In an age where restaurants are constantly pushing boundaries to bring innovation and taste under one roof, Fabcafe has added nutrition into the mix as well. Be it vegan, gluten-free, or even grain-based foods, there’s something for all kinds of foodies here. Chef Sunil Chauhan debunks the task for us, and reveals all that goes on behind the scenes at this nutritious abode. By Bayar Jain
1. What is the concept of Fabcafe and what makes it stand apart?
Fabcafe is a healthy gourmet diner with regionally-inspired comfort food served with a modern interpretation. We showcase a contemporary India-inspired ethos that is eclectic and vibrant, yet draws on the best of nature.
We believe in embracing India’s popular cuisine as people often find it hard to quit what they’ve grown up eating. We believe in finding nutrition-positive alternatives to the existing staples. We do this by completely replacing refined sugar and oils across the menu. The momos we make are made using all jackfruit flour instead of all-purpose flour or wheat. And incidentally, they’re our bestsellers! Our menu has a wide variety of dishes made with nutritious and forgotten grains. Our motto ‘Eat Well, Feel Good’ explains our ideology.
2. Your dishes are known to be innovative. How do you ensure its mass appeal?
The ever-evolving menu at Fabcafe consists of innovative dishes that are made using local and regional produce. We focus on serving fresh, simple, and nutritious food. Customer feedback plays a vital role in our research and development. Clientele’s needs and expectations are key while working on a new menu. We’ve learnt to marry popular cuisine with health in almost every element. You can find staples like Dal Makhani, created using white butter; Papri Chaat, made using a mix of kuttu, bajra, and jowar; and Tikki Chaat, made with beetroots and lotus stem! Our chocolate cakes are made of almond flour and desi ghee.
3. As you cater to dietary preferences like vegan or gluten-free, how challenging is it to curate dishes that are equally tasty too?
For us, taste and health matter equally. While transitioning towards a vegan or grain-free variant, selecting the right alternatives is the challenge. And that’s where constant research and feedback plays an important role. We have a project called the Voice of Community where our teams assess customer’s response to our food. Then, we look at possibilities to further enhance its taste, texture and flavours. We also focus on using vegan cold-pressed oils like mustard, olive and sesame, which are healthier too. Eventually, it’s a learning and unlearning process.
4. What are the various factors you take into account when curating a menu?
While curating our menu, we look at three major factors: customer’s feedback and the popular trends; alternatives to specific ingredients; and crafting dishes suitable for vegan and wheat-free diets as often as possible.
5. With branches across the nation, how do you ensure standardisation of taste, produce and quality?
We work with precision and a process-driven approach. This helps us ensure consistent taste throughout. Along with that, all teams at our cafés are trained on the Fabcafe Academy App, which provides detailed knowledge of all the dishes. This way they understand the right approach to handling every dish. We also conduct training and assessment sessions continuously to help build consistency.
6. Various diets such as ketogenic or intermittent fasting are in vogue among people looking to lead a healthier life. What’s your take on it?
I haven’t focussed on keto diets or intermittent fasting. My personal philosophy is that every individual should embrace a very balanced and rightly-portioned diet. This way of eating, I believe, would be much more sustainable in the long run. Having said that, one can opt for keto diets and intermittent fasting if they have been discussed with respective physicians or health experts.
7. You’ve represented India on global platforms. Which instance is closest to your heart and why?
I guess it was when I represented India back in 1999 as the youngest chef at The World Gourmet Festival in St Moritz, Switzerland. At the time, I even met legendary chefs like Chef Roger Vergé and Chef Paul Bocuse. These two—and Chef Jiggs Kalra—have influenced a lot of my early approach towards cooking.
8. What are some of the newest additions one can find on the menu?
The newest addition to Fabcafe are our packaged range of ‘Eat well, Feel good’—a grain-free chia-bajra biscotti; a super nut butter made of hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews; and a premium chai masala that carries strong notes of saffron. We’re also about to introduce our winter specials, which includes dishes like a Thukpa with zucchini noodles, Shikampuri Shami Kebabs, etc.
9. How do you ensure environmental sustainability at the restaurants?
It begins by reducing food wastage during production, and sourcing produce locally. All our raw ingredients are sourced from local farmers and Organic India. All our packaging and disposables are environment friendly. Our meal trays are made of recycled materials, which come with a garbage liner.
10. How have you adapted to the ongoing pandemic?
We have put in a lot of thought and care to ensure that the customers’ experience is bright, positive, comfortable, hygienic, and safe. Social-distancing is planned for as well. All touchpoints and action points are designed for guest wellbeing. The kitchen undergoes regular sanitisation, along with employee and rider temperature checks, contactless handovers and contactless packaging. Our staff also wears protection equipment, including face shields and masks.
To ensure a completely safe dining environment, Fabcafe introduced new initiatives like a digital menu, contactless payments, and disposable wares. We have even introduced eco-friendly meal trays for takeaways, which customers can receive in their cars without having to step out.