Sriram Aylur, chef and director of operations at Bombay Brasserie and Quilon, tells Janie Manzoori-Stamford how his family imparted to him all the knowledge necessary to go far in the industry
I was very lucky to be born into a family of cooks. My mother and father are both good cooks and food was the religion at home. Every meal was planned. Every Sunday we had a feast and we always had a few relatives and friends joining us. My experiences have led me to place great importance on traditional recipes. Flavour, taste and texture play an important role in everything I do.
Not much was known about south-west coastal Indian cuisine when we started Quilon in 1999.
I learned the challenges of the hospitality industry from my father. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with him and he taught me what makes good food. After that, I was lucky enough to be selected by the Taj group of hotels, where I had the chance to go through training in various cuisines.
I was posted to London in 1999 and Quilon was my most challenging project, being based in a city where the culinary scene was very discerning. I enjoyed it because I could use all that I had learned throughout my career and gain recognition for it.
Sourcing ingredients can be a complicated process. We have lots of importers of quality ingredients, but we also import some of the specialised ingredients directly from the source. Over a period of time we have been able to make it work for us.
It's always a challenge to get chefs who understand ethnic cuisine from any region. But our team has been working with us for a long time. We tend to recruit chefs who are enthusiastic and positive in their approach and train them up. This is the best way to get the quality and attentiveness I look for in a chef.
The attitude of diners towards beer and food pairing has changed over the years. The biggest change is that guests are much more aware than ever that different varieties of beer - like wine - involve different styles, aromas and tastes. They have also realised that beer can be as good a match for food as wine is. The explosion of craft beer in the last 10 years has helped this change in perspective. I feel very happy to see beer being taken as seriously as wine. Beer is a fun drink made by very passionate people.
I am inspired by my parents, as well as my travels within India and abroad. Different cuisines from different regions and countries influence my approach, as does the availability of different ingredients, and an awareness and consciousness of healthy eating.
The quest to do everything right, to ensure every guest goes home happy is a dream I like to achieve 100%. I'm a bit OCD about it. This is a little bit esoteric, but I always tell my team that we have to delight our guests, not just make them happy. I also like the team that works with me to enjoy the experience. This is why I talk to all of them a lot and try to help them as much as I can. We spend more time at work than at home. It is important to have a team that is happy.
I would like to be an example to my children. That drives me to try to look at life with empathy. I am very close to my family so I would like to do the best for them and make them feel proud of what I do.