Saching Garg is busy, busy, busy. Not unusual for a chef. But in the thirteen years that he has been in business in Melbourne, Sachin has succeeded quite wildly taking the Indian food catering business to another level.
Sachin decided early on that he was going to be a chef. After all, he was the grandson of Sri Sadhu Ram Garg who started a restaurant near Kirori Mal College along Bungalow Road in Delhi. The restaurant named Ajanta was one of its kinds. Buoyed by its success, Sadhu Ram’s son Satish, enrolled himself in the Pusa Institute of Management, Delhi, in 1969 to train and augment the business. The family trait did not skip any generation as Sadhu Ram’s grandson Sachin became a chef himself after studying hotel management at the R M Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi in 1997 after finishing school from Modern School, Barakhamba, Delhi. And it was in Delhi that Sachin met Arun Chauhan, his teacher, who would become the inspiration for everything he does today.
Sachin not only topped academically but went on to work in some of the finest hotels of the world. After a few years in London, he came to Australia in 2003. In Melbourne, he rekindled his relationship with Chauhan joining his iconic restaurant Shiva in Prahran which is nearing 30 years of operation. Their partnership remains intact to date and with his guidance Sachin ventured into his own catering business which runs by the name of Sachin Garg Catering.
SACHIN GARG CATERING
In 2011, Sachin started catering service which goes by the above name. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that you can build your own menu – from cocktail snacks to entrees to mains – on his website and get a quote that would leave you pleased.
“It’s one of the first interactive catering websites where customers actually have the free hand of mixing and matching whatever they want and this menu is something that people in Melbourne have not heard of,” says Sachin. He believes people are sick and tired of the same old samosas and chicken tikkas. Thus he started hara bhara kabab, aloo dilnaz, malai tikka , soya achari tikka, tandoori kumbh, cheese cutlet, murg aftaab etc.
Sachin says he started the catering service to primarily change the face Indian cooking. “When I came out of India and came to this industry, I realised that Indian food was more about dinners. Today, we make a healthy version of Indian food. We use good oil, have healthy facilities and went to corporate boardrooms to tell people that Indian food can be eaten in the directors’ meeting or office lunch and is part of daily life, not just as weekend dinners or something you reserve for Friday nights.”
Last year, Sachin stepped up his own game by acquiring a state-of-the-art food truck at a cost of nearly 180,000 AUD. The customised and sophisticated truck fondly called Shiva II can cater up to 400 people at one time and has been the centre of attraction at many events, drawing thousands. For instance, it was catering the Indian hockey team last December and was the centre of attraction at the Philip Island Grand Prix. “People loved it and we got invitations from the Melbourne Showgrounds because of it,” says Sachin.
This customised truck which took six months to build has a full-fledged tandoor, wok burner, a hot plate for dosas, bain maries, two sinks, a fridge and is fitted with a 150 litre water tank. The truck weighs four and half tonnes.
“The idea of the food truck was sitting on my head for two years now,” he says. “The reason I did not do it earlier was because firstly I was very busy and because this is a very expensive venture I did not want to do it without studying it properly.”
As the demand for his services kept increasing, Sachin realised he could not cope with the pressure for high demand. At the same time, he was being approached by groups at the food truck parks to do things with them. “There was the constant demand for a tandoor in my catering business so I thought the most professional way of servicing my clients was by making a food truck. So, it is essentially an Indian kitchen outside the house catering the needs of the function.”
Little wonder then why Sachin continues to contrive more preparations in his many kitchens. That also means pracically every weekend Shiva II is on the move. “The Indian community has also given me so much love because of the truck. When my clients found out that I got this truck with the tandoor equipped with the latest gadgets everybody wanted it and booked it well in advance. With God’s grace I am also covering many corporate events, big functions and I have been invited to the Avalone Air Show,” he beams.
With a combination of obsessive devotion and innovation, Sachin drives his truck team whipping up tailor made menus or setting a different one if it is a private function. He is excited that he can do live dosas out of the truck. “It is a big hit,” he affirms.
“The truck has changed the face of my business and given me the adrenalin pump,” smiles Sachin.
One of the things that makes Sachin happy is working with clients. “I am happy to feed and my customer is number one. In the end it is the customer who is the king, he pays for everything and why we are ahead is because of personal attention to every function which we do. The love which we are getting from the community is magnanimous.”
The allure of catering business has fascinated him more than setting up restaurants. So one of the low points in his 13-year career here has been buying a café and ultimately selling it off. “I was totally running on staff. My heart and soul was in catering so couldn’t devote much time,” he rues.
Sachin believes he was not cut out to be an accountant or a doctor. For a third generation hotelier, it was always in his blood to do something with love and care. He recalls visiting the kitchen at the Hyatt in Delhi. “I saw this big kitchen, chefs with white big hats and beautiful chopping boards. The speed and the intensity of the whole thing made me think ‘yes this is where I want to be’. But after sometime you come to the that it is all about hard work, and, of course, anti-social hours.”
True enough, Sachin is committed to his job working from 10:30 in the morning to 10 pm at night. It is also the place where he met his wife who had come to intern at Shiva. The job, he laughs, has literally given him everything.
“My father and Arun Chauhan have been the architects of my career. They wanted me to this and I obeyed them with full dedication, sincerity and hard work,” says Sachin. Even though he had gained valuable experiences by the time he arrived in Australia, Sachin says his working with Chauhan has been one of the best trainings he has received in his career. He also acknowledges the guidance of Lal Pardasani, a life coach.
So what makes a good chef? “You have to realise that you have not learned enough, you have to learn more and more, you are out there trying to be creative, innovative, set new standards for everybody including yourself,” says Sachin, adding, “If I did something new today, I say to myself let me try this next and this and this. These little, small additions help you achieve what you want to be. It is not something setting a target of doing an order of an X amount of dollars every month. The fact is you are trying to evolve, add on little new elements on to your service, your food and that is what people really appreciate.”
This third generation hotelier has been in the trade for more than 15 years having begun his early learning working part time in the famous Moti Mahal chain of restaurants in Delhi. But surely one must have the business acumen too to translate those skills into money. Agrees Sachin, “At the end of the day, it is all about the mathematics of what is going out and what is coming in. So, yes, you have to understand the market and work as a businessman at the same time because that creates the balance and give you the opportunity to stand on a platform where you can experiment. Without money you can’t experiment.”
Along his culinary journey, Sachin has also developed his motto – selection, style and service. “My funda is dil khol ke khilao, pyar se (serve with a big heart with love). If my host is happy, I am happy.” It is not easy being a likeable chef but Sachin does have more than one reasons to be liked.
“God has been kind to me,” he says. But we know there is more than divine intervention in his success. At the end of the day, he feels he deserves a pat on his back.
By Indira Laisram