Fine dining at home: Here’s how Chef Vikramjit Roy of Hello Panda delivered gourmet cuisine during the lockdown
In the altered dining reality due to COVID-19, restaurants have started taking baby steps, seeking to ‘bring the restaurant home’ as those stepping to dine out are still few and far between. With the Unlocks underway, celebrated chef, Vikramjit Roy, is all geared up to launch his first cloud kitchen Hello Panda in Gurgaon in the national capital region.
Chef Vikramjit at work
Despite the many rumours of well-known restaurants struggling to revive business, and many eateries shuttering for good and rising costs, 37-year- old Vikramjit, along with his partners decided to proceed with their dream project.
Chef Vikramjit’s last assignment was with White Hat Hospitality, as their Corporate Chef, and he has worked with iconic restaurants like Pan Asian at ITC Chola, Chennai, Wasabi by Morimoto at Taj Mahal hotel, Tian - Asian Cuisine Studio at ITC Maurya.
Hello Panda was launched despite the lockdown
He and his team are all set to bring Japanese, Thai and Chinese regional flavours to Hello Panda. "We were evaluating prospective restaurant spaces in the tony neighbourhood spaces of Delhi and NCR, when the imposition of lockdown halted our efforts completely. After giving it some careful thought, my partners and I decided to go ahead with our project, as this was something that we have wanted to do for the longest time,” says Vikramjit about Hello Panda, which was initially meant to be a restaurant from the word go.
“But we deviated from the initial plan and decided to be a delivery-only model with a difference to begin with,” he explains.
Teaming up with renowned sommelier Ankur Chawla and Anurodh Samal for operations, Vikramjit completes the triumvirate and is gearing to open Hello Panda's doors in Gurgaon now.
"The panda is an animal we love unanimously and to bring the brand alive, we got on board India’s foremost copywriter Freddy Birdy. Freddy developed our mood board and helped us translate the fun, warmth, and happiness of a panda into our brand imprint and etched it onto our brand design, packaging, and memorabilia," says Vikramjit.
Vocal about local
Chef Vikramjit with his business partner Anurodh Samal
Supporting local businesses and talent is at the core of Hello Panda's ethos. During the lockdown, Chef Vikramjit offered his home to his industry colleagues who were stranded in the city and took care of them.
As for the menu, he reveals, “The menu itself is vast and comparable to any five star or standalone dining places.” An ardent supporter of all things sustainable and local, Roy is championing the cause of going local by encouraging local businesses and tying up with local farms such as Krishi Cress and Tijara Farms for uninterrupted supply of super fresh produce such as mushrooms, Asian greens and microgreens for Hello Panda.
"In fact, we have tied up with a Chennai-based manufacturer for providing packaging crafted from recycled fabric. Besides, in our kitchens we are not using any of the readymade sauces and coconut milk from tetra packs used widely in restaurant kitchens. We intend to make our own fresh Thai pastes and Asian curries in small and fresh batches," says Vikramjit as he talks about his culinary vision for Hello Panda.
Deliveries during a pandemic
Chef Vikramjit launched Hello Panda as a delivery-only model
While care has been taken to craft takeaway boxes moving away from the usual plastic containers, each delivery from Hello Panda went out with a handwritten note. "We want to make our patrons feel special so each handwritten note that accompanies our delivery is either written by me or my partners. We know there are difficult times and we can't meet and greet our guests, but we are making efforts to bridge the gap of physical proximity and to recreate a memorable at-home dining experience," says Vikramjit.
Hello Panda also intends to bring the bar home too. Classic cocktails and drinks will be given a local flavour and delivered to the doorstep of their clients as pre-mixes.
"Popular drinks like Bloody Mary and Cosmopolitan will get the local touch. Ingredients like raw mango, ginger and chillies are used to make a memorable Bloody Mary with a local touch. The experience is also complete with in-house spring water which comes in sustainable aluminium casing," says Vikramjit.
Hello Panda may seem like a bold step in harsh times but the spirit of the team at Hello Panda remains unshaken. “We hope that in next few months the situation will be better, and we will be able to expand with a dine-in facility too,” he adds.
(Pix credit: Chef Vikramjit Roy)
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