Tête-à-tête with Chef Shahzad Variava

Chef Shahzad Variava

From being a self-taught chef to the ‘Dessert King of India’, Shahzad has had a food filled journey and loved every minute of it. Having started with humble beginnings in the hospitality industry in the operations and HR departments, he took a plunge into cooking only later and went on to participate in Masterchef India (Season 2). He has his own patesserie by the name Mystery Box and  in this conversation Chef Shahazad talks more about his venture and passion for great food.

1) Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up, since when have you been cooking, what inspired you – anything.

I was born and brought up in Mumbai. A townie in my early years, we later moved to Andheri due to personal reasons. Believe it or not, I started cooking at the age of 7! This was more of a necessity as both my parents were working. My elder sister and I would get really hungry after school. This was a big motivational factor for us to cook food. From burnt rice to uncooked maggi to overcooked eggs, we’ve come a long way! Slowly and gradually, I started enjoying every bit of cooking and would look forward to it.

My paternal and maternal grandmothers were amazing cooks. I used to drool over their food. My maternal grandmother was excellent with desserts. She had won almost all competitions related to it! Personally speaking, I think the skills have come down from her, although I haven’t interacted with her much as she passed away when I was very young. On the other hand my paternal grandmother was great with Indian cuisine. I learnt my first rolling rotis from her!

So my grandmothers, a loving aunt in Pune and my elder sister are my true inspiration for cooking, and I owe my success to them.

2) What kind of restaurants do you like to visit?

Honestly, I’m not fond of fine-dine restaurants so much. I am more into road-side junk food and also enjoy buffets. My favorite hotels for buffet are – ITC Grand Central- Hornbys Pavilion, Trident- Frangipani and The Leela- Citrus.

Fresh Alphonso and Cream Layers by Chef Shahzad Variava

3) Which has been your most memorable holiday?

Not as yet! I have a list but need time to go and explore…

4) Which are your most favorite books?

Anything and everything related to food or culinary. There’s so much to learn from others.

5) Tell us something about Mystery Box?

The Mystery Box is my dream come true. After Masterchef happened, I knew my forte was desserts, so the next big step was to someday open my own patisserie in Mumbai. Along with my dear friend Ajay, we fulfilled our dreams. The brand is synonymous with quality and uniqueness. We don’t offer anything that is run of the mill. You will find gourmet desserts, cakes, chocolates and bakery products at my store!

6) What do you do in your free time? What are your other hobbies?

In whatever little time I get, I like to play badminton. Surrounded with sweets all the time, I make sure to either jog or swim to burn down the calories. I also enjoy spending time with my family.

Belgian Chocolate Layered Cake by Chef Shahzad Variava

7) What do you love about Mumbai?

It’s vibrant. The food is excellent. And the city always surprises you. With so many opportunities around, I feel blessed to be a part of this city!

8) Have you tried food from Holachef (made by another chef)? How was your experience?

Yes, but mostly desserts and it has been a good experience.

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