After MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris declared Saransh Goila’s version of butter chicken as the best in the world on the hit reality cooking show MasterChef Australia in 2018, it catapulted Goila onto the global stage. “Ever since the show, there has been a huge spike in orders in Mumbai, while we have people coming from different parts of the world to try Goila Butter Chicken," says the 31-year-old, who runs three outlets in Mumbai and is working on expanding the brand to Bengaluru, Delhi and Gurugram in 2019.

Championing local heroes

While he may be the king of butter chicken, Goila loves unearthing stories about little-known culinary gems from across the country. Having anchored Food channel’s food and travel show, Roti Rasta Aur India in the past, where he traversed 20,000km in 100 days, Goila is working on a new online show, Sadak Chef, where he’ll feature unsung culinary heroes across India. Talking about one such discovery, he says, “In Nagpur, there are women who make lambi rotis (long bread) made from a very wet dough that has to be kneaded with a lot of skill. The dough is then spread on top of an inverted clay pot-like vessel to make wafer-thin rotis." Goila wants more people to know about such culinary tales.

Go local

“Already gastropubs are including more interesting Indian fare on their menus and I see more such chef-driven places trending next year. There’s a lot more to discover in our own cuisine and I see a lot of regional boutique restaurants taking off as well," he predicts. Incidentally, Goila says that his last memorable meal was during a trip to Nagaland in 2017, where he relished a black sesame pork dish. “I was fascinated by their cooking techniques like fermentation, use of bamboo in different formats and negligible reliance on ground masalas," he says. He’s hoping, the growing curiosity around local food will continue in 2019.

Rise of artisanal tea and coffee shops

While popular coffee chains have fuelled the consumption of coffee (read: cappuccino) among millennials, Goila says it’s only now that people have developed awareness about single estate or blended teas and coffee, types of coffee bean roasts and regional variations in these brews. “In India, as people start appreciating these finer points, we will see the growth of artisanal tea and coffee brands and cafes," Goila predicts.

Health trends: To follow or not

As someone who has battled weight problems in the past (he weighed 90-plus kilos in college), Goila is careful about his diet and workout regime. “I don’t believe in fad diets because each one’s body functions differently and one diet doesn’t work for everyone," says the chef, who focused on exercising and consuming balanced meals in smaller portions to lose weight. “Instead of blindly following every new diet, I would recommend that people make healthy lifestyle changes. Some key things are working out every day, avoiding carbs at night, opting for complex carbs during the day, including enough protein and fibre in your meals and watching your portions," he advises.

The other important thing to do is make meals healthier by using smart culinary techniques. For instance, Goila, who spent six months perfecting his butter chicken recipe, uses less fat and cream and more tomato in his “millennial-friendly" version of butter chicken. “For that creaminess, I rely on cashews instead of cream," he reveals. Similarly, for their wheat roomali rotis, they use bananas in the dough to make it soft and pliable. “If you are making baatis (wheat dough) at home, instead of soaking them in ghee, just bake them and then brush it with some ghee," he adds.

On his wish list

Having sampled South American fare during a recent trip to London, Goila is hoping that their food will travel to India soon. “I tried Venezuelan arepas which are corn pancakes folded like tacos and stuffed with beans, avocado, meat of your choice and flavourful sauces," says Goila. Similarly, Peruvian food, which has made a mark globally, is full of clean flavours. “They have something called tiger’s milk or leche de tigre which is a zero calorie dressing or marinade used in Peruvian cuisine. I think, a small outlet specializing in these cuisines would do really well in India," he adds.

Batting for better wages

Earlier this year when Goila went to Australia, he noticed how chefs and kitchen staff were paid double for working on Sundays. “In India, the sad fact is that wages for chefs, stewards and kitchen staff are very poorly managed. People have this perception that being a chef is cool but the reality is different," says Goila, who has voiced his concerns on social media in the past. “The attempt now is to meet people who can make an impact by changing labour laws. This job requires hard work, patience and passion and people need to be rewarded for that."

A Year in Food is a series that looks at food trends (and concerns) of chefs around the country.