Coming from a middle-class Bengali family, Ishika Kunar has never dreamed of being a high-flying chef. Like any other educated Bengali, Ishika, the youngest of three sisters, was also expected, like her older siblings, to do something in the academics. “My older sister is a physicist and the other in the middle is an economist. Of course, when I chose to study hotel management, my mother was a little disappointed,” Ishika recalls.
After working for over 19 years in star hotels alongside celebrity chefs such as Mark Wilson, David Watson and Kuchal Arora, Chef Konar joined Hyatt Regency Kolkata as its Executive Chef last month. Interestingly enough, Chef Konar was also part of the elite culinary team of the Atmantan Wellness Center, and she wants to incorporate different elements of mindful eating into Hyatt’s menu as well.
We talk to Chef Konar about her work, the changes she plans to make, and what it takes to become a chef.
Was it more difficult for you as a chef?
I wouldn’t say that. There is a huge difference between a chef and a cook and a lot of creativity, projects and hard work behind being a chef. If you are good at your job and bring your own ideas to the table, you will definitely shine in this profession. I’ve never had the privilege of being the only girl in the kitchen, but I believe in smart work and that’s what made me shine in a male-dominated space. If you are not thorough with your skills and knowledge, you can never lead a team.
Your unforgettable experience as a chef?
My assignment should be at the Kabul Serena Hotel in Afghanistan. The kind of show I got there is unmatched. We have been training local unemployed Afghans to become competent hotel staff, and we have served some of the most powerful and reputable people around the world.
What culinary innovations will we see in Hyatt Regency Kolkata under your leadership?
With everyone aware of health, the pressure on healthy eating is at its peak. I want to introduce the elements of mindful eating into everything we offer here. I am very optimistic about incorporating this into the buffet through thoughtful and carefully presented dishes. We want to give our customers the essence of good food that is free from excess oils or fats and chemicals. Therefore, we will put more pressure on local and seasonal products. We will also try to mention the calorific value of each delicacy so that the guest can choose more consciously. Also, Bengali cuisine has plenty of room for innovation and Hyatt will add healthy and delicious versions of Bengali preparations to its buffet menu.
Hyatt’s famous Chinese restaurant “China House” will be launched soon…
Yes, and it will be all about fine Chinese cuisine which originally represents all cuisines from five Chinese provinces. But it will take some time before we launch dinner here.