Lively, spirited, and extremely talented, Chef Shilarna Vaze aka chef Chinu has come a long way—from a social media star, a celebrity chef, a writer to B-town’s favourite gourmet caterer. We caught up with the exuberant Vaze during the shoot for sparkling wine brand Chandon’s The Party Starter Series 2.0, a web series featuring game-changers from different walks of life, who are defining pop culture in their own unique way. The series kick-started in 2018 with the who's who of India including Irrfan Khan, Mithali Raj, Jwala Gutta, Rohit Sharma, Cyrus Sahukar, and Kaneez Surka. And, this year, stars such as Vicky Kaushal, Mary Kom, Ranveer Brar, Rana Daggubati, Neena Gupta, and Masaba Gupta will be joining the gang along with Vaze.
Catch a glimpse of the Vaze's shoot here:
We quizzed her about her culinary journey, working with husband Christophe Perrin, catering to Mumbai’s posh set, and much more.
Vaze’s tryst with food began early. At the age of three, when other children fussed about food, she could polish off an entire lobster by herself. “This led to the start of my culinary adventure and got me to explore various cuisines and become a chef,” she recalls. She later went on to earn a diplome de cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris in 2004.
Once she was back in India, she wound up working for professional kitchens in Goa. This is when she met the love of her life Christophe Perrin, a chef and horticulturist, an eventually set up their first restaurant—Gaia—at Goa’s Ashvem Beach in 2009. Talking about what inspired the name of the restaurant, Vaze explains, “Gaia represents the world as one living, breathing, connected organism, and I think that’s what food also represents.”
A year later, the couple moved to Mumbai to start Gaia Home Chef, an upscale catering company. Now known as Gaia Gourmet, the company offers end-to-end solution, from the menu to décor, so the hosts can enjoy the party. With a star-studded clientele including Esha Deol, Aamir Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, and Alia Bhatt, today, Gaia Gourmet is one of the most popular caterers in the city.
Smart BusinessIn a city where real estate is excruciating expensive to invest in, running a successful restaurant is a challenge and Vaze chose to go the catering way simply because, “Restaurants are just too much work. With catering, one has a certain amount of flexibility.” She also feels that this business model allows them to constantly innovate and explore new cuisines/menus. “If I would be running a restaurant, I would be stuck to a menu at least for six months. In the last few years, we’ve made more than 10,000 odd new recipes because every order comes with the challenge of doing something different with an ingredient, flavour, format, or cuisine,” she adds.
That said, catering is not a bed of roses either--“The worst part is how you smell by the end of the night. Luckily, I am married to the person who smells the same, so it works out fine,” Vaze giggles. She adds that the F&B business is a stressful profession; each client, his/her palate, and expectation is different, catering to their needs can get challenging. Vaze’s way of dealing with this is by making things that she really believes in and likes. “If I like a dish, I don’t have control over what other people think, but at least I know I’m doing the best I can.” Gaia Gourmet is well-known for its Asian and continental spread. However, Vaze and Perrin have recently been cooking a lot of nouvelle Indian. “Our clients are looking at local food and flavours, but in a new light and so are we,” she shares. While the celebrity chef is happy about the people of our country going back to their roots, she hopes that soon they also start paying close attention to where is their food coming from. “A lot of people are talking about the ‘Farm to Table’ concept, but where are these farms? Especially for meats and other proteins. Where is your seafood coming from, where is your poultry coming from? Are your sources sustainable enough?” She feels that this will be the next step in the evolution of food.
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