We're not going to dumb it down: Michael Winklemann on 'Chili's' restaurant and the authenticity of their food

Friday, 23 May 2014 - 4:27pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

In Mumbai, with the advent of a series of Quick Service Restaurants, they are light on the pocket, quick to deliver and yet more often than not leave something to be desired. Whether it be atmosphere, service, value for money or even basic hygiene, there is clearly a demand for a casual dining experience that is as easy on the rest of your senses as well.

One of the places that definitely fulfills these needs is Chili’s. A branch of the popular American chain restaurant that has opened in a number of Indian cities. The restaurants that have gained immense popularity the world over and the branch in Hiranandani Gardens in Powai does not disappoint.

Not only was the joint filling up fast at seven in the evening, it also had the good fortune of being graced by Chef Michael Winklemann, the Global Culinary Contact for Chili’s Grill and Bar. He is responsible for the chain in a number of international locales that include cities in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Brazil.

A conversation with him reveals a great deal about the brand, his passion for food and what he loves about his enviable job.

Right off the bat he referred to the cuisine as ‘fresh-mex’ which did describe the food perfectly. What chili’s has to offer is more than just beans, the cuisine, as we were told, takes the flavors of the American South-West, uses ingredients like avocados and a series of special spices that Chili’s imports from America. This is his attempt to keep the food as authentic as possible.

Commenting on the authenticity however, Winklemann made sure to let us know the food is not dumbed down. Everything on the menu is and will be kept loyal to the brand and the brand’s core concept, even sourcing the local ingredients is a task that requires a great attention to detail and the items need to meet the strict specifications of the brand.

This stringent check does pay off however. As Winklemann said, "We have the best Fajitas. We marinade our chicken the best, we even marinate our onions!" The most popular dish across most branches he claims have always been the Fajitas which please all five of the senses.

An almost DIY dish, the Fajitas are inviting and the ‘make your own concept’ plays right into the restaurant’s mood, especially once you’ve had sip and then some more of the infamous ‘Presidente Margarita.’

However, Winklemann claims they make sure the brand keeps things interesting by changing a few items every quarter, these include a number of different influences including Cajun food, yet, as he stresses, something that stays loyal to the concept. Even something as simple as the enchiladas stay interesting and not at all generic. 

Winklemann even mentioned the ‘raving fans’ that keep coming back for the distinctive taste that cannot be found anywhere else.

The food, in a shocking revelation to most consumers, looks exactly like it does in the menu. Colorful and sizzling hot. Apart form the fajitas, another must-try is the Beef Chili which is far from the usual onslaught of spice and also the Calamari that we dare you to stop popping into your mouth.

The dessert arrived following dead silence as it disappeared in record time.

 Chili's as a brand seems to embody his philosophy of food,  trying everything till you’re inspired to create your own.

All in all both Winklemann and the joint are charming, focused and at no point of time does it ever feel like your run of the mill casual dining experience. The food is great value for money and as evidenced by the each booth being occupied all evening, the brand will go far in India as we clamour for a taste that is as satisfying as it is unique.

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