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Meet the chef: Vikas Vibhuti, cluster executive pastry chef at JW Marriott Pune

By Jyoti Balani on 18th February 2021

Cluster executive pastry chef, Vikas Vibhuti from India brings with him over a decade of culinary experience, passion and expertise. He had a prolific stint with the Oberoi Group after graduating in hotel management from Bangalore University in India. He is an alumnus of The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development and has been trained at L’Ecole Lenôtre, Paris – the mecca of pastry innovation.

Chef Vikas started his career as the kitchen assistant at The Oberoi Bangalore in India and worked his way up as the youngest pastry chef at The Oberoi New Delhi. He has also worked at The Oberoi Gurgaon and Trident Bandra Kurla, Mumbai.

His most recent key assignment was the successful re-opening of The Oberoi, New Delhi in India in the year 2018, where he has re-established the flagship patisserie The Oberoi Patisserie and Delicatessen to a newer benchmark. He was also part of the Ritz Carlton, Pune opening and he has recently been appointed as the brand ambassador India for Callebaut, one of the finest Belgian chocolate brands.

There is a definite artistry with being an expert pâtissier

The celebrated chef is responsible for overseeing the bakery and confectionery at JW Marriott Pune in India, Marriott Suites Pune and Courtyard by Marriott Pune Hinjewadi. Apart from his involvement in food consistency and quality in the dining outlets; he oversees the promotions and budgets of the patisseries.

Chef Vikas has learned and worked closely with several industry experts including renowned M.O.F and Michelin star chefs and honed his skills in the art over the years. An expert pâtissier, he has received multiple awards in his culinary journey. In his leisure time, Vikas avidly reads management books, and enjoys photography and the thrill of cycling. We caught up with the chef to discuss his career, inspirations and what advice he would give to aspiring pastry chefs.

Who or what inspired you to become a pastry chef? You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?

Chef William Curley has been really inspiring. He is amongst one of the most humble and knowledgeable pastry chefs whom I admired a lot when I started my career.

I have always been inclined towards refinement and creative aspects. Once I moved to a professional kitchen I was truly amazed at the work that was happening inside the bakery and it was quite satisfying. I felt a great sense of achievement when I got the opportunity to learn pastry making and bakery. I guess its intricacy and challenging skill set inspired me to be a pastry chef. If not, pastry I would have been working in some other creative field.

A classic tiramisu reimagined. Flavour, texture, presentation and finesse are the key elements to any dessert.

What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?

The philosophy and ethos behind the food I create truly revolves around creating memories.

What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?

I quite often quote ‘pastry is the fashion capital of any kitchen’ and the trend changes quite fast, however, it totally depends on the pastry chef and the demand across the segment he is catering to. I would say the trend of focusing more on ancillary aspects than on the key element should phase out soon.

What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?

I focus on keeping the flavour profile and the texture alive. I also ensure that the sugar level is low in all my products along with making the product more desirable with presentation and finesse.

Vikas says to ‘keep it simple and get the basics right’

What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?

I am a big fan of local delicacies, however a well-stuffed paratha is my comfort food. And for dessert a perfect vanilla crème brulee with macerated sour cherries along with thin crisp biscotti ticks all the right boxes for me.

What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?

Keep it simple and get the basics right. Don’t just work to enhance visual appeal but focus equally to make it a memorable affair.

‘The philosophy and ethos behind the food I create truly revolves around creating memories’

Would you consider yourself as an artist? Are you inspired by artists when you create your pastries? When you create different products every day where do you get inspired from?

Absolutely. Not only me, anyone who aspires to be in the pastry world has to be artistic, super creative and must be innovative to dispense the need that comes across on a day to day basis. Inspiration comes through wider channels these days right from nature to happenings across the globe it’s infinite and situational.

The topic of local food – from smaller, specialised and personally known producers – is becoming more important. Do you strive to source locally?

We strongly believe in sustainability and the go local mantra, thus most of our ingredients are locally sourced, however bakery being a very specialised wing demands specific ingredients which we source from top global producers.

Chef Vikas says the key feature of his creations is to keep things simple yet significant, like these chocolate and hazelnut cupcakes

What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations?

The key feature of my creations is to keep things simple yet significant.

What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

It completely varies and mostly depends on the clientele, restaurant set up, theme and various other key deciding factors, however it revolves around taste, flavour, texture, stunning presentation and its impact to create a lasting memory.

Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?

Since the last few years I have been offering multiple selections for vegans in my menu and it’s been quite popular and has been a great learning tool. Undoubtedly, it’s the future.

A vanilla and chocolate crepes cake takes effort to produce but no doubt tastes glorious

What’s your signature dessert?

My signature dessert is a slow-baked Belgian cake, a very rich dense chocolate dessert that has been baked at low heat to get the desired mouth feel and taste.

How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?

Many chefs have and are still contributing to popularise sustainability by encouraging the highs of plant-based food and the resultant benefits to everyone on various platforms and obviously through their menus.