We recently sat down with Chef Sajan Prem from Tabla in Orlando and its newer (and critically acclaimed) outpost in Winter Park. Both locations are loved by locals for authentic Indian cuisine along with Indo-Chinese and Thai fare. Many vegan, gluten-free and Jain dishes are also available.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to eat for one week, where would it be and why? Paris. French cuisine is known to be the mother of all cuisines.

Who had the biggest influence on the way you cook, and why? My mom influenced me, as she cooks very well, inspiring me to cook. Now my boss and mentor, Mrs. Nora Jain, has influenced me to come up with variety and diversified cuisine.

What’s the one type of traditional cuisine that you always wished you could prepare, and why?  Sky is the limit in the world of cuisines. I would like to learn the art of baking, pastry and confectionery.

If you weren’t a chef, what would your dream job be? I cannot think of anything other than being a chef. This is what I am most passionate about.

What advice would you share with chefs just beginning their careers? Be dedicated, passionate and focused; never give up; never take shortcuts.

If you could change one thing about Orlando’s food scene, what would it be? I would want my customers to explore the depth of Indian cuisine, and not just pertaining to my food but also exploring whatever cuisine they wish to its real depth. Try the local, homemade, authentic dishes, not just what is popular or mainstream. That is why I have such a vast menu and so many authentic, regional options that you do not see on most Indian restaurant menus. When my guests come to eat with me I want them to experience a little bit of local Indian food scene as you would experience back in India.

What was it like for you when Florida restaurants were in lockdown? My restaurants were closed initially during lockdown, but we had delivery and pickups going on along with third party delivery vendors like Uber, Doordash, etc. Thankfully, locals enjoy my food enough that they start missing it after a few days.

How has your work day changed due to COVID? We have not had even half the volume as we did normally so we have to be more watchful of food costs. We were used to prepping and working a certain way, which has changed to prepping smaller batches to maintain freshness and quality. We are limiting the number of people that can be in the kitchen at the same time so we have to work as team and help each other and maintain the new standards of bleaching and sanitization. Lots of changes, but we are adapting to it.