Chef of staff

Activist Shabana Azmi looks goregous in pink kurta. (AFP Photo)

About 10 years ago, economist and management consultant Rohini Dey had a change of heart — the PhD holder chucked her comfortable career in finance to start her own Indian restaurant. And that too in one of the most competitive cities in the world, when it comes to the food business -- New York. “Before I came to the US, I’d lived in 14 places all over India, so I was very familiar with Indian food. On a trip to South America, I fell in love with the local fare. That’s when I decided to marry the two and start my own place,” says Dey, who is the owner of Vermilion, a restaurant that lists Indian-Latin American dishes on its menu. 

Now, Dey is looking for talent from India to lead the kitchens at her NY and Chicago establishments for a year. The best news is that this opportunity is open to anyone. Dey is conducting a ‘chef hunt’ where you can register to participate on her website (see box) and then have eminent judges such as Shabana Azmi, Nikhil Chib, Vikas Khanna, Rahul Akerkar, Sharmila Tagore and Marryam Reshii, among others, taste your food. “I want to give a global platform to Indian chefs. I’m not looking for the typical ‘I’ll add curry powder to everything’ kind of cook, but someone who understands international palates,” says Dey.

The cook offs will take place in Mumbai at Indigo, Colaba and Delhi at Qba, Connaught Place on April 23 and 30, respectively. The chefs will present their creations to the judges and also be interviewed briefly. “Ideally, I’m looking for someone who can not only be a leader, but also understands other aspects of the restaurant business such as hiring, inventory planning and costs,” says Dey. “He or she should have a solid footing in Indian food.”

Dey visits India every year and is happy to see the change in the culinary scene. With so many international restaurants opening shop here, will we see Vermilion in India soon? “If your readers are ready to fund me,” says Dey, laughing. “But seriously, who knows? Mumbai’s food space is bursting right now. Maybe in the future.”


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