The Team

The team at Chaiwala is peerless, having held positions in kitchens, bars and hospitality all over the world for many years. The team comes together at Chaiwala to bring guests the ultimate dining experience. Expect great food, great drinks and exceptional service.

Prabir Banerjee

Executive Chef

Chef Prabir Banerjee was born and raised in India with a passion for food instilled in him following years of exploring new flavours and ingredients. With more than 18 years of experience in the culinary arts, Chef Prabir is a veteran chef with a unique perspective on food.

Through experience gained at celebrated establishments in Bangalore and formal training from the Vidyasagar Institute of Hotel Management in West Bengal, Chef Prabir has spent immense effort and time honing his craft. He possesses top-notch skills in managing talented teams, sourcing top-quality produce and ensuring smooth operations within the kitchen. With a flair for experimentation and innovation, Chef Prabir never fails to impress with delectable dishes plated beautifully. Specializing in Indian cuisine, Chef Prabir has also had a hand in crafting menus showcasing dishes from various global cuisine types. As a part of the Pirata Group team, Chef Prabir injects a creative ingenuity into the dishes at Chaiwala, a modern Indian restaurant located in the heart of Central.

Balaji Balachander

Culinary Director

Chef Balaji Balachander, known to his friends and colleagues as Bala, is a long-time friend of Pirata Group co-founder Manuel Palacio. He is offering a helping hand to Pirata Group by supervising the quality of food from across India.

Chef Bala is known internationally for his experience at Michelin-starred Benares, London. He has since returned home to Chennai where he opened his own restaurant SALT in 2015, much to the delight of his friends and family. Now with three locations in Chennai and Bangalore, SALT’s “Indian soul food” has become a favourite amongst locals and visitors alike.

Bala’s culinary journey started at a young age in his mother’s kitchen, and after catering college in Chennai he was appointed to his first position at the Taj Coromandel, where he was promoted to running the kitchen at their award-winning restaurant Southern Spice.

Antonino Assenzo

General Manager

Passionate about hospitality since a young age, General Manager Antonino Assenzo is keen to develop and offer new exceptional dining experience to all of Pirata Group’s guests. Born and raised in Sicily, he started travelling around Italy soon after his Catering and Tourism vocational school graduation to gain experience in hotels and restaurants. He later moved to the UK to expand his knowledge and skills at international level.

In London, Antonino built his career working for the restaurants at renowned art galleries and cultural hubs, such as the Tate Modern and the National Gallery. Over a 10-year long experience, he had the opportunity to learn about British and worldwide cuisines, F&B UK regulations, and to understand the key ways to provide the best customer service to local Londoners and tourists. He developed his strong leadership and people skills at work, as well as during his Hospitality Management Degree studies at University of West London.

Antonino’s desire to take on new challenges and explore into the industry led him to experience the fine dining world whilst working at the Hakkasan Group. His last adventure before moving to Hong Kong was at a Brazilian Nikkei restaurant. Antonino he is super excited to lead three Pirata Group brands to success, always with passion, a bit of fun, and high professionalism.


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