Going over a luscious, new cocktail menu at Arola, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, we chat with Chef Sergi Arola about his ideas, food and life beyond that
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: August 7, 2015
Orange marmalade, pistachio flakes, traditional Indian gulkand (sweet preserve of rose petals) – what do you think this is about?
These are some of the ingredients of the new cocktail menu at Arola, at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu. As exotic as it reads, the cocktails are delicious too. Well, what do you expect from a passionate chef, who has cooking ingrained in his blood? “The new cocktail menu at Arola is a twist on the classics. We've chosen classics like gin & tonic, Negroni, etc to name a few, and my expert mixologist has added a twist to these drinks through different techniques and ingredients. His innovative flair has resulted in a very unique cocktail menu. Our focus at Arola has been to pamper our patrons with exceptional food and now we want to also bring in the focus on our extensive eclectic beverage menu as well with housing Mumbai's largest Gin Bar,” says the humble Chef Sergi Arola.
You could start with Bliss, where rosemary is flared with vodka and further shaken with egg white for a smooth texture. Or try the Arolagrini – a twist on the traditional Negroni, which is served with homemade saffron gin and a dash of heavenly smoke infused in it. The Belleza Del Amor intrigued us as Tanqueray no.10, rose petal syrup and traditional Indian gulkand are blended together to give a perfect twist. The S3 (Stir, Sip & Scoop) is their signature gin and tonic with no lemon slice, but Lemon Sorbet and pistachio flakes instead. Interesting!
Such an original menu cannot be uninspired. And when we ask Chef Arola on where he gets his stimulus from usually, he gives the credit to the entire universe: “I feel that inspiration is everywhere. You just need to find it. It just comes to you in different forms - it could be people, books, places, anything and everything. Change is necessary in life to achieve something new and I feel that inspiration comes from change in every form. When you adapt to change, you’re constantly thinking and evolving, that’s what is most important. There are millions of things around you, waiting for you to be inspired by them.”
Incredibly, Chef Arola never thought cooking could become his lifelong profession. He had other dreams, which became possible by assuming the role of a chef. It is not surprising, that a passionate individual like him, who treats cooking as an art, can also have other creative interests. A musician at heart, cooking came on the way to fund his love for guitars. “I became a chef as I wanted to pursue music and as I already loved the idea of cooking at home, I thought I could pursue it professionally through which I would be able to purchase my guitars. I started off washing dishes in the kitchen and progressed to being a commis Chef. I moved on to becoming a sous Chef and then moved to Madrid to open my restaurant,” recounts Chef Arola.
And this love of cooking was transferred to him through his grandmother. An ideal pair, Chef Arola’s grandmother enjoyed cooking traditional recipes, and his grandfather enjoyed eating! Chef Arola fondly remembers, “I took my grandmother's recipes, she had a special book of traditional, age old recipes. I went with my grandfather to the market and purchased those ingredients and tried my hand at replicating her recipes. That was the start of my journey to becoming a chef, followed by numerous stints at various restaurants till I had enough knowledge and skill to start my own chain of restaurants.” Rest, as they say, is history.
Like every cuisine, Spanish cuisine too has its own nuances and little details, which make it different from others. “The essence of Spanish cuisine are its flavours, textures and the product,” says Chef Arola. “The quality of the product is extremely important and we want to retain the natural flavours and sometimes that makes it difficult to take our cuisine to another country.”
Having said that, seeing India’s developing tastes for variety of cuisines, Chef Arola decided to open a restaurant here. “I saw opportunity and a need for something different and Mumbai is a city with evolving tastes,” he explains. And the restaurant, is doing amazingly well from what we hear! Ask him about Indian cuisine, and he says he swoons over its curries and breads, especially the tandoori roti. “I am very fascinated with the use of spices and robust flavors that Indian cuisine offers,” he excitedly says.
Being someone for whom time is luxury, Chef Arola enjoys spending time with his family, his “lovely girlfriend” and their children. “I don't cook much at home and we always order a pizza and spend quality time. I also enjoy playing my guitar and performing with my band. I am very passionate about motorbikes and love taking my Harley Davidson for a long ride with my friends.” Living life to the fullest, Chef Arola muses that maybe politics would have been an alternate course of career for him if not creating food art. “It requires a lot of thought and skill,” he explained. Music, in any case, flows through him naturally.
His next stop where we can meet him? Chicago Gourmet in October 2015.
Soumya Jain is the Chief Editor & CEO of LuxuryFacts. She is also the Co-Editor of ‘The Luxury Market in India: Maharajas to Masses’, along with Glyn Atwal, published by Palgrave Macmillan and launched in September 2012. The book is a window into the highly complex Indian luxury market. Soumya is also a visiting lecturer for luxury marketing and online journalism at leading educational institutes in India. She has been invited to speak at conferences and address industry colleagues about the Indian luxury market. Recognising her knowledge of the market, she has been quoted in the media several times, while also contributing articles on luxury in various publications.