When the Taj group stole cooks from Amaravathi

Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times:

It was in Bangalore – and not, sadly enough, in Hyderabad -– that I first encountered fiery-hot, non-vegetarian Andhra food at such restaurants as Amaravathi and RR. I had my first Chicken 65 – a dish unknown north of the Vindhyas in that era – in Bangalore, the city where it was invented. And the South Indian vegetarian food at small restaurants and some larger establishments (Hotel Chalukya, for instance) was a revelation.

I wondered if any of the dishes I encountered in Bangalore would ever make it on to the menus of more up-market restaurants or whether they would make it to Bombay at all. Clearly I was not the only one to have had the same idea because in early 1984 when the Taj group opened the Taj Residency (now called Vivanta), Camellia Panjabi put many of the dishes I came to Bangalore for on to the menu of Southern Comfort, the hotel’s coffee shop.

It was, as far as I know, the first five-star-hotel restaurant to serve appams; the first to serve Andhra dishes, including a biryani and the first to give Chicken 65 the recognition it deserved. Southern Comfort did some Goan food too, which was fair enough, because the Taj had a strong Goan presence. But as for the rest, it came from cooks stolen from the best local joints, lured to the Taj with fancy five-star salaries.

Eventually, the owners of such restaurants as Amaravathi began to warn P.K. Mohankumar, the Residency’s food and beverage manager, of dire consequences if he stole any more cooks. But by then, it did not matter. The Taj had begun to understand South Indian food itself and its own chefs were mastering Mangalorean dishes and promoting such previously unfashionable fish as Kane.”

Read the full article: Bangalore diary

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10 Responses to “When the Taj group stole cooks from Amaravathi”

  1. Shankar Says:

    My brother was once interviewed by Vir Sanghvi at his work. When he checked the column in the newspaper, his words were totally misrepresented. We never trusted his words ever again. And then Radia gate happened and now he is relegated to the back benches, fit only for the likes of Churumuri.

  2. Suresh Panje Says:

    One’s loss is another person’s gain as such there is nothing novel about Vir Sanghvi’s comments. The only amazing aspect in such situations is that the star-rated or upmarket restaurants and other joints claim the dishes fared out by them as the only authentic food of some particular region or other. And this reminds me about the tall claims made by certain eateries in Delhi in the ‘Eating Out’ columns of daily newspapers. That the chefs or Bawarchis of their restaurants are the descendants of the cooks who churned out lip smacking royal dishes for the Nawabs of Awadh, Rampur, Lucknow, Faizabad, Bhopal, Tonk, Pataudi, Kotla et al. And another claim happens to be that the recipes with which their chefs prepare the dishes happen be HIGHLY GUARDED SECRET, which even the CIA and KGB could never access!!
    As for Bangalore’s authentic non-veg restaurants (hotels in Kannada), there were the Maratha Military Hotels and the most famous among them was the one opposite Kayangadi Papanna’s massage clinic in the Akkipet area on the Old Taluk Cutchery (OTC) Road. The timings were from 8.30 to 12.30 in the morning. It was famous for mutton biryani and one could relish mutton chops and curry with with the very indigenous Ragi Mudde although the dark coloured ball was not a dish of Marathi community. Indeed, the mutton biryani, kurma and chops of other famed joints like the Ghousia, Taj, Grand Taj and Empire in the Russell Market area, Breeze and Imperial in Brigade Road area, Islamia, Ghousia and Ameenia near City Market, were no match to the one served at this Maratha Military Hotel on OTC Road. Even Busybee (Behram Contractor) had written about this hotel in one of his columns. Wonder if this hotel still exists and I wish to visit it during my next trip to Bangalore.

  3. mysore peshva Says:

    shri. vir sanghvi’s writing represents all that is wrong with english-language news journalism:

    1. wrong priorities that lower expectations of public discourse;
    2. eternal focus on the frivolous;
    2. whetting an appetite for the lower values (and foods) of life;
    3. apathy to equanimity;
    4. suspect personal integrity; and perhaps worst of all
    5. all of the above served with a “so what” arrogance

    (examples available upon request — if they aren’t copiously evident in his columns!) what a shame for an otherwise superbly skilled writer . . .

  4. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Peshivaji,

    Amazingly you are wrong about this column by Veer S. He is spot on w.r.t. West End Hotel and I have experienced what he has written about. Sorry Sir what he wrote in this column is hardly trivial. I am sure you got giddy somewhat with all the elaborate descriptions about NV food:)? As a lapsed vegetarian I enjoyed reading VS’ description on the ambiance and the good food served at West End.

  5. babuds Says:

    Andhra style hotels are not only known for their biriyanis and other non-veg fare, The Andhra style is unique in its vegetarian dishes, such as the fiery gun-powder, Avakaya, Gongura chutney, Aku kura Pappu, Pappu charu, etc, without which it can not qualify as Andhra style. Thanks to Mr. Ramana Reddy (RR) who introduced this branch of cuisine into Bangalore with his RR Hotel in the late 70s. I was invited to its inaugural lunch, when it was near Tribhuvan. . RR is an engineering grad. When asked by his dad to look after the family owned restaurant Ananda Bhavan at Nellore, he simply refused and opted to to start the RR hotel in the late 70s in Bangalore. Later he introduced this Andhra style even in US through a restaurant in Chicago, if I am right. The Andhra style is poised to go viral in US too. Recently I saw a few restaurants in Atlanta, (Georgia) and in California serving the Andhra Cuisine. The Andhra style biriyani is not to be confused with Hyderabadi (dum) biriyani, as the process of cooking is different.

  6. the colonel Says:

    vir sanghvi is farting away as usual

    he no nuthin.

  7. chidu22 Says:

    Bengalur is famous for serving everything but Karnataka Food.

  8. Mysore Peshva Says:

    DB saar, as usual, I shall defer to your best judgment . . . :) (which I do not believe is evident in your comment!)

  9. Suresh Panje Says:

    Apropos Doddi Buddi’s comments, I wish to remind him that Hotel West End has been a gourmet’s delight not because of Vir Sanghvi but ever since it opened under the management of Spencers. Yes, I am talking about the 50s and 60s before the group of Tatas took it over.

  10. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Suresh P
    I did not say VS was the cause of good cuisine at West End! I remember West End from mid 70s. That’s all.

    Peshvaji
    I don’t really like VS but with this post I am surprised cuz he can write cogently without resorting to bias and inane tokenism.

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