“I’ve done almost everything in the kitchen, manning the hot kitchen, the cold kitchen, almost everything."
In the lavishly decorated and spacious banquet halls of Hotel Shankar that serve almost every cuisine that you can think of, I sit down with their executive chef, Mr. Keshab R. Shrestha, to know more about him and his extensive knowledge of the culinary world.
With over a decade worth of experience in this field, having worked for hotels all around the world, with names such as Hyatt Regency (Kathmandu),Park Hyatt (Australia), and Hilton Hotel (Abu Dhabi) under his belt, Chef Shrestha’s entrance into the culinary field is rather peculiar. “After my SLC, I already had a government job ready for me. But I didn’t want that, I didn’t like that job at all. I wanted to do something that none of my friends were doing, something that wasn’t as popular. I thought of the things I haven’t heard of before, and stumbled upon hotel tourism. A few weeks later, they were taking people in for training. So I applied and I got in, thus began my culinary journey,” he explains.
In his many years as a chef, he quotes his most memorable moment to be the time when he won the gold medal in a culinary competition held during his time at the Hilton Hotel. “In a competition with eight or nine other hotels, I won the gold medal, and I think that has to be my most memorable moment as a chef. After that, I got a lot of media attention. I’d be interviewed almost on a daily basis. There were also various hotels giving me offers to prepare their dinner courses, from here to there.” he chuckles, reminiscing.
“The menu I prepared for the competition also happens to be the toughest one I’ve made. For starters, I served a risotto dish, followed by the main courses, in which I had served the Australian lamb loin that really sealed the deal,and following after, for dessert, I prepared fresh fruit nectarine with passion fruit sauce,” he continues, with a glimmer in his eyes.
Under his supervision, Hotel Shankar has hosted many banquets in its pristine banquet halls. Serving for 300 or more people on a semi-regular basis, they still manage to bring out their very best by serving up delicious and scrumptious meals of any theme—whether it be Italian or Chinese. When it come to the difficulties in cooking, especially in cooking for a big gathering, he says, “I’ve done almost everything in the kitchen, manning the hot kitchen, the cold kitchen, almost everything. Bakery is new to me, so I struggle a bit. A difficulty as a chef would have to be finding new recipes. Preparing new menus, trying different combinations, and doing a lot of research into various cuisines. Especially as an executive chef, I have to manage all the chefs under me as well—with each chef designated for a certain cuisine. I wouldn’t say it is difficult, rather it takes a lot of time and effort. I believe that you only find things difficult if you lack interest in the subject.”
“When it comes to banquets and buffets, I think it really boils down to equipment. Here, we have the big ovens that make cooking for many people very easy, as we can cook more than a standard oven can. We also use our vegetable garden for herbs and leaf vegetables, as well as have suppliers supplying and keeping our ingredients in stock,” he adds, dwelling on their success.
Every chef has their favorite chef whom they admire, someone who inspires them to be better. Likewise for Chef Shrestha, it is Tim Bruce, the man who worked with him during his time at the Hilton Hotel. “He’s the one who asked me to join him in Australia. He provided everything for me there, and so I left Hilton Hotel to join him. He was very kind to me during our time together, and I’ve always admired his culinary expertise.”
Serving various cuisines and having experience in them as well, I asked him what he considers to be his personal favorite, and if he has any new dishes that he is planning or has already started serving. “I personally prefer Italian food, but along with this, I also prefer Arabic food, as I’ve worked with many Arabian chefs in my time in the Arabian countries. One of my favorite dishes being the lamb carving that we do for banquets. As for anything new and different that I’ve been doing, we have recently started serving baked yogurt. We serve it in banquets, and it’s very popular among the crowds. We hang the yogurt, add some cream and condensed milk, then bake it and shave it into smaller pieces, and after that we serve it to the guests.” he replies.