Introducing our 'Making Us Tick' series of staff stories from across Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, starting with Hemant Chawla, Pastry Chef at Aviemore Resort in the scenic Cairngorms, who is responsible for producing all the cakes and patisserie required for our guests.
Given the scale and variety of dining opportunities on offer, it’s a huge job and you’ll find Hemant’s creations throughout the resort – from Aspects Restaurant in the Highland Hotel and Giovanni’s Italian Ristorante to Spey Burger, The Coffee House, the Club House (fuel for hungry golfers) and at any conference or banqueting event.
Lifelong Passion for Food
Hemant joined the Aviemore team at the end of summer 2021, bringing many years of experience and a diverse CV - however, it’s his instinctive relationship with food that really stands out. Hemant’s introduction to the kitchen began when he was growing up in India. With both parents busy at work, Hemant discovered his culinary talent at an early age. He began with everyday ingredients that he found in the kitchen – noodles, rice and lentils featured regularly.
Experimenting at home sparked his ambition, but before serious cooking could commence, Hemant studied for a master’s degree in Hotel Management - covering all aspects of hospitality and providing a solid grounding for a future in the industry. At college, Hemant became drawn to the pastry section - inspired by an admired lecturer - and took his newfound passion into the world of work.
Starting out as a kitchen assistant, Hemant’s progression from commis to Head Pastry Chef has seen him rise to the challenge in a number of 4 and 5-star hotels and resorts. His past work includes two years at the fabulous Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India and roles at acclaimed Scottish hotels in Turnberry and Fairmont St Andrews, where he spent five years alongside several stints with Carnival and Cunard Cruises.
Embracing Scottish Life
Having worked in Scotland for a total of 10 years, Hemant has fallen in love with the country. The wide-open spaces, fresh air and peaceful beaches appeal alongside the calmer pace of life that's perfect for his family. Based at our Aviemore Resort Hemant relishes the opportunity to use Scotland’s unique regional produce, such as cheese from Iain Mellis, whose company champions small batch farmhouse cheeses made with milk from a single herd, whisky or locally produced berry drink Ace Kombucha - perfect for when strong flavours are required.
At home, Hemant also cooks for his wife and children. He says, “They are vegetarian and fussy, so if I try to slip any extra creativity in, I’ll end up eating it all! I love cooking with herbs and spices - coriander, cumin and turmeric are some of my favourites - and I also like to factor in ingredients like umami, tofu, soybean, aquafaba and almond powder”.
Some of Hemant’s recipes have been created with unusual ingredients, like his vegan, gluten-free macarons (perked up with a dash of Irn-Bru), whilst he also has his own, popular take on KFC, which is as guarded a secret as the recipe blend of 11 herbs and spices from the fast food chain itself.
Hemant's Recipe for Success
Hemant’s attitude to his craft is simple. “I started learning how to be a chef 24 years ago and the learning process continues to this day - I’m still proving myself. Life is not a smooth walk. There are hurdles and you fall, but you stand up and walk again, learn from your mistakes and repeat".
"The way I see it is that cooking is actually easy – a big part of it done first in the head”.
On what motivates him each day and his plans for the future, he said, “I experience a sense of accomplishment with everything I produce and always feel that I’ve achieved something at the end of each day. When I see that my walk-in pastry fridge is filled with cakes and patisseries, that's the best time of the day. And my dream? I’d like to open up a patisserie shop for all, where everyone can enjoy a slice of cake without regret. For me, that would be the ultimate labour of love”.