We all aim to climb high. Corporates dream to scale the corporate ladder, students toil to score high grades, adventure junkies aspire to scale the highest mountain peaks and so on. Our quest to reach the top is never ending. Now, here’s a feat that will leave you amazed. Two Indian chefs — Soundararajan P, corporate executive chef, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Limited, and chef Sanjay Thakur of Etihad Airways — did the unimaginable. The duo, along with the help of an efficient and well-organised team, earned a place in the Guinness World Records as the chefs put up the world’s highest pop-up restaurant at 5,585 mt on Mt Everest.
The duo, who love to call their gutsy attempt Project Triyagyoni, which translates to organic nature in Sanskrit, believes in sustainable living. For the pop-up restaurant too, they locally sourced the material and ingredients and once they were done they collected the trash and did not leave anything behind. The meal (furniture included) was designed in such a way that it didn’t add to the waste on the mountain.
This one-of-a kind fine dining pop-up restaurant was set up at Imja Tse, also called Island Peak, above Mount Everest Base Camp (1,600 feet above sea level) where Soundararajan and Thakur prepared an exclusive menu of seven dishes and served it to guests from around the world, who were there for trekking and mountaineering. Says Soundararajan, “Seven dishes were prepared that included Shisno Mousse with Mushrooms, which had been locally sourced. Another dish that we made was Basa Fish with Wild Spinach. We also prepared Daal Bhat Arancini stuffed with Nak Cheese prepared from yak’s milk and served with Herbal Lemon Tea. To end things on a sweet note, we made Yak Milk Panna Cotta for dessert.”
This feat wasn’t easy, in fact, it was taxing, full of challenges and somewhat precarious too. Soundararajan says that both he and Thakur have travelled extensively and have some knowledge about mountains too. Says he, “At such high altitude, you experience difficulty in breathing, so you can imagine how tough it was cooking. We carried utensils, gas stove and other equipment with the help of sherpas and picked up ingredients such as potatoes, greens, lentils, mushrooms, edible flowers from the villages that we crossed while ascending the mountain. The higher you go, the lesser is the vegetation, however we managed to get a cauliflower too which is rarely found in this region.”
Soundararajan says that apart from an impeccable culinary skill, someone aiming for this record, needs to be extremely fit and healthy and should be able to trek at high altitudes.
When asked about his experience of teaming up with Thakur, he says that the association was a memorable experience for both. Talking about the reaction of trekkers who dined at their pop-up restaurant, he says that it was a treat for them. “It is so tough to find a basic meal on mountains, let alone a fine-dining restaurant. They enjoyed the food to their hearts’ content and for them to get some like this was a very different experience,” says Soundararajan.
Today, we see a lot of pop-up restaurants at festivals, concerts etc. A lot of Indian chefs put up pop-up restaurants abroad and vice versa. When asked about this growing trend, Soundararajan says that the concept of pop-ups are helping chefs to take cuisines to varies parts of the world without having to set up an actual restaurant. “Pop-up restaurants are temporary and can be installed quickly — it is a great way to make the world taste your cuisine at a much lesser price and time frame. The trend of pop-ups is simply helping create more awareness about food and gastronomy,” he concludes.