We had the good fortune of connecting with Mayank Istwal and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mayank, how has your background shaped the person you are today?

I am from Dehradun ,India and coming from the Caterer’s family i always had that energy and passion for cooking , interacting with ingredients and adapting the versatile cooking techniques. The upbringing was always around food , farm , flora and fauna (4 F of my life). How the four F works:- It’s always about to know the nuances of “food” the first “F”, it just not about how good you cook and what great techniques you possess? To be cooking great food draws its bases from one of the most important ‘F” called farm. If you understand how to go sustainable, grow and rare animals at the farm it will in turn empower your cooking. The Farm is connected with the flora and fauna the critical two “F” , as to understand the mother nature. All these four F’s have contributed in my success to create some award winning dishes that draws inspiration from my journey and memories ,the time spent in the wild and farms.

I knew that i have embarked on this tantalizing journey of taste which is ever evolving and getting better every single day as i was more hungry to learn and further explore. While growing up one thing i realized was “food is the best language in the world” which has no demarcations and it connects people. I always tell people that i am so lucky that i speak that language of food and it has taken me to places. Whatever i learned during the process of making a Chef has subsumed into my day to day life.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I am a graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management of Guwahati, India, and as a student i won the chef competition conducted by NCHMCT New Delhi. My career began as a Kitchen Managemet Trainee at the Devigarh Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in Udaipur, where I became a Kitchen Executive. I went on to work with leading Australian restauranteur and Chef Luke Mangan at his fine dining restaurant Salt Grill aboard the P&O cruise line. Following few years at sea, i worked as a Junior Sous Chef at The LaLit, a luxury hotel in Udaipur where my talents earned me opportunities such as being the exclusive chef to the cast of ‘The Exotic Marigold Hotel’ while they were filming on the property.I also worked as the Sous Chef at The Taj Fort Aguada, a beach resort and spa in Goa. During my tenure in Goa i was the winner of the very prestigious Goan Chef Challenge. My extensive experience in menu creation and kitchen management led me to become the Executive Sous Chef at the LaLit Ashok in Bangalore, where i was responsible for the operations of all the property’s restaurants and event spaces. During this tenure In india i invented ‘healthy spice blends’ combining the knowledge of Ayurveda and spices which further boils down to nature of each spice and how to prepare seasonal spice blends. I have an array of spice blends depending on the cooling, warming, digestive, mouth freshening or baking nature of the spices. I belive my invention of healthy spice blends will go a long way and has it’s a gift to the mankind.

I an avid Traveller and food historian and I have been to so many countries is in the World.

I have been featured in the FSR magazine (the magazine for the America’s table setters) list of “FSR’s Rising Restaurant Stars: these 29 Innovators dared the Impossible in 2020”

I was the presenter of Indian heritage through cuisine, culture and spices for “Foundatio for India studies” on the celebration of INDO -AMERICAN HERITAGE DAY

A brief about FIS ( FIS runs a project in University of Houston, TX with a vision to promote knowledge about India’s contribution to the world in the field of language literature, arts, sciences, engineering, politics, economics and spirituality.)

I have also been featured in the top print publication and Television of Texas and the United states of America, Publications like Wine enthusiast magazine, Eater, Houston chronicle, Paper City, Culture map, NTV Houston.

I was recently in the news for my innovative creation called V- Pill , taking inspiration from Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

I was featured on CN Traveller india magazine as our restaurant was featured amongst the top 100 destinations in the world for 2021 in Times Magazine.

My interaction with the ingredients and spices really sets me apart from anybody as i believe in “when the ingredients and spices are blended it should not create friction but rather should sing in harmony” and if one can interact with them , they can create some fantastic recipes which not only satisfy your five senses but can also tickle their sixth sense.

Few lessons that i have learned in my life is ” never try too hard to make things happen, work for it and let it happen”

One more lessons of life for me is ” It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have ,what matters is what knowledge and skills one have acquired in those years of their experience” so don’t let the number of year of experience judge how deserving you are and just let your work and the ethics around it talk.

I want the world to know that to be a great Chef starts from being the best son, best Husband ,best brother, best father in total the best human being. To do it right be the best version of yourself every single day.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

While growing up my mentor were my grandparents. I learnt a lot from my grandfather as how to forge and understand the flora and fauna of the region where i come from, he also used to involve me to learn about how to grow crops in varied seasons of the year? He was practicing ayurvedic medicine and i picked up basics of medicine from him as he use to always tell me that “food is the medicine”. My grandmother was my inspiration for cooking as still i crave for her dishes and not to forget about the cooking style which are still with me as her blessing and gift. I learnt cooking styles , techniques and understanding of the ingredient in my father’s catering business while growing up until i decided to attend the Culinary school where i met my Chef mentor who trained me hard to face the challenging food industry.

In my 16 years of work experience i worked with great Chefs Like Chef Luke Mangan and i always liked his work and he was great inspiration for my strong work ethics.

My All time favourite Chef is Vergilio Martinez (@virgilliocentral) from restaurant Central in Lima, Peru. I am a big fan of his work and i have always admired his thought process. I draw my inspiration of seasonal Indian Ceviche from him by preparing it from scratch with all the local and special ingredients from India which are not in the mainstream.
My family and my wife’s family deserves a great credit as they have always believed in me and were there in my ups and down of life.

For the success of Musaafer Houston goes to my team that makes me look great and not to forget the anchor of the brand Mr. Shammi and Mrs. Mithu Malik ( owners and my family in Houston)

My favourite book which really inspired me are “Zero to one” By Peter Thiel and “The Flavor of spice ” By Marryam H. Reshii

I am a self motivated person not taking anything away from people who really made my journey so special. I feel every days challenge that come across makes your journey more memorable and everlasting.

Website: www.musaaferhouston.com

Instagram: Chefmayankistwal7

Linkedin: Mayank Istwal

Facebook: Chefmayankistwal7

Image Credits
Raydon Creative (for few photos) Julie Soefer (for few)

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