Chef Sanji Thankappan likes to express himself through food, celebrating the rich history of his birthplace, India, while also embracing the melting pot of flavours from Trinidad and Tobago.
The brilliant chef, who hails from Kerala, India, plans to put his culinary abilities to use online. Thankappan is eager to bring the intricacies of Caribbean cuisine to his motherland by creating Indo-Trini fusion meals, which have proven highly popular at all of his restaurants in Trinidad.
He hopes to introduce Trinidadian cuisine to the rest of India through YouTube and, by extension, to the rest of the world.
In 2003, he moved to Trinidad and was hired as the head chef of one of the local restaurants. He was able to explore and produce new meals because of his new job. It also prompted him to start Ghazal, his own restaurant on Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain, in 2010.
‘Trini curry duck finest on Earth’
Thankappan explained to the Express why he enjoys Trinidadian cuisine and how food can act as a tale of one’s native country.
“I feel as though I was destined to be a chef. Nothing makes me feel more alive than watching clients’ faces light up after eating a dish that I’ve cooked. I have been to different countries and, regardless of where I go, I always miss the cuisine and flavour of Trinidad. Trini curry duck is the finest duck dish on the Earth,” he said.
“Trinidadian and Indian cuisines have a number of commonalities, yet there are also significant variances. Even though we both use a blend of spices, we don’t always use it the same way.”
Thankappan built a second restaurant, Grand Buffet, in Grand Bazaar in 2014.
He said: “Grand Buffet was created to provide fine-dining-quality meals at a reasonable price. The cuisine and the experience were both praised by customers. We established branch after branch until we had seven branches nationwide. We have Grand Buffet in Grand Bazaar, Trincity Mall, Westmall, C3 Centre, Excellent City, Nicholas Towers, and Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas.
“Customers may sample all of our meals before purchasing them at any of our establishments. Customers love our Indo-Trini fusion meals, which include palak (spinach) and corn pie, paneer and peas pie, curried Julie mango chicken, lemon and honey-glazed dasheen, and tamarind-glazed grilled melongene, to mention a few.”
“Every day, we make over 50 meals from all over the globe, including Trini fusion Caribbean, French, Italian, Chinese, and Arabic cuisine. We also give a variety of healthy choices. I’ve lived in Trinidad for almost two decades and like the cuisine. As a chef, I believe it is my obligation to promote Trini cuisine to India and make it more familiar,” he said.
In August, Thankappan will begin his Vibe Chef YouTube channel, which will feature Trinidadian food.
“As a chef, I believe this is the next step for me. The Internet has the ability to bring people from all over the world together at the dinner table. There are so many things we can learn from one another, and food can bring us together,” Thankappan said.