Girish Nayak, one of the 2017 Young Chefs, reflects on his experience at the Symposium
Please tell us about your career to date.
I started baking when I was 18 years old in my college bakery and I wasn’t really interested in taking it up as a profession during my time there. Once I finished college, I started working in local halwa shops and bakeries in a Southern coastal part of India called Udupi. It was here that it got really interesting: the products that were created from just flour, water, yeast and salt were just amazing. Wanting to get more knowledge in this field. I enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York. I used to bake bread part time at the school and during my time in New York I got to work and intern under some of the best pastry chefs in the country at Jean George, Gotham Bar and Grill, Bouchon Bakery, Amy Bread Bakery. I left NYC and came back to India to try and help develop an Indian pastry/baking program. Now I help run a bakery which caters to two restaurants called Olive Beach and Toast and Tonic in Bangalore. I am also an adjunct professor in the baking and pastry program at the Manipal University.
How did you hear about the Young Chefs’ grant? Why did you decide to apply?
Earlier this year I had received a mail from Harold McGee about the Oxford Food and Cookery Symposium and also about the grant. I read a blog post about this Symposium and a friend of mine had also attended this event. After hearing about her experience and getting to know more about this event, I was really excited and wanted to be part of the Symposium.
What were your duties in the kitchen during the Symposium weekend? What was it like to work with Tim Kelsey Head Chef of St Catherine’s College and the guest chefs?
I helped the chefs with their mise en place for the dinner and helped them plate during the service. I saw a lot of different cooking techniques and ingredients and how some ingredients, which were common to us in India, were being used in a very different way which I would never think of doing. I have never worked in a setup like this before and got a chance to work with chef Tim Kelsey who was truly knowledgeable.
Outside of the kitchen, what other activities did you take part in (for example, were you able to listen to any of the papers)?
I spent a lot of time interacting with people and hearing to their stories. I had enough time to listen to some of papers which gave me a very different insight into this industry.
How would you describe your experience of the Symposium?
It was absolutely amazing. It was completely different from what I imagined. I would recommend everyone attend this Symposium, from any industry. The food, drinks, papers, and mostly the kind of people who attended this Symposium were absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to be part of this event again.
What is next for you?
Next, is to use my experience and knowledge from the talks, cooking in the kitchen and eating the meals that has inspired me during my time in Oxford and apply it to my bakery; to talk about my experience at the school I teach; and to get know more about my landscape.
Do you have any advice for next year’s Young Chefs?
My advice to the next Young Chefs is to take every opportunity you can to meet the people who attend the event, eat and drink as much as you can, be a part of the kitchen team to help cook for the dinner and lunch, and also take some time off to go hear the research papers. It will give you a complete different insight to this industry.