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Chef-Entrepreneur Tarun Sibal on His Culinary Journey: "Irrespective of what I was doing, it was always related to F&B."

Tarun Sibal is a renowned chef and successful entrepreneur who has made significant contributions to the culinary world. With a passion for food and an entrepreneurial spirit, Tarun has carved a niche for himself in the competitive culinary industry. His culinary expertise, combined with his keen business acumen, led him to establish his own culinary ventures, and his journey from a chef to an entrepreneur is an interesting one marked by innovation, creativity, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Being a foodie since his early days, two very vivid food memories are etched in his heart, "Vacationing in Mumbai with my grandpa, and my siblings I used to be the designated help for preparing breakfast. Every other meal was out so breakfast was important. It was Bread Pakoda on one of the days I clearly remember. The other was Crepes with a mango sauce. I cooked it while watching a Khana Khazana episode." Tarun's culinary philosophy is centred around fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and innovative cooking techniques, and he is known for his ability to blend traditional flavours with contemporary trends, creating dishes that are both delicious and visually stunning.

From Bengaluru to Goa and Delhi Tarun Sibal's brands have been mushrooming around the country elevating his culinary experience to the stature it deserves. Born into a third-generation family of caters in Delhi, his tryst in food almost came naturally. Reflecting on his journey Sibal shared, "I was exposed to culinary arts from a very young age as I belong to the third generation of a family involved in Delhi’s catering industry namely, One Fine Meal." His journey from the hallowed halls of IHM Pusa to the bustling kitchens of renowned establishments has been nothing short of remarkable, shaping not only his career but also the culinary landscape itself.

The early chapters of Tarun's love for food unfold with the precision and flair of a master chef crafting his signature dish. Becoming an Industrial Trainee at the prestigious Oberoi, followed by a stint as a Management Trainee with the esteemed India Habitat Centre, and eventually ascending to the esteemed role of Sous Chef, marked the foundational milestones of his illustrious career. It was during this formative period that Tarun's palate was refined, his culinary instincts honed, and his passion for cooking ignited.

Yet, it was a pivotal turning point that truly set Tarun's journey on an extraordinary trajectory. Venturing into the world of wine, Tarun's collaboration with the French Ministry of Agriculture opened new avenues of exploration, leading him to work closely with esteemed organizations such as the Meat and Livestock Association of Australia and The Irish Food Board. Harnessing his burgeoning expertise in wine, Tarun embarked on a new chapter, joining Fratelli Wines as Marketing Head, later assuming the position of Institutional Sales Head, he was able to blend his passion for food and beverages seamlessly.

Undeterred by challenges and fueled by a relentless entrepreneurial spirit, Tarun's journey took an exciting turn in 2015. He ventured into the realm of entrepreneurship and breathed new life into the family business. Tarun reimagined One Fine Meal as a boutique catering company, and soon enough found himself as a consultant for Cafe StayWoke in Gurugram to the opening of Street Storyss in Bengaluru. With each venture, Tarun's culinary excellence and entrepreneurial knowledge continued to shine, solidifying his status as a visionary in the culinary world. "I started consulting for Cafe StayWoke in Gurugram, later becoming a stakeholder. During COVID-19, we sold off the café, and in 2018, I opened Street Storyss, a street food-inspired vegetarian restaurant in Bengaluru. Starting as a 60-cover restaurant, Street Storyss has expanded to accommodate 120-covers."

However, it was in 2019 that he co-founded Titlie in Goa. "Titlie is a culinary bar that boasts collaborative cuisine—a term I coined to denote dishes produced using more than one food technique and inspiration. Diving into the meaning of the term as expressed by Tarun, Collaborative Cuisine is when two or more ingredients, food techniques or inspirations, jam on a plate and the result is more than the sum of its ingredients. "It’s abstract and all over the place, yet forms a pattern and tells a story. A classic example would be the butter garlic black pepper prawns with sambar puree and pol sambol. It’s a take on a Singaporean dish, with a hint of Kerala sambar and Sri Lankan chutney." Fast forward to 2023 when Tarun's journey reached new heights, as he unveiled a trio of culinary gems—Khi Khi in Delhi, Barfly in Goa, and Swwing in Bangalore—each a testament to his unwavering dedication to innovation and excellence.

Barfly in Assagao, Goa, is an all-day dining bar, with India’s first bar dedicated to agave, housed inside a sprawling 150-year-old Portuguese-Goan bungalow. The space exudes an old-world charm, the space comprises an alfresco bar, the main bungalow, and different inter-connected rooms that lead one into enchantingly different spaces that cater to different moods. “The entire space is designed to lose track of time. On the food front, the focus is to bring back the charm of continental cuisine," shared Sibal.

When asked about how KHI-KHI, a contemporary international bar with an Indian soul, came into being he said, "KHI KHI is more than just a physical space; it's a state of mind. At its core lies a spirit of playfulness and intimacy that encourages guests to shed their inhibitions and start a conversation, engage in authentic experiences, eat, drink, groove, giggle, and unwind." The word KHI KHI literally translates into giggles in Hindi, and it is a refreshing take on Delhi’s bar culture, KHI KHI’s Contemporary Cocktails are stirred with satire while the kitchen dishes up evolved Indian plates.

His latest venture is SWWING in the vibrant heart of Indiranagar. It is a beacon of modern luxury and culinary innovation. SWWING promises an immersive dining journey for global connoisseurs. Here, familiarity meets excitement, and every dish reflects Chef Tarun's creative odyssey. Inspired by coastal cultures, SWWING's menu celebrates diversity with tantalizing dishes like Goat Sukka Pie and Lobster Tail Laksa. Complemented by an extensive wine selection showcasing India's burgeoning wine regions, SWWING is more than a restaurant; it's an experience.

"Having launched three new products in 2023, I feel that 2024-25 would be about consolidating existing ventures and opening more units of the brands which have been established," mentioned Tarun looking at his goals for the near future. When asked about the evolving culinary market he firmly believes that in a world where consumers are so well aware and seek the best-in-class experiences, keeping pace, originality, distinctiveness and being ahead of the curve is the only way to adapt and stay in sync. However, he doesn't underscore the importance of travelling to gain experiences, and ideas and broaden one's horizon "Travel is essential, we open places to benchmark with the best in the world, we draw inspiration from what’s out there. For example, the thought process behind Titlie was to be the first beachfront brand from India like a Café Del Mar or a Potato head. KHI KHI was conceived for London, while Swwing is based on my travels across the Asian coastline. Barfly takes you back to the colonial era."

But trying to understand when Tarun derives his inspiration was truly eye-opening and an interesting tale. From Italy's grazing table tradition to Southeast Asia and the respect the Japanese have for food to India's culture, each serves as an inspiration for the maestro. "I love grazing tables where everyone sits together and has a feast, so Italy is right up there. The streets inspire me a lot, so the entire Southeast Asian belt—from Canggu to Lau Pa Sat—inspires me. The respect the Japanese have for food is surreal. And more than any other country, my own country has so much to offer and teach."

Over the years, his ventures have not only garnered critical acclaim but have also been commercially successful, earning him a reputation as a visionary in the culinary world. Beyond his culinary endeavours, Tarun is also actively involved in mentoring aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs. Tarun Sibal is not just a chef, but a visionary entrepreneur who has reshaped the culinary landscape.


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