Lavang’s chef and co-owner, Jay Kauser, talks to CityMag about his ambitions for the future. Indian-inspired oysters anyone?
What kind of food do you serve?
I call it an innovative take on traditional Indian cuisine. All of our food is sourced locally; I work with markets around Sheffield to find the freshest ingredients available. The first menu at Lavang was just a starter and the new menu is currently in the early stages of development – expect to see oysters, rabbit and Aberdeen Angus.
Where have you worked previously?
Having worked in hospitality from a young age at various establishments across Sheffield, my mum’s kitchen was the place at which I discovered my passion for food. Starting out peeling onions and assisting her I soon found myself gradually drawn to the use of spices and different techniques where I truly realised my passion for food. An intense training course at my family’s establishments provided me with the knowledge and skills needed to run a kitchen of my own as well as the opportunity to craft a bespoke menu to mirror the luxury customer experience when dining at Lavang.
Why did you choose this as your career path?
Because food is found in every corner of every street, city and country. It only gets better knowing that you can cook and know what actually in your food. I am not really an academic learner, I prefer to be hands on and physically create something that is unique to me. This career has allowed me to put my passion and skills to use and give others pleasure in what I do.
What made you want to open your own restaurant?
I believe young people do not get the opportunity to excel in their skills and are limited to what they can fully achieve. I wanted to prove that you don't have to be rich or smart to open from scratch. I hope I can inspire other young people to go for their dreams and not always stick to what is expected of them, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but I am proud of what I have done up to now.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The buzz, simple as that. Just knowing that people enjoy the food, compliments I receive and most definitely empty plates coming back to the kitchen.
What does the future hold for you?
I plan to continue to develop the menus at Lavang, with a new seasonal menu in the pipeline, as well as a secret menu. My aim for the future is to teach people how to cook, I am planning cookery lessons for the local community and also a cookbook with my recipes in the near future.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
A passion for ingredients and fresh produce. Understanding your clientele and the type of food they enjoy, being a chef does not mean you spend 24 hours in the kitchen. Don't let the long and unsociable hours put you down, the rewards and benefits will prevail if you have hardwork, perseverance and keep enjoying what you do. They say food cooked with love tastes better!
Why are you different?
Firstly, I am the youngest executive chef in the Indian food industry that I know of. I have a unique style of cooking, I believe in “less is more”. Rather than having a menu full of dishes that taste the same, I have consolidated and have a smaller more refined menu where the dishes are completely different to each other but at the same time I can focus on the unique ingredients and quality of each individual dish. I have moved away from traditional techniques and styles in order to help my food move with the times, I use less oil and salt and focus on how to let the fresh produce provide the flavour.
Vist www.lavangsheffield.co.uk for more information.