March 28, 2017 // 07:14 pm
India’s sunshine State has morphed into a hub for food and beverage entrepreneurs, says Ethel Da Costa, meeting some of Goa’s newly relocated citizens, who have added their own sunshine to the landscape of the food and beverage scene in Goa.
The summer sun on Goan food will never set. Instead, a steady rise in world cuisine, alternative palettes, European and South Asian flavours have given Goa a unique `food-hold’ in the country, encouraging a steady supply of `food tourism’ from across the Planet. This has prompted gourmet lovers from all over India and abroad to come to Goa, don the chef’s apron and showcase a menu of improvised, personalised, classy yet home-made fare. This momentum is bringing the state and its new culinary citizenry many accolades and encores for their chic eateries. Is this yet another reason to tempt your taste buds for the Amoravida life? Of course it is!
One thing is certain. You can never die of boredom in Goa. If at all such an occasion may arise, you are advised to hit the shores travelling down winding roads, into renovated Portuguese Goan homes in their new `foodie’ avatar, till you find rest in a glass of freshly brewed beer or personalised fusion cocktails. Some of these `experiments’ include signature styled menus invented by an enthusiastic cyber geek from Silicon valley, now serving as your local maitre d’. Or, a former beach bum from England looking to find himself and landing in Goa to create his own chain of restaurants.
Meet nomad, restless traveller, part-time interior renovator, full time software geek, who decided to meander off the beaten path. Giles Knapton, Director of the uber chic boutique luxury resort, Coco Shambhala in Nerul-Goa, says with certainty that he has found home. At age 19, I travelled to India backpacking and fell in love with the country and its culture. After returning, I started buying and renovating houses, building, and spent ten years managing a software business,” Giles recounts his early life with a sense of bewilderment.Goa, he says, has moulded, shaped and re-birthed his imagination and reaffirmed his sense of self. “I have always loved tropical architecture and garden design. So when the real estate market peaked in the early 2000’s and I could no longer get a decent return on my building investments, I decided to follow my dreams and create my own tropical houses. I wanted to create a unique hospitality experience based around architecture, design and personalised service. India was my first thought. It’s not the easiest country to set up shop as a foreigner and I looked at alternatives. But I love a challenge! And India is one of the few places left where you will find an artisan in a tradesman,” Giles narrates. Thus was born Coco Shambhala offering a uniquely conceived Mediterranean menu that has locals seeking reservations 48 hours in advance.
Shefali Gandhi, co-owner of Koi Asian Dining at Candolim, settled into Goa, “After we found ourselves at home here.” Building on her hospitality background, Shefali moved with family looking for opportunities, “And Goa being the hotbed for the hospitality segment that runs through many veins, we were at home. More importantly, it’s an amazing place to raise a family, very adaptable to make it as their own, as a state.” At peace with herself, Goa as inspiration kick-started her entrepreneurial spirit leading to Koi. “We’ve come to terms and pace with our new home. Not the crazy rat race that people face outside (Goa), but a perfect conducive environment for an all around balance of life,” says a brighter spirited Shefali. Koi continues to win awards for innovative South Asian and Vietnamese cuisine, written up in lifestyle magazines and hosts dinner, lunch soirees for discerning travellers and food connoisseurs.
Same lies true with Gourmet Food and Design specialist, Aakritee Sinha of A Reverie, who was recently included in the Global Luxury League ‘for her food designed as art innovations,’ drawing Bollywood and Fashion regulars from Suzanne Khan, Rohit Bal, consulate ambassadors, including the CEO of Hermes, says a beaming Aakritee, recently awarded `Chef of the Year 2017’ at the popular Times Food Guide honour roll.
Beverage entrepreneur Desmond Nazareth, founder of DesmondJi spirits, cocktail mixes and liqueurs, came to Goa in late 2003 to explore unconventional business ideas and a creative life.
“Goa is a good base. It’s well-connected, has an interesting starter group of creative people, a great environment to incubate new ideas like this,” he shares, now well settled and thriving on his new found success.
Creating a USP that is about `customised, one-on-one’ hospitality, Coco Shambhala boasts of a cuisine that is a marriage of European flavours, inspired by local Goan and Indian ingredients, and infused with the spirit of the Mediterranean. The encores are plenty. “I cook pretty well, and worked with chefs to create our earlier menus. We had a good reputation. Three years ago we were blessed to have Shagun Mehra join our team as the Director of Cuisine. Shagun is an extraordinary talent when it comes to food design, the creation of inspired dishes and their styling. Sharing this love of food with our guests is one of life’s great joys,” says Giles. Favourite on his menu is Steamed Fish in a Banana Leaf with a Mango Salsa; Lemon Basil Prawns; Grilled Mediterranean Salad; Pesto Pinwheels with a Roasted Red Pepper Salsa.
Local foodies couldn’t agree more. As the through-the-year food and beverage industry sees a sustained flow of continued patronage in Goa and the local government investing into the tourism industry, Goa perhaps represents a growing business space and ideology whose time has come. So, if you are planning your summer vacation as you read this, bring your appetite with you.
Coco Shambhala, Goa
Coco Beach, Nerul
For Reservations: 093722 67182
Koi Asian Dining
Fort Aguada Road, Behind Snip Salon and Spa
For Reservations: +91 98-11-825551 / +91 80-07034426
A Reverie, Goa
Holiday Street, Gauravaddo, Calangute
For reservations: +91 83800 95732, +91 98231 74927
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