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