What does Christmas look like for some of India’s finest chefs?

Baking elaborate Christmas puddings, cakes, setting intricate feasts, and the brewing of mulled wine aside, how do India’s best chefs celebrate the festive season?

Chef Ravish Mishra, Executive Chef, The Westin Goa

Chef Arun Sundararaj, Director Of Culinary Operations – Taj Mahal, New Delhi

Chef arun sundararaj - taj mahal, new delhi likes to celebrate his christmas with family at home, if not in london!
Chef Arun Sundararaj from Taj Mahal, New Delhi likes to celebrate his Christmas with family at home, if not in London!

Favourite Christmas memory: One of my mother’s friends used to start collecting gifts for her family and keep them at our place. She would then come a few days before Christmas, wrap and keep it all ready for Christmas Eve to place under her tree. The love and affection with which she would plan these gifts, however small, was amazing. She would also get into making decorations for her Christmas tree on her own, [which was a lot of fun and involved us too.] It sort of explained to me that Christmas was a season of giving and expressing happiness. Getting up on Christmas day and wishing the families in the neighbourhood are some great memories of love and affection.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Christmas is a season of giving gifts, my recommendation is the Christmas hampers at the Taj Mahal, Delhi. They are filled with Christmas goodies like plum pudding, plum cake and special stollen breads. My all time favourite is a roasted turkey with accompaniments. There’s nothing better to mark the true spirit of Christmas.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Family Christmas lunch at home with a roast, glazed ham, and toasting the occasion with a lot of fun and merriment.

Your Christmas wish? Good health and good cheer for one and all, great food, memorable experiences and a blessed year ahead! I could do with some more sleep too.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Plum pudding any day with a cognac sauce. We have an array of Christmas goodies at Emperor Lounge – traditional favourites and comfort gourmet treats for the season.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? London – the festive spirit is amazing, the city is lit up, the shops are so beautifully dressed up and the spirit is truly Christmassy! I have wonderful memories of being in Goa at Taj Exotica Spa & Resort, at the flagship Hotel Taj Mahal Palace and of course at Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. Each of these destinations were unique and beautiful during the festive season. Since I moved to Delhi, we have been creating the winter wonderland vibe with thematic & fun elements each year at the lobby of the iconic Taj Mahal, New Delhi.

Vijay Thapliyal – Executive Chef, The Lodhi

Chef vijay thapliyal - executive chef at the lodhi is all about the christmas classics, and a bbq twist with family and friends
Chef Vijay Thapliyal – Executive Chef at The Lodhi is all about the Christmas classics, and a BBQ twist with family and friends

Favourite Christmas memory? My favourite memory is when I went to an orphanage on Christmas for the first time ever – this was during my early days in hospitality. When we presented some goodies to the kids there, seeing the smiles on their faces was something beyond words. I distinctly remember that moment and it has left an everlasting mark.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift? A classic Gingerbread House.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Enjoying a BBQ night in a pleasant open-air setting with family & friends.

Your Christmas wish? For the current global pandemic to be over.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Rum cake.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? In India my favourite place would be Auli, Uttarakhand. With the snow covered mountains and fresh pine trees – it’s a great destination to spend Christmas.

Chef Prem K Pogakula, Executive Chef, The Imperial New Delhi

Chef prem kumar pogakula, executive chef at the imperial likes his christmas the traditional way, with some wine and stollen!
Chef Prem Kumar Pogakula, Executive Chef at The Imperial likes his Christmas the traditional way, with some wine and stollen!

Favourite Christmas memory: It has to be the cake mixing ceremony at The Imperial in 2016 with members of Le Club des Chef des Chef. 18 Executive Chefs to world leaders, heading the kitchens of their respective heads of state, like The Executive Chef to President of United States at The White House, Executive Chef to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and more, joined me for the ceremony while they were here for their annual conference. It was an unforgettable event and once in a lifetime experience for me to mix Christmas plum cakes mixture with these coveted chefs from around the world.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Has to be a bottle of wine, a box of dark chocolate and some stollen to make it traditional and memorable

How do you like to spend your Christmas? I prefer to spend it with my family but being in a hospitality industry, I usually get to spend the occasion with guests here, interacting with them and curating the classic Christmas menu. It is quite enjoyable to craft special meals/ dinner/brunch for an event like this as Christmas is usually an elaborate affair at The Imperial.

Your Christmas wish: May the Christmas festivities lead us to healthier times and make us more compassionate and responsible human beings.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Actually both, but I personally prefer rum cake more as it’s the perfect occasion to indulge in drunken cakes

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? If you ask me there is no specific place as such but I prefer a quiet, open, sunlit place for a nice wholesome  meal with my family.

Chef Freny Fernandes, Monèr Bistro & Dessert Bar

Nyc is chef freny fernandes' ideal christmas destination thanks to the exuberant spirit and beautiful decor!
NYC is Chef Freny Fernandes’ ideal Christmas destination thanks to the exuberant spirit and beautiful decor!

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory is when we were younger, and we would get dressed in our best dresses and go for midnight mass. After which all our cousins would come together to our house and party all night. 

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Monèrs Gingerbread DIY kit is literally the best Christmas gift this season! It’s equally fun to do with your friends, family or kids!  

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Christmas for me is spending time with my family. Having an elaborate lunch where the table is filled with good food and wine! 

Your Christmas wish: Just wish for there to be cure for Covid and for the pandemic to end! 

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Rum cake any day! 

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? NYC! It’s literally the best city to spend Christmas! The lights, the decorations and all the amazing sales!!

Chef Rohan D’Souza, Culinary Director, Silver Beach Entertainment and Hospitality

For chef rohan, christmas has gone from being a simple childhood memory of joy with family to serving hundreds of diners in restaurants across cities
For Chef Rohan, Christmas has gone from being a simple childhood memory of joy with family to serving hundreds of diners in restaurants across cities

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory would be from my childhood, as for the last 20 years Christmas has been professionally cooking in restaurants and making memories for our guests. However Christmas does start off well with midnight mass, followed by Christmas cake, sweets & wine. This is followed up with a lovely hearty breakfast. Lunch would be a big spread of Christmas Roast and dinner was usually out at a restaurant celebrating.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: I would love a nice packaged meal of an exotic roast along with a good bottle of wine.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Since Christmas is a key day for a chef, it’s a full day at work. Sometimes it’s Christmas Eve in a different city and restaurant, hopping on to a red eye flight to get to another city’s restaurant in time for lunch and dinner service.

Your Christmas wish: My Christmas wish would be to always keep our restaurants full with happy diners, especially during these last few years of the pandemic. If it’s a materialistic gift, then a luxury car gifted to myself this year.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Not a fan of rum cake or plum cake, but definitely a big fan of a good Christmas Yule Log.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? In India, it is Goa for sure and internationally Australia has an amazing Christmas vibe.

Chef Anand Panwar, Executive Pastry Chef , Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Some of chef anand panwar's fondest christmas memories involve working together with other departments of roseate hotels & hotels
Some of Chef Anand Panwar’s fondest Christmas memories involve working together with other departments of Roseate Hotels & Hotels

Favourite Christmas memory: My favorite Christmas memories are with my pre-opening team of Roseate Hotels & Resorts. Ten years back, with the non-operational & admin team, we made Christmas trees, ginger huts, Christmas cookies and hampers with the help of HR, finance, and housekeeping. Everybody was involved during that time & it was great fun.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: My recommendation for the best gourmet Christmas gifts are freshly baked plum cakes, stollen bread, liquor cookies, which is the best gift one can present to any foodie friends or colleagues.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Being a chef, you always believe in serving others. So I like to spend my Christmas serving my rum cake & plum pudding and other goodies to the guests and seeing a wow or sign of exclamation or a nice smile on their face.

Your Christmas wish: My Christmas wish is to bring a smile to each and every guest at Roseate Hotels & Resorts. During the festivities, everybody should enjoy and leave very happily, that is my first wish.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Being a pastry chef, I can choose neither rum cake nor plum cake. As we bake everything from the core of the heart so everything is very close to our heart and we make it with a lot of devotion. Usually in the daytime I like to have a plum cake slice with tea/coffee in the morning or evening, and I prefer having my plum pudding after my lunch or dinner for sure.

Sous Chef Sukesh Kanchan, Sana Di Ge Delhi

Sous chef sukesh kanchan thinks of working during christmas as a blessing as he gets to experience different cultures and traditions through his guests
Sous Chef Sukesh Kanchan thinks of working during Christmas as a blessing as he gets to experience different cultures and traditions through his guests

Favourite Christmas memory: Christmas is one of the major festivals of South India where I come from. It was a tradition amongst my childhood friends to go around the colony and visit all our friends to gorge on various Christmas delicacies prepared there. There was this delicious smell of freshly baked cake that used to greet you as soon as you enter any house. Even now, whenever I am in my hometown around this time, I make it a point to visit all my friends to see what’s cooking .

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Best Christmas gifts are customised keeping in mind the receiver’s tastes and preferences and of course the giver’s capabilities. My speciality is coastal cuisine and a special Christmas menu for my guests and my colleagues whom I look upon as part of my family is a labour of love. It has a personal touch which is very important.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Well I have been fortunate and by the grace of God, every year I get the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with so many different kinds of people and from them I get to learn their culture of celebration. I feel as a chef, I am blessed to  be working on this day as there is lot of excitement on this day along with carols, Santa Claus and goodies. I get to feel the vibes of Christmas along with my colleagues.

Your Christmas wish: I wish that people realize the value of what they have, instead of dwelling on what they don’t. I wish for peace & love in my country.

Chef Eram, The Oberoi, Bengaluru

While chef eram loves cooking up a storm for happy diners, she would love to visit kolkata during christmas
While Chef Eram loves cooking up a storm for happy diners, she would love to visit Kolkata during Christmas

Favourite Christmas memory: My favorite Christmas memory is from my first year working in a professional kitchen back in 2015 at The Oberoi Gurgaon. We conducted an extremely busy and successful dinner for all our guests. When the last of them left and we closed our main restaurant, the whole kitchen and Food & Beverage service team sat together for a Christmas meal ourselves. Working at hotels, our teams become our families and thus celebrating these moments with them make way for wonderful memories.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Every year my colleagues at the bakery break out in a tizzy preparing such gifts. From designer plum cakes with unique fondant designs, premium pralines in flavours like Baileys & Milk chocolate, Yuzu & Basil to a traditional Almond & Berry Florentine. A decadent loaf of traditional stollen or a rich yule log make for the perfect gourmet gift which celebrates the spirit of Christmas and can be shared with or gifted to your loved ones.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Well, being a professional chef, I spend Christmas behind the range cooking up a storm for our festive brunch and other celebrations. The atmosphere is super charged and all of us have a great time while we ensure there are happy diners and happier bellies.

Your Christmas wish: The end of this recurrent pandemic scare, where all of us can travel, mingle and discover the world as we are meant to do as human beings. Minus the looming shadow of the virus.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Being an Old Monk fan, rum cake for sure.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? Although I enjoy being with my team-mates and colleagues at the hotel but if I had free time, I would love to be home in Kolkata where Christmas is celebrated with so much fervour and spirit. It is a wonderful time to be in the city and take in the many festive hues.

Ranjith Kumar, Executive Pastry Chef, The Leela Palace, Chennai

The best part of the festivities for ranjith kumar, executive pastry chef is watching satisfied diners at the christmas buffet
The best part of the festivities for Ranjith Kumar, Executive Pastry Chef is watching satisfied diners at the Christmas buffet

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory is our preparations every year for Christmas vitrines display at our cake shop. We plan the theme and design at least two months before Christmas and place it on the cake shop on the tree lighting day.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: My recommendation for the best gourmet gift is a Christmas hamper with homemade chocolates, cookies, minced pies and rich plum cake.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? I always would like to spend my Christmas Eve and day in the hotel with guests.

Your Christmas wish: It was always my healthy professional and personal life. This year, an extra wish is the end of this current pandemic situation and for our industry to get back to normal.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Rum cake which also call plum cake is my all-time favourite.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? Our restaurant buffet counter is my favourite place to spend my Christmas, seeing the guests appreciating and enjoying our Christmas specialities.

Executive Sous Chef Dominic Gerard, The Leela Palace, Bengaluru

There's no place like home during christmas for chef dominic gerard
There’s no place like home during Christmas for Chef Dominic Gerard

Favorite Christmas memory: Every year the festive season is a memory to cherish. Being a hotelier for the past 20 years, the festive spirit kicks off from Thanksgiving and goes all the way till New Year with Christmas and New Year’s Eve being the highlight. My favourite Christmas memory is from the days of my first industrial exposure as a trainee. I saw the turnaround of the restaurant overnight into a celebration hub with all the enthusiasm, energy and charisma brought in by each member irrespective of whether they celebrate Christmas or not.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: There are many hampers to choose from in terms of Christmas goodies, my personal favourite is the Roast Turkey with traditional accompaniments and a bottle of Rose Brut.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? I would spend the day with family and friends at home for Christmas, cooking for all alongwith my over-excited daughter. This is the best time of the year and we as a family traditionally come together from across the city to celebrate.

Your Christmas wish: All I want for Christmas is to spend quality time with my family, which I miss throughout the year.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Though rum cake is more customary, my personal favourite is warmed Plum Pudding with brandy sauce. Rum cakes and also called plum cakes (because of the macerated fruits added into them along with rum).

Which is your favorite place to spend Christmas? This is something which always puts me in a dilemma. It would not be completely untrue if I mentioned home with family and friends.

Chef Naimita Jagasia, An Ode to Gaia

All chef naimita jagasia wants for christmas is the perfect studio kitchen!
All Chef Naimita Jagasia wants for Christmas is the perfect studio kitchen!

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory is walking around the winter wonderland in London while sipping on hot apple cider. My friends and I made it a point to go at least thrice a month so we could try all the different foods and drinks at their Christmas market, and drink all the hot cider and mulled wine before the season ended. There’s nothing quite like Christmas in London.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: Nothing beats An Ode To Gaia’s rum & brandy soaked cake with rum chocolate ganache!

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Sipping on hot chocolate with my partner and making vegan versions of traditional European Christmas food like wellingtons, a roast and apple pie. 

Your Christmas wish: My only wish is for us to find the perfect studio kitchen to move into by March 2022. 

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Rum cake any day!

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? London, with my partner and sister. 

Guntas Sethi Bhasin, Head Chef, Chef Guntas

Like several of her contemporaries on this list, chef guntas looks at london as the ideal christmas destination
Like several of her contemporaries on this list, Chef Guntas looks at London as the ideal Christmas destination

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory was when I was growing up in convent school. I was a part of the school choir and we would have these extravagant celebrations and a feast through December.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: A DIY gift like a mini Christmas tree, foodie kit or a classic plum cake is my go to Christmas gift. Plum cake especially is a must for the season as it goes perfectly with the season & of course mulled wine!

How do you like to spend your Christmas? A Christmas ritual for me is visiting Mount Mary church for a midnight mass. And through the day we drive around through the very lit city, soak in the jolly feels and prepare a grand feast for celebrations.

Your Christmas wish: All I want for Christmas is no masks! Can’t wait to be back in our sense of normalcy so we can travel and enjoy together again

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? 100% a Rum Plum Cake with the goodness of the spices, dry fruits and nuts soaked in the booziness of the rum for a month. That for me is pure decadence. 

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? London! The celebratory streets with the lights, the weather, the food, good vibes – truly makes it a winter wonderland!

Akshraj Jodha, Executive Chef, ITC Grand Bharat, Gurugram

Chef akshraj, like so many others, simply wishes for covid to end as quickly as possible this christmas
Chef Akshraj, like so many others, simply wishes for COVID to end as quickly as possible this Christmas

Favourite Christmas memory: I fondly remember that as children we used to look forward to the school holidays during winter months. The festive mood of this holiday season was because of Christmas and New Year which we would spend with our cousins. Although we did not have any extravagant celebration, the joy of spending time with loved ones and family was unparalleled. Of course, the expectations of goodies was always there!

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: If I were to recommend a gourmet Christmas gift, I would definitely recommend a traditional Christmas cake and to usher in the festivities recommend participating in a cake mixing ceremony.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Now I like to spend time with my son decorating the Christmas tree and making some small goodies at home which we can enjoy as a family.

Your Christmas wish: That’s a tough one, I have so many! But I do hope that the pandemic comes to an end and we go back to living our lives like we used to before Covid struck.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? I have a preference for Rum Cake.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? Christmas is usually celebrated with great fanfare in hotels and since I have started working I have come to enjoy decorating the hotel lobby with my team. We try and outdo our efforts from the previous year and thoroughly enjoy turning the space into a winter wonderland! But, as I mentioned, as a child, I loved spending time with my cousins at my village during this time.

Chef Stefan Gadit, Executive Chef, Sage & Saffron

Canada is the go-to place for all things christmas for chef stefan
Canada is the go-to place for all things Christmas for Chef Stefan

Favourite Christmas memory: 2017, Cambridge Ontario Canada. I had recently started working at a famous Relais & Châteaux property called Langdon Hall. It was located in the wilderness and we hosted a fantastic Xmas barbecue in the snow along with fries roasted s’mores. It was a winter wonderland.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: A beautiful Barolo (one of Italy’s greatest red wines), truffle cheese and dark chocolate.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Cooking food for my loved ones and consuming lots of good red wine. 😉

Your Christmas wish: Nothing particular, just wishing the best for everyone.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Neither lol. I’m more of a pumpkin pie type of a guy.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? Toronto, my second home. I lived there for 5 years and I love how they deck up the city and the energy is so positive and exciting.

Neeraj Rawoot, Executive Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC

Getting his puppy on a christmas will forever remain chef neeraj's favourite memory of the festival
Getting his puppy on a Christmas will forever remain Chef Neeraj’s favourite memory of the festival

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory is the one where I received a puppy as my Christmas Gift. You can truly learn the art of ‘unconditional love’ from a pet, who also happens to be my stress buster!

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: My recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift would definitely include Plum Cake and Stollen Bread.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? The best way to spend the holiday season for us chefs is to cook and feed our guests the best delicacies of the year. And then go for a relaxed holiday with the family, post the festivities when the season is over.

Your Christmas wish: I would love to vacation with my family in Goa during Christmas.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Both! Christmas brings in lot of joy for a foodie like me because of all the traditional delicacies that I wouldn’t be able to make, bake or eat at any other time of the year. So why choose only one? I would love to indulge and sink my teeth in both if given a chance.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? While I love spending time in Goa, I think internationally, the best Christmas destination would be Dubai in all its splendour.

Chef Rahul Bhale, Executive Chef, Novotel Chennai SIPCOT 

Chef rahul bhale fondly recalls his memories of learning and celebrating christmas in uk as some of the best
Chef Rahul Bhale fondly recalls his memories of learning and celebrating Christmas in UK as some of the best

Favourite Christmas memory: I vividly recall when I was in the UK, it was in Central London, and we celebrated Christmas with succulent turkey with cranberry sauce, sage and onion stuffing, along with pig in blanket and so many more. It used to be a culinary delight to relish these traditional delicacies not only during the Christmas Eve dinner and brunch, continue the excitement for Boxing Day.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: I wish someone would surprise me with this, and believe me, I would be overjoyed! A Cabernet Sauvignon with aged cheddar, plum cake, gingerbread cookies, jelly beans, and macaroons are my ideal Christmas gourmet gift.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? My early days as a chef were spent in London, where I learned to create this magical spread. Since then, I’ve always preferred to spend Christmas in the kitchen, creating culinary experiences for my guests. Last year, one of our British national guests who was unable to travel to London and was visiting Novotel Chennai SICPOT walked up to me and said that he had been transported back home. He added that this journey could not be stopped by any restrictions or laws, which moved me. I just hope and pray to spend every Christmas in my happy place – my kitchen!

Your Christmas wish: My only wish is that we all remain healthy and safe! Also, I believe in compassion and believe that I should be able to contribute my two cents by enabling or upskilling at least two to three people each year so that they can begin their journey toward prosperity and growth.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? Plum pudding has always been my absolute favourite, and it holds a special place in my heart. Being a true Londoner at heart, no Christmas is complete without plum pudding.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? I’ve been fantasising about spending another Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic; even if it sounds cliche. Prague has one of the best Christmas celebrations, with huge Christmas trees, beautiful decorations, and lights. Not to mention some incredible culinary delights.

Chef Vanshika Bhatia, Petite Pie Shop

Chef vanshika bhatia hopes for lots of sales, good health, and cheer for all this christmas
Chef Vanshika Bhatia hopes for lots of sales, good health, and cheer for all this Christmas

Favourite Christmas memory: My favourite Christmas memory is with my family when I was little. Everybody used to decorate the Christmas tree that we had in our house and the entire extended family used to come home. We would eat roasted peanuts and even roast sweet potatoes on the angithi (charcoal flame) [to devour] in the garden.

Recommendation for the best Christmas gourmet gift: The Christmas pie hamper from the Petite Pie shop, and a nice Christmass-y spice candle is a really good gift.

How do you like to spend your Christmas? Usually I’m in the kitchen because I am a chef. It is the busiest time of the year.

Your Christmas wish: That I make lots of sales for my business. That’s the Christmas wish, usually. Apart from that I don’t really want anything, and good health for everybody.

What would you prefer to eat during Christmas: Rum Cake or Plum Pudding? I like a good Rum Cake for sure, and I would eat it for days and days just on Christmas.

Which is your favourite place to spend Christmas? I studied in London and they decorate the city very well during that time. I liked going to Leicester Square and seeing the big Christmas tree that they have, and even Bicester Village. So that is an ideal spot to be in during Christmas.

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