yogesh

A Chat with Head Chef Yogesh

Monday, 08 January 2024

Chef Yogesh garnishing

Plenty of patience, passion, and Punjab Butter Chicken 

We sat down with Head Chef at Tavistock Hotel, Yogesh Avinashe, who has 28 years’ experience in the culinary industry. We discover the cooking techniques and creative influences he has brought to Poppadom Indian Kitchen, plus what he’s got in store for 2024…

Can you tell us about your journey in the culinary world? 

“I’ve always wanted to be a chef,” he says, “and it’s been a long journey. I have been in this profession since 1995, that’s 28 years. I’ve mainly worked in and opened restaurants whilst in India, exploring the flavours and techniques across the different regions.” He reflects, “I’ve seen people who are not necessarily interested in Indian cuisine, but I love it. It’s good to explore and educate yourself too. And by exploring the vastness of Indian cuisine, that’s what made me come to love it.” 

Are there any specific regional influences or cooking techniques that you incorporate into your menu? 

“Definitely,” he nods, “we never use microwaves in the kitchen and zero colour [food dyes]. I will never use monosodium glutamate or bicarbonate of soda, which can affect people. Instead, we have traditional methods and ways of cooking, like using the tandoor oven and slow cooking. For example, the daal makhani we make is slow cooked for at least 8 – 10 hours, to create even better flavour. 

What inspires you when developing new dishes for the restaurant? 

“My mother is a huge inspiration and I use a lot her techniques in my cooking. I learnt a lot from her, she understands how flavours work together and how to improve the taste. I remember her tips and tricks when I am cooking here, always.”  

Do you have a personal favourite dish on the menu? 

“Yes,” he smiles, “the bestselling ruby butter chicken. We marinate tandoor chicken overnight and then it is sliced, cooked in a tomato sauce which is flavoured with cardamon and fenugreek leaves. Then finished with cream. That’s one of the most popular dishes and it originates from Punjab, north India. It is typically a tangy and sweeter dish, less spicy.” 

Can you increase and decrease spice levels of your dishes? 

“We can cater for all spice preferences. We can always add more spice upon request, but you can’t remove it once it’s there!” He laughs.

Chef Yogesh smiling

How do you strive to create a memorable dining experience for guests? 

“I do like to meet and greet diners whenever I can. And I’m always keen to hear their feedback. Feedback is what drives me to exceed guests’ expectations. I think it’s about the personal touches too, like adding more spice if a guest requests or presenting the food in an appealing way.” 

Are there specific skills or qualities that you believe are crucial for success in this field? 

“Patience,” he says, straight away. “Once you become a chef there is still a lot to learn. Always. And all you need is patience to learn the food combinations and techniques that will only come with time and practice.” 

What excites you to wake up and go to work? 

“Definitely my passion for food,” he grins. “And I do believe happy guests is what motivates me. Once the guest is happy, then I know we’re on the right track. I can finish a day at work and feel good about what I do, ready to wake up again for the next day.”  

Interiors of Poppadom Indian Kitchen

Do you remember a positive experience from a guest which stayed with you? 

“Recently we hosted a table for the senior directors of the Imperial London Family of Hotels at Christmas. They said they were extremely satisfied with the food, and it was one of the best meals they had ever had.” He says with pride. “I can’t ask for more than that. It was a wonderful feeling to be appreciated by the senior leadership team.” 

What are your hopes for Poppadom in the future? 

“I’d like to be considered one of the best Indian restaurants for affordable dining in London. I like for people to eat well and get great value for money whilst doing so. It’s a myth that you need to spend a lot of money to eat good food.” 

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