Debaditya Chaudhury, Managing Director of Chowman Hospitality Pvt. Ltd

Debaditya Chaudhury-Chowman Hospitality

Interview with Debaditya Chaudhury, Managing Director of Chowman Hospitality Pvt. Ltd

Debaditya Chaudhury is a prominent figure in the Indian hospitality industry. He is a managing director of Chowman Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

With his exceptional leadership skills and business acumen, Chaudhury has played a vital role in establishing and expanding the Chowman brand, making it one of the most successful and popular restaurant chains in the country.

Under Chaudhury’s guidance, Chowman quickly gained a reputation for its high-quality food, impeccable service, and elegant ambiance.

The restaurant chain combines traditional Chinese recipes with innovative flavors, catering to the diverse palates of its customers. Chaudhury’s emphasis on maintaining consistent quality and excellent customer service has earned Chowman a loyal customer base and numerous accolades in the industry.

His passion for food, coupled with his business acumen and commitment to quality, has transformed Chowman into a highly regarded and widely recognized brand.

With his continued leadership, Chowman is poised to further expand its presence and continue delighting customers with its exceptional dining experiences.

Can you tell us about the journey of Chowman Hospitality Pt. Ltd and how the concept of the Chinese restaurant chain originated? What sets Chowman apart from other Chinese restaurants in Kolkata? What unique aspects of the dining experience do you offer?

Debaditya Chaudhury: I never thought of being a restaurateur to be honest. I started my journey rather as a musician as one of the founding members of Bangla’s Kolkata’s leading Bangla rock band. However, I am a foodie, and being a Bong, food is something that holds a special place in my heart.

Interestingly, I also grew up in a locality with one of the oldest Indo-Chinese restaurants called Kim Wah witnessing the flocking of crowds to and fro at the restaurant. I would often visit the place and it was a true amaze for me to see the chefs cooking.

I loved their food and that is what triggered my love for Chinese cuisine. Later in my late teens, being one of the founder members of Kolkata’s leading Bangla rock band -Lakkhichhara, I would often be on the road, travelling to various parts of the world for concerts which gave me a lot of opportunities in exploring more about food.

I would be visiting many food joints around the streets and places in my spare time in between my concerts. In 2010 I started Chowman’s journey with a 350 sq. ft place.

We also need to understand at that point of time, what Chinese food was really known to the people of Kolkata was actually Indo- Chinese, which would be a fusion of Indian and Chinese food because Chinese food if you really trace back to the authenticity of it, it’s not very appealing to that Indian taste bud.

Chinese food is more about being a little bland or being a little simpler. Of course, it has its spicy variation depending on the topographical bifurcation like the Sichuan, or the Shanghai, but the core of Chinese food is very simple, and it is about the exploration of spices unlike the Indian tastebuds.

Back in Kolkata, and other parts of India Chinese food was more about appropriating it to the Indian taste bud!

I wanted to break that. Of course, there was a lot of risk initially, but I thought that it was high time that people actually should know what Chinese food is about.

It’s so much more than just the flavours. It is about the experience and Chowman was an initiative to introduce people to that Chinese food culture altogether.

Coming to the second part of the question, I think everything differs! See, Chinese is a very common cuisine and almost everyone has opted for this as a preference.

But to make a mark, I obviously tweaked the taste entirely by incorporating many traditional and authentic means of making Chinese food.

But that’s a common for every fine-dine in. The difference I made is that I democratised it. As someone coming from a middle-class background, I wanted the majority of our people to find comfort in fine dining by strategically placing it in neighbourhood areas over commercial domain for an all-inclusive feeling.

As I keep on saying, Chowman is rather an ideology than a restaurant. With every element that you will find inside our restaurants, be it the introduction of chopsticks, or the rustic ethos of ancient China- everything is about finesse and bringing in the meticulous projection of Chinese food-culture into India that merely mimicking any other fine dine-ins.

Kolkata is known for its rich culinary culture. How has Chowman adapted to cater to the specific tastes and preferences of the city’s residents?

Debaditya Chaudhury: There’s no question of adapting to the tastes of different regions because that is what I wanted to break away from and make place for something more authentic.

Chinese is a very common cuisine that has reigned India and many people have adapted it accordingly. But the reason we got to become the ruling brand is because of the unique flavour that we impart by keeping it close to the authenticity.

It’s this taste that has fetched us all the love across India and across the world, further motivating us for this national expansion.

So, there’s no question of deviating from that by any means. Rather it’s a strive to make people seek exposure to Chinese that is different from the rest.

Could you share some insights into the menu offerings at Chowman? How do you ensure a balance between authenticity and catering to local palates?

Debaditya Chaudhury: Chowman is Kolkata’s best known Chinese destination that has recently covered 13 years of serving happiness on the plates since its inception in 2010.

With the motto of offering a democratized fine-dining environment, Chowman covers a wide array of authentic Chinese with a subtle blend of Indian to it.

Our menu comprises over 600 items featuring exotic seafood delicacies like squid, prawn, lobster, lamb, pork, and exotic greens inspired by the traditional art of Chinese platter.

We also serve an assortment of Thai dishes. Our signature dishes include Kolkata Style Chilli Chicken, Roasted Chilli Pork, Kung Pao Chicken alongside Chowman’s Special dishes popularized all across Kolkata and Bangalore.

Last year, we took a step ahead catering to the current food trend indulgent toward the Korean and Japanese food.

Therefore, we introduced over 12 pan-Asian menus in 2022 which included dishes like Korean Chicken Wings, Japanese Style Ramen, Burmese Khao Suey. And probably by the next month something new will be coming up. Let’s keep that a secret for now.

What role does innovation play in Chowman’s success? How do you keep up with changing customer preferences and trends in the food industry?

Debaditya Chaudhury: I had always believed that “content” is the king for anything you do. I think our motto in serving the best content i.e., the best quality food at an affordable pricing is the prime cause for our success.

From what we were 10 years back, to what we are now, there lie several powerful contents other than just the food, whether in terms of packaging, offering chopsticks, or the campaigns as the significant elements of these content.

Just two years back we revamped our brand logo as bigger bolder and brighter to resonate with all these three elements growing in our budding youth.

We really need to keep in mind of the youth who will carry forward the love for Chowman that has been reigning the heart of the cities in the later future. And that’s how we innovate, evolute and keep up with the recent trends.

Chowman has a strong presence in Kolkata with multiple outlets. How do you maintain consistency in quality and service across all locations?

Debaditya Chaudhury: We follow a very stringent policy when it comes to maintaining the quality. Few raw materials are imported while the rest undergo inspection as per BIS standard certified use.

We further check the nutritional value of each through the labelling which posits a big factor. Furthermore, we have mandated quarterly lab test of cooked/raw items, drinking water and high-risk food like Baos, Momos, salads.

We’ve further implemented separately labelled chopping boards for veg, seafood & red meat to prevent cross contamination.

Cleaning and sanitization are two very significant factor and we’ve appointed FSS or Food Safety Supervisor to do the minute work pertaining to quality- check for serving fresh food to our customer by maintaining logbooks on a regular logbook.

Coming to the maintaining the consistency we conduct weekly secret food audit and deploy our head-chef for continuous training.

We’ve also got service training management team to ensure fine-dining decorum and protocols. Other than this, we’ve further got our team of 20 people under the customer feedback department for handling major to minutest customer complaints, reviewing and providing instant solutions to our customers.

What challenges have you faced in managing a restaurant chain of this scale, and how have you overcome them?

Debaditya Chaudhury: When I began Chowman, I faced a lot of scepticism! To me Chowman is more of a concept than an idea. It’s more of an ideology than just a mere restaurant.

Whether in terms of serving something close to authentic Chinese or imparting the neighbourhood, find dining experience, Chowman was a different ballgame than any other restaurant that were ruling the F & B industry back in 2010.

When I began Chowman we just had a handful of men who would in total sum up to 4 people including me.

I remember there were times when I myself would ride off to deliver food, drop my colleagues and reach home at 1am in the morning every day.

Initial days meant undergoing immense struggle but interestingly we saw a surging demand in a few days.

It became so successful that by the next year we were opening our base kitchen followed by our next outlet in one of the prime locations in Kolkata, Ballygunge 99.

The love that ushered in was incredulous and since then the entrepreneurial journey you can see the entrepreneurial journey began back-to-back opening of Chowman outlets followed by one after the other. Meanwhile I also joined hands with my elder brother and together we introduced two more other restaurants, Oudh 1590 & Chapter 2.

Could you share any upcoming plans or expansions for Chowman? How do you envision the future of the brand?

Debaditya Chaudhury: We’ve currently got over 30 outlets till date across Kolkata, Bangalore & Delhi, with our next expansion happening in the South with Hyderabad, West with Bombay, and Pune, In the North with Chandigarh and 5 more in Delhi.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to venture into the restaurant industry.

Debaditya Chaudhury: No industry is easy, but indulging into the restaurant industry has been mis-conceptualised as easier. Well, quite the contrary!

However, the only way you can survive this joy ride is through the bursting passion out of you. It is passion for food that will take you to heights. Otherwise, opting into it out of entrepreneurial motif is just one boring approach altogether!

What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs

Debaditya Chaudhury: Don’t forget your roots! Everyone can become an entrepreneur. But when you connect more with your people, when you really learn to study their needs and desires, and get their love, that’s what makes you a successful entrepreneur.

Take it from me, it’s because of the word of mouth that spread across Bengal to the nation and even in other foreign countries that made me & Chowman what we are today.

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