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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Great food shouldn’t come at premium prices: Zorawar

Restaurateur, Zorawar Kalra, speaks of his upcoming venture and his father, Jiggs Kalra.

more-lifestyle Updated: Jul 23, 2019 16:47 IST
Yoshita Rao
Yoshita Rao
Zorawar Kalra
Zorawar Kalra

It’s been over a month since the death of one of the foremost food writers of the country. And for restaurateur, Zorawar Kalra, the death of his father, Jiggs Kalra is undoubtedly a massive loss. “He was involved in every aspect of a new product development,” says the son of this legendary food critic. Now, Zorawar, is all set to reach new horizons. The launch of a youth-centric restaurant, titled Younion, in upscale Mumbai by Kalra features 200 shots on the menu to appease the millennial crowd. We got to sit down with the owner of Massive Restaurants, which recently completed five years as he reveals his plans to put Indian cuisine on the global map. Excerpts from an interview.

The launch of your new restaurant, Younion, coincides with Massive Restaurants completing five years. How does it feel?

A friend of mine once said that what I have done in five years, only few have dreamed of doing in their lifetime. We’ve been lucky to be at the right place at the right time and have been blessed with the best team. We are already in six countries and will be in seven (Oman) by the end of this month. Our goal [my father’s and mine], was to bring Indian food on the global palate. This will only be possible if we open high quality restaurants across the world.

With so many restro-bars opening in South Mumbai, what inspired you to open this millennial joint? What’s different about it?

I was taken up by the Chupitos concept in Barcelona, Spain, but those are shots bars. In India, that alone would not work and so we added on additional aspects like community cocktails, entertainers, etcetera.

The new restaurant will be cuisine agnostic. There are also 200 shots and eight bartenders, who are equipped to make these. Abhi doh bhag gaye (Two bartenders ran away), and we got scared. (laughs). The cheapest shot here will start at Rs 50.

Younion, recently opened at Lower Parel, Mumbai, features over 200 shots on the menu. Its jungle-themed vibe has Stormtrooper helmets along with branches and creepers as part of the decor.
Younion, recently opened at Lower Parel, Mumbai, features over 200 shots on the menu. Its jungle-themed vibe has Stormtrooper helmets along with branches and creepers as part of the decor.

Growing up with Jiggs Kalra, was it a natural interest for you to get involved with food and the restaurant business?

It was fairly impossible to avoid exposure to the wonderful world of the restaurant business. I was enamored by what he did as I saw him travel across the world. And, in my pre-teen years itself, I decided that I wanted to be a part of this industry.

What were the major leanings, in terms of running the business or even life, in general, from your father?

My father was the biggest influencer in my life. I emulate him. The most important thing he taught me was the sense of responsibility towards Indian food. He worked diligently and tirelessly his entire life. His statement that I imbibed into my thinking was – ‘figure out what you’re passionate about, and strategise a way to make money from it’. And that’s what the restaurant business is for me. I would still be in the restaurant business even if I didn’t get paid for it.

In what ways would you say are you different from your father, when it comes to the business side of things?

I’m very different from my father. He was not a businessman, he was a great creative professional, who loved creating wonderful things. He used to call himself the “ideas millionaire” but he used to say that he doesn’t execute on all the ideas. He used to develop these amazing concepts and loved the creative, and not necessarily the administrative aspects. He had great people management skills and was a natural leader.

While Jiggs’ whole idea was fine dining, it was mostly your brainchild to bring street food to the fore. Do you feel that you are more connected to the masses?

Yes, I’m definitely more in touch with the masses. But, it wasn’t just about street food. My father mostly worked with five star hotels where the need of the hour was fine dining. However, I work all over the place — malls, high streets etc. My entire idea was to make fine dining very accessible. I don’t think great food should only be at very premium prices. My father also believed in great food being accessible to everyone but being in the arena of five star hotels, he had limited control over pricing, whereas in my case, I run the business.

We hear talks of work being in progress on taking your dad’s legacy forward. How?

There’s going to be a legacy brand of Jiggs Kalra, which will be called Jiggs. It will be based in Delhi and is going to be our flagship restaurant. Jiggs is going to be purely his [my father’s] food. It will be an all-Indian cuisine menu, untouched by any form of modernity and unapologetically authentic.

First Published: Jul 23, 2019 16:46 IST