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Hospitality: Did I still want to start my own restaurant?

india Updated: Mar 09, 2008 00:54 IST
Purva Mehra
Purva Mehra
Hindustan Times
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I've always wanted to open a restaurant. I had it all figured out. It would be a combination of good food, great ambience and maybe even a theme for extra flourish. Keen friends also signed up for this imaginary venture.

An indicator of the popularity of this ambition was the number of restaurants that had launched in Bandra in a matter of six months. Suddenly there were new take away menus delivered at the doorstep everyday, two Italian restaurants in place of none and a host of perennially occupied cafés. This implied two things: Eating out was no longer a weekend tradition, starting up a restaurant was the seeming formula for immediate success (given the increase in expendable income).

This incidence of restaurants mushrooming wasn't restricted to the suburbs alone. Many had young entrepreneurs at the helm armed only with a basic degree in hotel management. Yet their little outfits appeared to be buzzing and the cash register continuously clicking.

Kainaz was the ideal prototype of this generation of young restaurateurs making an enviable sum of money in her 20's at a job she loved to do. The days I spent with her were memorable for the large amount of chocolate and pastries I was pleaded to consume (mine was only a surface resistance).

Enacting the part of official taster, as we hopped across Kainaz's four kitchens was the reason I visited her café, Theobroma, more frequently, in the pretense of redoing bits of the interview or asking more questions.

However spending time with Kainaz I realized that stress, erratic working hours and unpredictable mishaps posed as the evils in her Hansel and Gretel fairytale. While the shop front represented a picture of composure and orderliness, in the kitchen Kainaz was putting out fires everywhere. A missing ingredient, a tweaked recipe, and surprise visits from health inspectors were part of her daily fare.

Did I still want to start my own restaurant? I did, but not solely on the basis of my passion for food (and recipes gathered from episodes of Top Chef on AXN). Kainaz's example made a strong case for formal training and adequate experience before donning the chef's hat.

Like Kainaz, Pranav was infinitely passionate about his job as bartender. I watched him breathe life into a dull corporate party with his flair skills. While its not hard to coerce a bunch of 9 to 9 office goers into having a drink, Pranav infected them with his charming talk, his wicked humour and his love for dance, getting the inhibited group to boogey on the empty dancefloor.

At 24, he has done the rounds of the city's most illustrious nightclubs and has bought himself a car with the tips he's saved. And even though Pranav fixes a mean Sangria, he never intends to get his customers inebriated nor does he ever drink on the job.

Although a teetotaler, I had lots to learn from Pranav. From his effusiveness I understood that my timidity had no chance of survival as I aspire for a spot in this burgeoning industry.