Hemant Oberoi and his wife Mallika at 22 and 17 (inset) and now (above), at 67 and 62, respectively
Hemant Oberoi and his wife Mallika at 22 and 17 (inset) and now (above), at 67 and 62, respectively

“When I was 22, a meal at Kailash Parbat cost 1,” says chef Hemant Oberoi

The celebrated chef reminisces about working as a sous chef of Tanjore at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, earning his first stipend of was 150, dating his now-wife and his favourite places to eat at then
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 09:31 PM IST

At 22, where were you career-wise?

I was a sous chef of Tanjore, the Indian restaurant at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.

The money situation?

Not too great, but I could survive in Mumbai. My first stipend was 150.Then I approached the management and it was increased to 500. After that I lived like a king.

A picture clicked by chef Hemant when he started to date his wife in Delhi
A picture clicked by chef Hemant when he started to date his wife in Delhi

What kind of food did you enjoy eating?

I remember going to a restaurant called Kailash Parbat, where we ate a meal for 1. My colleagues and I loved exploring and would often go to Grant Road to eat Delhi Darbar biryani that cost 4-5, and there also used to be a Chinese restaurant called Sea High where we could grab a good meal for 15!

And your romantic life?

Was already dating Mallika, who is my wife now.

Chef Hemant Oberoi getting married to his then girlfriend, Mallika Soni
Chef Hemant Oberoi getting married to his then girlfriend, Mallika Soni

What was your focus in life?

The moment I joined the kitchens of Taj, I had my goal in place and that was to become the executive chef of Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai one day. I was pretty focussed and passionate about my work.  

Was your family supportive?

My parents and siblings were very supportive. But the neighbours and relatives were biased towards my choice of profession initially. Later, everyone did support me. 

On his first trip to the US, in LA
On his first trip to the US, in LA

Tell us about your sense of fashion?

I wore bell-bottomed pants too many times for a year or so. Then I started travelling and buying branded clothes, watches etc.

What did you do for fitness?

I played cricket to stay fit. 

The chef (far left) at his late sister Jyoti’s wedding in Delhi
The chef (far left) at his late sister Jyoti’s wedding in Delhi

And your most prized possession?

My scooter and the first watch that I bought - it was an HMT.

And your biggest dream?

To have few restaurants around the globe, serving real Indian food. 

The chef (second from left) with his parents, Shanti Devi and Prakash Chandra, and sisters Sheel Jolly and Jyoti Handi
The chef (second from left) with his parents, Shanti Devi and Prakash Chandra, and sisters Sheel Jolly and Jyoti Handi

One thing you’d want to rewind and change about yourself would be?

I wish there were more hours in a day so that I could learn much more.

The biggest life lesson you learnt?

Do not run after money, let money chase you!

From HT Brunch, March 7, 2021

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP