Ruchit Harneja - Every Day I Wake Up With A New Challenge For Myself (Chef)

Ruchit Harneja

Every new challenge inspires me, and the inspiration gets stronger every day which proves the penchant in me to give something very valuable to the chef fraternity and the world of gastronomy.


1. Tell us about your background and journey.

I started my culinary journey from Japanese cuisine at one of India's finest Modern Japanese restaurant -Wasabi by Morimoto where I used to be a teppanyaki chef. But inside me, I always had an inclination towards pastry arts which is a different world in itself. It is all about meticulous art, creatively balancing flavours and skill-based techniques.

I am a graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore. Began my career with the Taj group of hotels as a trainee chef, where I took over the pastry operations of the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi. Prior to joining Musaafer by the Spice route co., I worked as a sous chef at Andaz Delhi - A concept by Hyatt.

An avid traveller, I have travelled across the world to take master classes with some of the world's most renowned pastry chefs - Chef Antonio Bachour, Chef Carles Mampel, Chef Marike Van Beurden to name a few. 

I have also travelled to France and Belgium to undergo extensive training on chocolate arts; to Italy to learn the art of ice cream, gelato and frozen desserts; and to Spain to study the deep science of molecular gastro art at the SOSA Spain.

Following the footsteps of Chef Mayank Istwal, I also embarked on a culinary journey throughout India to explore varied Indian desserts and pastries and learn ancient and traditional recipes from each region. The knowledge I gathered from this journey has not only added depth to my expertise, but also to the dessert menu at Musaafer, Houston.


2. What led you to take up this career path?

Ever since the day I stepped into the culinary field, I had a constant Hunger in me to explore and experiment with the nature of ingredients and cooking styles. All this gave me an opportunity to challenge myself on every stage to strive for better which created a place for me on the gastronomy path.

Every new challenge inspires me, and the inspiration gets stronger every day which proves the penchant in me to give something very valuable to the chef fraternity and the world of gastronomy.

And not to forget, Chef Ashish Bhasin. Calling him anything like a Mentor/guide/guru/figurehead would be an understatement. He has always pushed me towards excellence and understands the depth of my thought process.

Also, I have been diligently working to eradicate the misconception which says eating desserts is unhealthy. Through all my desserts, I have always translated that eating sweets 'in moderation' after your meal always aids in Digestion. 

It is scientifically proven that eating sweets triggers the release of saliva, which loosen stomach muscles to make the food we've eaten settle easily.


3. What does your typical day look like?

My days are never robotic or monotonous. Every day I wake up with a new challenge for myself to push the boundaries in terms of innovation. 

Regular kitchen tasks like ensuring quality checks & inventory management, food cost analysis are an essential part of my schedule too, but at the same time, we promote intense brainstorming within the team on each and every dish which comes out on the menu.

Our menu changes every season depending on the seasonal produce, health aspects, authenticity and soul of the dish.

Also, I make sure I invest my time doing thorough research on the nature of spices along with Chef Mayank Istwal and so far we've been very notorious for our unique style of incorporating our phenomenal and unusual spice blends in desserts. 

The spices have been fostering Indian cuisine since ancient age and I'm extremely zealous to assimilate my own spice blends differentiating by their cooling, warming, baking and digestive nature. Each and every spice blend has a different note and reaction when it comes to pairing with ingredients and cooking technique.


4. Does one's approach change when cooking professionally and at home?

Cooking approach does change as the kind of equipment and tools available in the professional kitchen differs from what we have at home, but on the contrary, home-cooked meals are always full of love and passion. For me, cooking at home always turns out to be therapeutic and restorative.


5. Is there a dish you particularly associate yourself with?

I would say, Badam Halwa (Warm Almond pudding). It is a quintessential classic winter treat and one thing I can live on for the rest of my life. Seems simple but a very delicate preparation of soaked almonds and milk cooked with liberal ghee and a hint of green cardamom & saffron. The soft fudge-like texture slides down your throat and warms the soul.

Every Indian kid has grown up getting advice from their grandmas and moms to have a spoonful of this wholesome badam halwa every day to keep the body warm. Taking inspiration from this yearning nostalgia, I learnt this generation-passed recipe from my mom, and have launched a spellbinding version of it in our winter menu at Musaafer. 

My version of Badam Halwa is texturally complex as it calls for an addition of milk chocolate and almond crunch, toffee almond cake and chilli guava ice cream to pair with it.


6. Can cooking be learnt at culinary schools or natural talent is required?

Culinary schools teach basic cooking science and set the foundation right. But what's more important is passion and love towards what you do. I always say it's much beyond cooking. 

Being a Chef is an amalgamation of artist/scientist/doctor/nutritionist/hygienist and a lot more. This industry lands us in such situations every day where we have to deal with new challenges and we learn from all these instances.


7. Which is your favourite book and why?

I would very strongly say 'The flavour Bible' by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It was amongst the first arrivers to my bookshelf when I started in this career and ever since then It has never failed to astonish me. 
It definitely teaches readers to cook without recipes, inspired by tried-and-true compatible flavours.

Although it does contain a few recipes, it isn't a cookbook. It isn't really a bible either, for that matter. If I had to classify this book, it would be half dictionary, half encyclopedia, and all wonderful. The best part I like about this book is the use of simple terminology so that doesn't perplex young chefs in the making.


- Ruchit Harneja (Chef)

Ruchit Harneja

Profoundly creative, innovative and self-motivated, Chef Ruchit Harneja is the Pastry Chef at Musaafer. Prior to joining the Spice Route Co, Chef Ruchit worked as a Sous Chef at Andaz Delhi – a concept by Hyatt.

A graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management in Bangalore, Chef Ruchit began his career with the Taj Hotels group as a trainee chef, where he eventually took over the pastry operations of the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi.

Chef Ruchit is not only well-known for his flavours, techniques, and expertise in Indian desserts, but also for his creative food presentations. He is notorious for his unique style of incorporating his own phenomenal and unusual spice blends in his desserts.

He is extremely zealous when he assimilates his own blends of seasonal spices to desserts. He has created numerous spice blends differentiating by their cooling, warming, baking and digestive nature. Each and every spice blend has a different note and reaction when it comes to pairing with ingredients and cooking technique.

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Interviewed By Khushi Garg

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