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Arguably the most exclusive culinary society in the world, Club des Chefs des Chefs (CCC) is an elite club of chefs who cook for presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens. The club meets every year to compare recipes and learn culinary traditions from each other. This year, for the very first time, India hosted the annual meeting of this club, whose members quietly create magic in the most powerful kitchens of the world.

The culinary diplomat who organised the “G20 of Gastronomy” in India is Chef Montu Saini, the man who cooks for the President of India. Not only is he the youngest ever executive chef to the President, he is also the youngest member of the Club des Chefs des Chefs!

Your background?
Born in a small village in Haryana, Chef Montu Saini trained at the Institute of Hotel Management in Bengaluru and worked briefly at Pizza Hut and with the Oberoi group. He then joined the India Tourism Development Corporation’s Ashok hotel in Delhi, where he worked at the hotel’s coffee shop and multi-cuisine restaurant for eight years before securing the prestigious position of the executive chef to the President of India.

How did you become the chef for the President of India? How did you end up in an offbeat , unconventional and interesting career such as this?

I was working as a sous-chef at ITDC Ashok when I saw a newspaper advertisement for the post. I applied and was selected after a series of interviews, followed by the trade tests in which I had to showcase my culinary proficiency”, explained Chef Saini, speaking to TBI in an exclusive interview

How is this job different from a regular chef job in hotels? 

Chef Saini says that while commercial concerns are paramount in hotel kitchens, cooking for the President and his high-profile guests is very different experience.
As the executice chef, Chef Saini works with a team of 40 chefs in a kitchen that is divided into different sections for different specialities. While there is big section for state banquets, there is a separate small section for the President and his family. There is also a separate section for bakery and confectionary as well as a halwai section. To prepare the dishes from multiple cuisines for multiple events, Che Saini and his team work for almost 15-16 hours a day.

A man who believes in keeping himself fit, Chef Saini’s typical day at work starts with a walk, tennis or a few hours at the gym. The first thing he does when he enters the Rashtrapati Bhawan’s kitchen is to get a brief on the events to be held that day.Next, he allocates, responsibilities to his teams such as checking the cold storage for supplies, procuring new supplies, designing menus, explaining techniques in detail and ensuring that all the necessary equipment is in order. If there is a manpower crunch, he also pitches in with the cooking

He also organizes culinary classes for everybody who works on the President’s estate and takes lectures at the Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sarvodaya Vidyalaya school on the President’s estate. When he is not in the kitchen or completing the paperwork in his office, Chef Saini spends time doing what he loves most – experimenting with ingredients and creating new dishes.