Rise in demand for expat chefs as standalone restaurants look to raise the bar

NEW DELHI: When The Oberoi Grand in Kolkata opens a new restaurant, 363, next month hoping to set a new benchmark in fine dining in the city, it will be led by an expatriate Japanese chef.

“We continue to work selectively with expat chefsfor cuisines like Italian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese in the larger Oberoi and Tridenthotels,” said Vikram Oberoi, managing director at The Oberoi Group.

Oberoi is not alone. While the company and other five-star chains have been hiring expat chefs for a while, standalone restaurants are also increasingly engaging expatriate chefs in a bid to improve their positioning and ensure quality and authenticity of food even as the interest in global cuisine is on the rise, thanks to more foreign customers and frequent overseas travel. There is also better wage parity for expat talent now, experts said.

Sidharth Thakur, director at hospitality recruitment firm Grassik Search, said his firm on an average helps hire three to four expat chefs for hotels and standalone restaurants each month nowadays while the earlier demand was one or two chefs once in three months.

“Earlier only luxury hotels would recruit chefs from Italy or Japan as they wanted to provide a certain level of authenticity,” said Thakur. “Today independent restaurants are also open to doing that. We are in discussions with entrepreneurs to get Brazilian, Korean and Peruvian chefs,” he said. Dejan Popadic, director of food and beverage, South West Asia, at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, said, “Good chefs are always in demand and expat chefs provide authenticity to the ethnic venues we operate.”