Chef profile: Richard Chellapan
PUBLISHED: 14:49 15 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:49 15 May 2017
From India to West Essex, Richard Chellapan, head chef at the Waltham Abbey Marriott, on cooking without boarders
When did your interest in cooking and food develop?
I first developed a passion for food when I was a young school boy living in India, and although I didn’t do a lot of cooking at home, just the odd bit of cutting and cleaning, I absolutely loved watching my mother prepare meals. She’s a fantastic home cook and my inspiration. Her chicken biryani is something I still crave to this day and whenever I go home I request it.
Where did you train?
I studied hospitality at college and automatically gravitated to the cooking aspect of the course, after which I did two years of management training at the Welcome Group Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Chennai. It was a bit like an army boot camp, working 12 to 14 hour days. The aim was to leave there absolutely confident that you could manage a kitchen. Several students dropped out, it was so vigorous, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did as I learnt so much.
How did you end up at the Waltham Abbey Marriott?
Well I’ve been here nearly 12 years now so it feels like home, but when I first arrived from India it was initially a bit of a culture shock. I wanted to come because I could see many of my contemporaries doing the same thing, experiencing a different way of life and exposure to a different style of cooking. I had done a bit of French dining but being here meant I could fully immerse myself in the continental style of cooking.
What is the best thing about your job?
I have a passion for cooking and to be able to do something you love for a living is both a pleasure and a privilege. I am also a big believer that if you’re truly passionate about what you do then that will shine through in the end product - I like to think that’s evident in everything I put on a plate.
If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you would be doing?
I would have joined the Merchant Navy, so I still could have travelled the world.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would really like to own my own restaurant. Obviously my background means that Indian food is a big part of who I am, and I would like to marry that with a touch of English, creating a subtle kind of fusion. I see several restaurants already doing this style of cuisine and it’s proving very popular.
Where do you live?
I live in Waltham Abbey and it’s an area I’ve grown to love.
What do you do to relax?
I find gardening really therapeutic, especially after long shifts in the restaurant. I particularly like growing my own vegetables and relaxing in my allotment. I’ll use the veg both at home and in the restaurant, but if I have a glut of something, like cabbage at the moment, I’ll give it to friends.
What makes you happy?
The feedback I get from customers and colleagues at the end of the day really makes me happy.
What is your idea of food heaven and why?
My idea of food heaven is when food is cooked with love and seasoned with passion and presented at its best - as they say, you eat first with your eyes. On a day to day level, I’m very partial to a pie or a lovely roast dinner, followed by a crumble with ice cream, if I’m feeling particularly indulgent.
Waltham Abbey Marriott
Old Shire Lane, Waltham Abbey EN9 3LX