How Manish Patel, a boy from a small village in Gujarat, decided to ‘step outside the box’ and ended up becoming the head chef at one of Birmingham’s newest Indian restaurants, Indus at the Park Regis Hotel
Tell us about your cooking
I enjoy cooking different foods, whether it’s Indian or continental for example. Actually, my preferred style probably is continental. When I moved here in 2018, I started to work as a continental chef and began to get my hands on all kinds of foods, European, American… The important thing is the flavour. If there’s a good combination of flavours from the ingredients, then I’m happy.
How did you become a chef?
It wasn’t planned! When I finished school my father suggested that I do hotel training and step outside the box. No one in my small village had ever done such a thing! I went to hotel school for four years where I trained with Radisson and Marriot hotels – and then I wasn’t sure what to do. I was a bit shy, my English was not that good, so I just wanted to be behind the scenes and thought the kitchen was a place where I could still prove myself but without having to interact much with people. Then when I started to cook, I felt that the kitchen really was for me and I’ve never looked back.
What do you eat at home?
I was born in Gujarat, so I prefer Gujarati food. I like a touch of sweetness in my food – even if it’s curry, I always need some tamarind and jaggery in there.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I have a list of chefs from when I started out who guided me and taught me everything I needed to know – so for me everyone who I worked with was the best. This is my first job in Birmingham, so for me the best in the city is Darren Rowe, my executive head chef here at Park Regis. He has guided me in continental food and he’s also the one who told me that I should try and do more Indian food too.
Is the customer always right?
From a business point of view, yes – to some extent!
Share a cooking tip
Always use fresh ingredients. Also, less is more when it comes to spices. Don’t try to put too many different spices in there.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I love sweet food because I’m a Gujarati. My favourite was probably Shrikhand, which is strained yoghurt with sugar, saffron and cardamom.
Food heaven and food hell?
If you love eating different foods, then food in general is heaven because you can enjoy everything. Food hell… that’s probably karela, a type of bitter gourd. It’s also probably the most unusual thing I’ve eaten!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A teacher, maybe of literature. When you’re in your final year of school in India you need to get a certain percentage to become a teacher, but I didn’t make it. And when I didn’t get good marks, my father said I should go for hotel school.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
The menu is a choosing menu, so it’s designed for everything on it to have a combination of the best flavours and highest quality. To really get the most out of the menu you’ll have to keep coming back to try new dishes the next time!