Contrary to the expectations of his family, Chef Irfan Lateefi, a bright young science student, gave up on engineering to follow his passion and first love - cooking. His exciting journey began with that first step and led him on a culinary path filled with aromas and flavours. A path on which he thrives to this day.

" They say every chef is crazy. I'm a little more.

One of my earliest memories of my fascination with food is of our khansamah cooking biryani on a woodfire. It intrigued me to the point that I just had to try my hand at it and sought my father’s permission. He approved and I cooked my first biryani for 100 people at 12 years of age! At the risk of sounding vain, may I say, that it turned out great. Everyone loved it.

After graduating from IHM, Mumbai, I began my first stint at Taj. It has been a wonderful journey from then till today. Unexpected and enjoyable detours, growth and experiences filled with a variety of cuisines across the globe, I have enjoyed every minute of my time in different kitchens and numerous roles.

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After a while, I wanted my own restaurant, and I put my heart and soul into opening Hyderabad Bistro. People liked the food and came back for more. It began gaining momentum but as luck would have it, COVID happened, and we turned the restaurant into a central kitchen and catered to hospitals. After a couple of years, corporate life called out to me again and I found myself at Radisson as F&B director where, to my absolute delight, I had an R&D kitchen to try out recipes to my heart's content.

Despite all my experiences of working at five-star properties, cruises and restaurant chains across the world, I felt I just had to experience corporate catering. That is what led me to Sodexo, which is one of the best in what they do.

Whenever possible I try to give back to my industry by conducting a few guest lectures on production at IHM and other hotel management schools. I love sharing my knowledge of Hyderabadi Mughlai cuisine with aspiring chefs. However much I would love to teach more, Sodexo keeps me on my toes and offers me ample opportunities to do what I love most- working with food. I joined Sodexo because I was really looking forward to experiencing corporate catering. What I didn’t expect was that I would fall in love with the company. I love that they value chefs here and I enjoy working with the team on the food platform. Sodexo has a very definite protocol for chefs. Wherever I go, chefs are welcomed and respected. Clients wish to take pictures with us. It’s a matter of pride.

I get to go to the kitchen every day. It’s a blessing.

The one dish I love most – both cooking and eating - is biryani. So much so that I spent 20 years researching it. Thanks to my ancestry, which is a combination of Nawabi and Punjabi heritage, I have been fortunate enough to experience a variety of authentic cuisines from both worlds. Growing up, my family would have a party for every reason (even when our cat gave birth to kittens) and the highlight of every party was delicious food.

My passion for cooking transcends my every waking moment. I dream of recipes. And they turn out really well in real life. It's not for nothing I’m called eccentric and crazy😊. I try different foods together. I first started with serving biryani on a sizzler plate, went on to try steaks, and hot salads and didn’t spare Idli sambar too! 😊 My recipe Millet Medley and Tofu Steak is one of the results of my love for experimenting and trying out new dishes. It is a Lebanese Mediterranean salad with a lot of parsley in it. One can use other millets too.

There is no plan B for Passion and cooking is a passion. Simple. If you want to be successful in the kitchen your only passion should be food.

I take pride in my work. I'm still a hands-on chef and like to cook one or two dishes daily. To aspiring chefs, I would say – Get into the kitchen. A chef is only valued by what he cooks. There is a very bright future as Indian chefs are very much valued. We work hard, are technically sound, and take our education very seriously. When you go abroad learn all you can about the food and their cultures. Every culture has its own cuisine. “

Having navigated a scrumptious and intriguing path filled with the joys of cooking and researching food, Chef Irfan Lateefi now leads as executive chef in the corporate office food segment at Sodexo India.

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