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Celebrating Christmas with some of the finest Indian chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers.

Chef Rahul Akerkar, Qualia, Mumbai

My Christmas wish: NO MORE COVID and life back to pre-COVID normalcy.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “It is a toss-up between Panettone (an Italian Christmas bread) and a rich gooey Christmas pudding. Panettone for being able to tear off pieces and dunking them in strong caffè latte at breakfast on a cold winter morning. The sweet, light, airy cake with raisins is the perfect match for a strong espresso-based coffee. Warm XMas pudding because the warm woody spices, alcohol-drenched fruit and cake slathered in bourbon or brandy crème Anglaise is guaranteed to touch your heart and expand the gut.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Home, hands down. Over the past 20-odd years, we’ve been hosting an annual blowout Xmas open-house brunch at home that goes from noon until we throw people out in the wee hours of the morning. Stuffed roast turkey or duck, legs of ham on a table laden with food, buckets of booze, carols, and a ton of good cheer shared amongst friends and family…it doesn’t get better than that.”

Chef Ananda Solomon, Thai Naam, Mumbai

My Christmas wish: “I would love to see my flagship restaurant, Thai Naam by Ananda, filled with loads of happy diners relishing freshly prepared Kai Yang (Thai roast chicken).”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Kai Yang is by far my favourite. In December, there is a nip in the air and a cool breeze blows. The festive seasons is the perfect time to savour a hot roast. The Thai twist makes it all the most enticing.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “Amalfi Coast, especially during the festive season. I love the sea, the fresh coastal food and the vibrant culture of the island.” 

Rachel Goenka, Founder & CEO, The Chocolate Spoon Company

What do you enjoy the most about Christmas: “My husband thinks I’m mad because I’m obsessed with Christmas, but honestly it’s just the festive feeling. From Christmas carols, the sweets, the food, the weather, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s just something magical about this time of the year. I wish for simple little things. I am super-excited about this Christmas in particular because Kabir, my son, is old enough to understand the entire concept of Christmas. We are going to be leaving milk and cookies out for Santa. My family is pretty nutty about Christmas. Each room has a theme Christmas tree. My mum goes all with decorations and it’s quite spectacular. She’s been extremely creative and this year has made these gorgeous Victorian-like baubles for one of the trees.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Marzipan. What I also crave for every year is sorpotel, sweet rice, roast chicken with my mum’s stuffing, and the whole Christmas feast.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Christmas is for the family. I enjoy travelling to my home in Goa, but wouldn’t mind spending the holiday somewhere in the mountains. Since it is all about spending time with the family, I can’t associate vacation with Christmas. However, if I had to have an ideal Christmas destination, it would be Lapland. It is on my bucket list.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “My dog Zico, an adorable black Labrador. We adopted him in 2006.”

Fredrik Blomqvist, General Manager, Four Seasons Bengaluru

My Christmas wish: “This year the best gift would be a halt to all the suffering caused by COVID-19 and the vaccine to be made available to everyone to ensure we can all stay safe, healthy and enjoy life.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “A traditional and authentic Swedish Smörgåsbord/Julbord, which would include Christmas ham, Prinskorv, meatballs, smoked and cured salmon with gravlax sauce, Jansson’s temptation, hard bread, Christmas bread, mustards, cheeses, to mention a few. Oh, before I forget, Christmas sweets such as saffron buns, Christmas toffee and cinnamon cookies.”

Best Christmas vacay: “I find pleasure in spending time with my lovely family and if I can choose a destination, it will have to be Sweden for a traditional, white, wonderful and cold Christmas.”

Sonal Holland, Master of Wine

My Christmas wish: “That the pandemic ultimately proves to be an unforeseen opportunity for EVERYONE to reinvent themselves into better and stronger versions of themselves.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Sipping a glass of Late Bottled Vintage Port and munching on mince pies as our family sits around a decked-up tree at home on the eve of Christmas, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.”

Best Christmas vacay: “London dazzles like no other city during the Christmas season. Londoners know how to deck the halls, the food & beverage industry pulls out all stops to delight your senses and the shopping malls turn temptress. What’s not to love?!”

Jaydeep Mukherjee, Brand Head, Smokehouse Deli

                                                                

My Christmas wish: “Many people have been affected by the pandemic personally and professionally. I wish for things to normalise for them and for food to return to a lot of people who have lost their daily livelihood. I hope people gain strength and find happiness in 2021. I wish to have family celebrations on one table and not the zoom ones we have been having.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “There are several answers to this but my personal favourite is the Christmas pudding, the preparation for which takes an entire month. I look forward to the yearly mixing of dry fruits with alcohol, which takes place a month before getting the mixture ready. 

The pudding is special to me. It offers a feeling of an early onset of the festive season and the aroma of the mixture acts as the countdown till Christmas. At SmokeHouse Deli, we make a variety of traditional bakes and rolls which we sell through our bakery. The smell of these fresh bakes is lovely and takes over the whole kitchen through the festive season.

The other dish favourite dish is slow-cooked roast chicken. This year we have experimented with an East Indian version of it with spices and herbs for the festive menu at SmokeHouse Deli.”

Best Christmas vacay: “I love travelling to the mountains for holidays. Unfortunately, due to our work in the restaurant industry, I have seldom travelled during Christmas. But if I have to, it would be in Manali or one of the beautiful hill towns of northeast India.”

Kainaz Messman, Co-founder, Theobroma

My Christmas wish: “Feasting with family and friends. We are a food-obsessed family and our lives revolve around what we eat. Christmas is the official day of gluttony when you can eat all day, as part of the festivities. I love glitter and fairy lights and traditions and long-lingering meals; it is my favourite time of the year.”  

Favourite Christmas dish: “Trifle is an English layered dessert made with sponge cake, custard, fruit, jelly and whipped cream, which we Parsis have adopted and consider our own. Custard takes me back to my childhood. I spent my vacations with my grandparents and my mamayji (maternal grandmother) made her version of vanilla custard. We ate it on its own, we ate it with everything else, we ate loads of it. The addition of jelly (another Parsi staple), fruit, booze and cake makes it a winning combination.   

I have had many trifles: modern, boozy, chocolate, deconstructed, but my favourite remains the classic combination served proudly in a textured glass cup. It is a dessert but makes for the most indulgent breakfast. It gets better as it sits and the layers blend and absorb flavours from each other.  

I am also craving for strawberry tarts and marzipan Stollen. Stollen is a spiced cake-bread of German origin. It is made with yeast, water, flour, candied dried fruit, nuts and spices. As soon as it comes out of the oven, it is brushed with melted unsalted butter and sprinkled with icing sugar. It often has a marzipan log in the centre, which is said to represent baby Jesus swaddled in a blanket.

I remember eating Stollen for the first time on a cold winter morning in London. I had just finished an 18km run and my body possibly craved the sugar, but I was in heaven when I first bit into the gently spiced dough, marzipan, candied fruit and powdered sugar. I was so surprised by the pillowy goodness, the subtle orange and almond. My fingers were wrapped around a mug of warm coffee and I had found a new favourite. 

For the next few weeks, I ate it everywhere, in any good café, small shop, big supermarket, boutique patisseries. I packed a few loaves and returned home but I knew my love affair with Stollen had only just begun. I had to recreate it back in my kitchen for the following Christmas.   

This was a good few years ago and now at Christmas, we sell hundreds of loaves of Stollen each day. The biggest compliment was given to me by a German lady.  I offered her my Stollen and she informed me that she gets hers from Germany. I requested her to try ours. She smiled, she bought six loaves, and over the season, she returned many times and bought more. She made me very happy. 

A warm piece of Stollen for breakfast is the perfect way to start my day, a piece with coffee or warm stollen and ice cream for dessert. It does not need a time or reason, a few stray pieces do somehow get consumed without my noticing too.  

The other best thing about Christmas: Chocolate on doughnuts and frosting on cupcakes, pastries and macarons and caramels and tartlets, freshly baked cookies tied up with strings. Meals that go on for hours, you start eating early and don’t stop.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “I love visiting Christmas markets in December. They are dotted all over Europe, but German Christmas markets are famed for their arts and crafts, Christmas tree decorations, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, beer, sausages (their Bratwurst being most popular), cheese, chocolates, cakes and loaves of bread. The joy of walking around in the bitter cold, fully wrapped up with a warm drink in hand and the most awesome aromas mingling together makes visiting Christmas markets a truly unforgettable experience. 

London is beautiful in Christmas. The lights, the decorations, the entire city comes alive like a giant Christmas tree. The bitter cold has its charm. I love having to layer up to keep cosy and you can legitimately drink at all hours of the day to keep warm. The streets are dressed up and the window displays are spectacular. There are fabulous shows to watch, foods to eat and things to see.” 

Favourite Christmas gift: “My daughter. Nina is an (almost) Christmas baby and the best thing in my life.” 

Chef Karma Tenpa, Head Chef, Yazu: Pan Asain Supper Club

My Christmas craving: “At Yazu we usually make the best stuff for Christmas. I crave all the delicacies available at the restaurant.

Favourite Christmas dish: “Plum cakes, eggnog and classic Christmas dishes.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “Spending time in nature in a location that has a mountain, river or wildlife. My best Christmas ever was spent in Calgary, where I got a chance to understand Canada a bit more.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “The culinary knives that are available in the market.”  

Meghna & Shaan Mehta, Founders, The Mexican Box

Our Christmas wish: “There can be only one: X’mas should lead to a healthy, happy and safe 2021 so that our world heals.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “Our Christmas tradition is a fondue night and marshmallows dunked in hot chocolate.”

Favourite Christmas destination: “It has to be Switzerland for the amazing Christmas markets, fantastic food and skiing.”

Chef Satbir Bakshi, Executive Chef, The Oberoi Mumbai 

My Christmas wish: “To bring back the joy of spending time with one another. In current times, we have been distanced from our loved ones. Christmas is a time for family and friends, a time to give and receive and create a lifetime of memories.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “Christmas Stollen with marzipan from The Oberoi Patisserie is a classical and authentic recipe. Each bite imbues you with that lovely holiday feeling. It is a true joy to watch our guests enjoy this particular treat and makes our efforts as a team truly special.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Christmas each year is spent with my family, colleagues and our guests. I couldn’t ask for anything better place than to be surrounded by people who I care for and who care for me.”  

Rohit Ghai, Michelin-starred chef, Kutir & KoolCha, London

My Christmas wish: “Family dinners are an essential part of Christmas holidays. As a chef, my work somewhat dominates my personal life. My girls are always super-excited when their daddy is home more than usual and I wish to spend my holidays with them. The best part of holidays are lazy evenings spent with my girls binging on hot chocolate and pudding. I also wish for the return of big public events. I am craving to organise a good Christmas dinner at my restaurant.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Slow-cooked kid lamb’s leg and whole spiced rice pudding with cinnamon kulfi.”

Best Christmas vacay: “The ideal Christmas vacation would be to leave the hustle and bustle of city life and travel to a farmhouse in the countryside, with family and friends, without fear of COVID-19. I hope to spend such good times soon. If I had to travel, it would be to Copenhagen in Denmark. It is a beautiful city, especially during Christmas.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “Every year, my daughter makes me a handmade card. No gift can beat that love and emotion. It is priceless.”

Dirham Haque, Executive Sous Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru

My Christmas wish: “I wish for the return of normal life and a beautiful, joyous Christmas. The festival should bring cheer to people’s lives.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Stollen, a warm, beautifully spiced, candied fruit bread stuffed with marzipan stuffed. It warms the heart and soul on a cold Christmas morning and is symbolic of Baby Jesus wrapped in warm clothes.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Dubai becomes even more festive with decorations in malls and hotels. There is a relaxed holiday vibe in the air.”

Chef Dane Fernandes, Executive Chef, The St. Regis Mumbai

My Christmas wish: “I hail from Goa and Christmas is huge in my state. There are celebrations everywhere and everything starts looking festive. It feels like Christmas. This year is different. The celebrations have become smaller and intimate. I am craving for my home in Goa. I want to invite friends and family over and dine from tables laden with a lavish spread of food and lots of mulled wine. Decorating the Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments and buying Christmas presents for loved ones…it can’t get better than that.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Pantone or Panettone, Stollen, Thumbprint cookies, gingerbread cookies, minced meat pie, Christmas pudding, Yule log and pecan pie. I also enjoy eggnog, roast turkey and mulled wine at home.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Experiencing a white Christmas, spending some quiet time on a secluded island, and enjoying a calm and quality time with my folks. But if I had to travel it would be to Norway, Arctic Circle, particularly to Rovaniemi, which is Santa Claus’s village.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “Global knives, Le Creuset and the finest such as pure original Madagascar vanilla, Kashmiri saffron, single-origin coffees and chocolates.” 

Rishabh Anand, Pastry Chef, The Leela Palace New Delhi

My Christmas wish: “Christmas brings forth a child in all of us. What do I wish for? Setting up a Christmas tree, dining on the delicacies and hosting parties for friends. We have a beautiful festive set-up at The Leela Palace New Delhi, with a magnificent tree in the lobby and a gingerbread house display. I think that has set the mood for the festival. I want to break away from all the formalities and enjoy the sweet, spiced and scented food such as plum cakes, mince pies, to break a huge chocolate bark with a hammer, just have fun.”

Favourite Christmas dish: Sweet Stollen bread and plum pudding with vanilla Anglaise. We steam the plum pudding for 8 hours with alcohol. It pairs beautifully with fruits soaked in a special brandy sauce.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Home, so that I can spend quality time with kids and family. The lights across all cities elevate the festive experience so most cities look beautiful at this time. I like to try local cuisine and visit historic sites. If there was one city I had to pick, it will be Frankfurt in Germany. Visiting Mannheim Vineyard and enjoying the freshly brewed wine was an unbeatable experience. The decorations are breathtaking. You get great food and the streets are loaded with Christmas delights. In India, the best destination has to be Goa.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “I made special delicacies for a guest who was staying with us one Christmas. He missed his family. He left with me the most precious of all memories when he said, “You have made my day,” and hugged me warmly.

Chef Jomon Kuriakose, Chef de Cuisine, The LaLit London

My Christmas wish: “An opportunity to eat mom’s duck curry with appam.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “It is mom’s food, especially the Syrian Christian dishes she cooks. When Syrians travelled to India, they chose to settle down deep into the districts that fringe Kerala’s backwaters, in regions such as Pala and Alleppey. They experimented with local ingredients such as coconut, rice, fresh fish, duck and spices to enrich their cuisine. Visiting family during Christmas was like a treat for the belly, which I sorely miss now.”

Favourite Christmas destination: “I don’t think any soldier can sit peacefully at home when there is a war on the border. Chefs have a similar life. Christmas is one of our busiest times. If I have to travel for Christmas, I would head to my home town, a small village called Mavelikara in Alleppey.”

Chef Akshraj Jodha, Executive Chef, ITC Windsor, Bengaluru

My Christmas wish: “My best memories of Christmas include spending time with my son, decorating the Christmas tree, and that is what I wish to do this year too. It is a Christmas tradition. Growing up, I remember waiting for Santa Claus to bring us some presents and goodies.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “What can be better than a generous serving of plum cake and plum pudding? The season also calls for traditional favourites such as a roast turkey with bread stuffing and cranberry sauce.”

Best Christmas vacay: “Since the year-end is time for an extended celebration lasting for almost a week, I’d like to spend this time with my family. I have never travelled during Christmas due to work pressure. But as a young kid, we spent holidays with our family and cousins in our village, cooking delicious food and watching movies.” 

Favourite Christmas gift: “As a kid we used to get gifted a lot of toffees and chocolates. Ever since I became a father, I’ve ensured some changes in the customs. I put my son’s Christmas gift in a red sock and hide it under his pillow. The look of glee and excitement on his face makes my day. He is very fond of cars and superheroes.”

 Chef Jersen Fernandes, Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia

My Christmas wish: “Christmas, which begins with traditions from Advent, fosters a sense of anticipation, brings peace of mind, contentment and fulfilment of purpose. There is a special charm associated with receiving a hand-crafted gift, and that is the intent of creativity and love. I wish for a re-thinking of the Christmas gifting tradition so that we give and receive something handmade.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “The traditions of Christmas culinary delights are symbolic of the festivities of the season and revives my childhood memories.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “There’s no place like home for the holidays. My memorable travel experiences and journeys have helped me to develop as a professional and have included destinations with a strong culinary heritage.” 

Chef Rohit Sangawan, Executive Chef, Taj Land’s End 

My Christmas wish: “It has been a tough year for everyone. I wish for less stress and more laughter. ‘Bai Du Bu Qin’ is an old Chinese phrase, which means ‘May you be immune to 100 toxins’.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “Christollen, a traditional German bread eaten during the season. It is baked with soaked fruits, nuts, spices, and candied fruit and coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is reminiscent of the snowy German landscape at this time. My version includes almond paste (marzipan) which makes this bread-like cake all the more decadent.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “I have spent one Christmas in Strasbourg, France and I would love to head out there every year. It’s a magical town of lights, wafting with the scent of mulled wine, and Christmas music drifting through the quaint picturesque town.” 

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Shyam Longani, Executive Chef, Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Goa

My Christmas wish: “To be able to experiment with what I put out. We like to do something different every year, so the creativity quotient of our team is a notch higher at this time. I encourage my chefs to craft exciting festive spreads and menu offerings, knitting in cultural bits not just from Goa but across the globe.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “Braai roast lamb with Yorkshire Pudding, Stollen bread with Glühwein (mulled wine), Roast Turkey, Cranberry Jus, fresh-baked Baguette and a glass of good Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Best Christmas vacay: Anywhere where it snows, there is good wine, good roast available, there are family and friends, music and conversation. New York City is fantastic for the sheer scale of celebrations and the festive vibe.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “A scarf knitted by kids suffering from cancer at the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town. It was presented to me for a Christmas Day lunch we had served at the hospital. I have preserved it as the most cherished gift.” 

Chef Neeraj Rawoot, Executive Chef – Sofitel Mumbai BKC

My Christmas wish: “I love Pork Belly Porchetta and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into one. Chefs love to do two things during the holidays: cook and feed guests the best delicacies, and then go on a relaxed holiday with family, post the festivities, when the season is over.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Plum cake and Stollen bread. Most people prefer to eat turkey at this time, but I love the red wine-soaked chestnut stuffing of turkey. That is what I go for and leave the rest of it for my family to devour.”

Best Christmas vacay: “I would love to vacation with my family in Goa. Among the best Christmas destinations, I count Dubai.”

Favourite Christmas gift: “The best Christmas present I have ever received was a puppy. You can truly learn the art of unconditional love from a pet dog, who also happens to be my stress buster.”

Chef Nitin Mathur, Executive Chef, Taj Santacruz

My Christmas wish:  “A new era of happiness and health in abundance.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Crepe Suzette is my personal favourite. It is such a versatile dish. It can be sweet or savoury, and can be crafted with a multitude of flavours.”

Best Christmas vacay: “I love Shimla any time of the year, but Christmas is extra special as it reminds me of my wonderful childhood memories and family get-togethers over decadent feasts.”

Chef Rohan D’souza, Chef/Restaurateur, Silver Beach Café

Favourite Christmas wish: “An opportunity to showcase celebration dishes at the various restaurants I cook at. It’s a busy time, with lots of specials that I dish out: from traditional roasts to modern festive specials.” 

Favourite Christmas dish: “I am craving for mince pies, a decadent Yule log cake, some mulled wine and a good traditional roast of either turkey, chicken or pork. A good vegetarian option is chestnut vegetable strudel.”

Best Christmas vacay: “In India, I love my hometown Goa and internationally, either the UK or any European country. I am particularly fond of Finland, where Santa Claus comes from. I once spent a Christmas summer in Australia, which had a fabulous vibe, too.”

Jose Thomas, Executive Chef, Vivanta Goa, Panaji

Favourite Christmas dish: “Home-style beef chop and tapioca cooked by my mother, followed by appam and chicken stew, a perfect start to a Christmas day. I am craving for butterball turkey roasted with cranberry sauce and the much-awaited aged plum pudding, too.”

Best Christmas vacay: “My idea of an ideal vacation is to help with Christmas preparations at home. Put up the décor, light the Christmas tree and join in the making of the crib. Indulge in a night filled with singing popular Christmas carols with childhood friends, attend the midnight mass and spend the Christmas day with loved ones. But if I had to travel, it would be to a mountain destination with snowfall.”

Chef Shibendu Ray Chaudhury, Executive Sous Chef, Renaissance, Powai Mumbai 

Favourite Christmas wish: “I wish we can put this pandemic behind us and return to days when our patrons could enjoy the festive season with fervour and fun.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “Aged Balsamic and Anise-infused classic pork wellington. This dish is very special to me as it is my version of the classic traditional delicacy. It’s ideally carved at the table for the family to enjoy together, which makes it even more special.” 

Best Christmas vacay: “I love Christmas in Goa. There is something about the sea, sand and the festive flavours that make the festival so magical in the state.” 

Chef Parimal Sawant, Culinary Director, Meluha The Fern

My Christmas wish: “Through 2020 everyone has been more homebound with very limited mobility. The best wish would be for people to step out and enjoy a family meal together. I would love to create a beautiful experience for families in the hotel.”

Favourite Christmas dish: “At Meluha, we offer an interesting mix of Indian mithai but with international offerings. We retain the Indian flavours and offer them in most interesting international concoctions.” 

Best Christmas vacay:  “I love to travel in my beautiful home state of Maharashtra. The destination that represents the symbol of love, compassion and affection is Paris and I would like to spend Christmas in the French city.”

Chef Abhay Agarwal, Terra Cafe, Mumbai 

Favourite Christmas dish: “Plum cake and liquor chocolates, roast chicken eaten with the family and gingerbread cookies.”

Best Christmas vacay/experience: “Sipping on hot spiced wine in Paris or sangria in Goa.”

Chef Aarti Mehta, Head of Culinary at Elephant & Co. Gastropub, Pune

My Christmas memories: “…include hot chocolate with marshmallows, lights, Christmas carols and, of course, the delicious spread of goodies made at home. Back in the culinary school we used to bake a plum cake by mixing all the ingredients on a big table and then setting the cake.” 

Favourite Christmas treats: “Marzipans and plum cake. I just can’t stop binging on them. I crave for a good glass of eggnog. It’s a great drink made with eggs, milk, and cinnamon. It is creamy and perfect for a winter evening.”

Best Christmas vacay: “New York City. It is filled with people from all over the world. The decoration at Macy’s is not to be missed. It’s a very happy feeling to see young toddlers ice skating around the tree at Times Square.”

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