Araiya Palampur is a luxury resort located in the picturesque town of Palampur in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. The resort offers a tranquil and serene environment with stunning views of the snow-clad Dhauladhar mountain range. The resort also has a multi-cuisine restaurant that serves a variety of Indian and international dishes, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. The resort also offers recreational facilities like an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a spa, and a library. Located close to popular tourist attractions like the Tea Gardens, Bir Billing (a popular paragliding site), and the Baijnath Temple. Araiya Palampur resort is a perfect getaway for those looking for a peaceful and luxurious stay in the lap of nature. The resort has been on the top favourite for so many celebrities, HNIs and heads of states. In an interview to Restaurant India its General Manager Akhil Taneja and Executive Chef Arun Kumar talks about some exciting culinary trends to share. Excerpts from the interview:
What inspired you to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, and how did you get started?
Akhil Taneja: I always had a clarity and understanding of my skill set suitability to this industry. I started very early in my primary school days by organising my school’s campus needs and looking after the school’s guests.
What do you think sets Araiya Palampur apart from other luxury resorts in the area, and how do you plan to further enhance its reputation?
Akhil Taneja: What sets Araiya Palampur apart from other luxury resorts in the area is its stunning location in the Kangra Valley, surrounded by lush greenery and the majestic Dhauladhar mountain range. The hotel's design and architecture reflect the local heritage and culture of the region, creating a distinct and authentic ambiance. The rooms and suites are well-appointed with modern amenities and offer panoramic views of the mountains and the valley.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry today?
Akhil Taneja: The hospitality Industry is the highest source of employment currently. We are strategically located on the positive side of the wealth generation curve for the nation. Our country has evolved as the brightest spot in the global hospitality world. So many international brands are looking at suitable projects for the immediate future. This industry has faced some of the most critical challenges recently due to the pandemic, but recovery has been very quick.
What inspired you to focus on local ingredients and traditional cuisine in your cooking?
Chef Arun Kumar: Having worked pan India for 13 years in different cuisine verticals, I always had that knack of giving back to my birth place in terms of gastronomy. Eventually Araiya has provided me with that platform to research and develop such ingredients into beautiful dishes. While, mountain ingredients are magic in their appearance and derivatives or dishes made out of those like; Dried whole wheat milk, Fiddlehead ferns- lungadu ki subji( local cuisine), Himalayan watercress and Charred walnut zest to name a few.
How do you balance the desire for healthy and sustainable cooking with creating a memorable gastronomic experience for your guests?
Chef Arun Kumar: I learn each day nature of ingredient which I keep on my inventory list and develop recipes after meeting our guests with their needs and wants. Yes this situation is not always balanced or a win-win situation to me as a chef but teaches a new experience about ingredient. The key which has always helped in such situation is balancing the dish with different nutritional components.
Could you walk us through the process of fireless cooking and how it affects the taste and texture of the dishes?
Chef Arun Kumar: Well, we have been practicing this concept for more than 8 month or so. It’s one of the classical and ancient way of presenting flavours with their raw nature and 100% unchanged nutrients. The taste is not as you expect after cooked dishes which we are inclined to eat since birth but wholesome bouquet of original flavours to experience nature.
How do you ensure that the ingredients you use are fresh and of the highest quality?
● Ingredient specification before ordering presented to vendor entail texture, temperature, form, flavour etc.
● During receiving the specifications are checked for their validity.
● Storing Specifications- temperature, area , humidity, exposure to light, air , food contact surface type etc.
● Using before date of expiry by following LIFO(last in last out), FIFO(first in first out)
above are few of the basic practices which helps us back up the quality and freshness.
How do you stay current with the latest culinary trends and techniques and how do you incorporate them into your own cooking style?
Chef Arun Kumar: We embrace Indian gastronomic ideology which expresses authenticity and local. We present gastronomy and mixology pop up in our own way after the research. We follow and learn from few of the leading chefs of the world like Chef Joan Roca and his approach towards modern gastronomy inspired with traditional thoughts. We have our static menu set which follows annual availability of ingredients but still We practice Araiya concepts on heirloom recipes, slow cooking, authenticity.
What advice would you give to aspiring chefs who are just starting out in their culinary careers?
Chef Arun Kumar: Aspiring chefs ought to showcase perseverance, to be self-driven, passion to hustle would do wonders in their journey. I would always appreciate if one learn ingredients and their pairing but dishes. Modern age chefs are urged to learn concept farm to plate to support society.
Trends you foresee.
Chef Arun Kumar: In my understanding I see a great scope with traditional cuisine, organic culinary market shall be trend setting. Superfoods shall make their prevalent presence and would be valued. Synthetic ingredients would lose its sheen and uses with modern trends of cooking because of customer belief way forward.