The man behind The Maine and Barbary has achieved success with unlikely concepts in unlikely locations. And he’s ready to open two new restaurants in 2019
Debonair shares a table with the restaurateur who spearheads modernist Indian cuisine with his father Jiggs Kalra through celebrated concepts such as Masala Library, Pa Pa Ya and Farzi Café
Eduan R. Maggo
What’s your earliest food memory? I was on a road trip across Scotland and Wales with my family. We stayed at nine bed and breakfasts along the way, and we did a full gastronomic journey along the coast. It was an amazing experience because we got to try “farm-to-fork” food for the first time, long before the term even existed.
How did you enter the industry? I grew up not just on fantastic dinners but fascinating dinner table conversations as well. Food became my passion. So, after my MBA I decided to set up a business that would capitalise on my father’s expertise and my passion, and I decided to go full-throttle in the business with brands such as Masala Library, Pa Pa Ya and Farzi Café.
Professional kitchens are renowned as stressful environments. How do you handle the pressure? Most workplaces have their own quotient of stress, and a professional kitchen can get very hectic. The best way to handle the pressure in my opinion is to take a deep breath and move on.
How often do you cook outside the workplace? I don’t cook. As a restaurateur, I am more keen on trying different gourmet food than cooking.
What’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at and what made it memorable? Alinea, in Chicago. It’s one of the best restaurants in the US, and the cuisine served is truly innovative. It has an unforgettable impact on the palate and is a combination of art and science served on one platter.
Conversely, what would you never eat again? I believe there is no such thing as bad food. It is either something I prefer or different.
Does a man who cooks win brownie points at home? Yes, cooking can earn you great brownie points. Of course, many men are excellent chefs, but you don’t have to be — even cooking simple, delicious meals at home is an amazing treat for your loved ones.
What’s your top life hack for the layman in the kitchen? Keep it simple! This even extends to beyond the kitchen and is the key to preparing quick meals. For breakfast I like muesli, eggs, oats or sandwiches that are easy to prepare, while for other meals a bowl of salad, rice and beans or easy-to-cook curries are great options.
What new trends are you seeing, and how do you feel about them? High-protein, low-carb diets are the “in” thing for health-conscious diners at the moment. As a restaurateur, I believe in constantly updating our menus as food preferences change and evolve.
Who’d you invite to your ideal dinner table? My ideal dinner table is one with my family around it, as most of the time I am travelling for work and I get fewer chances to dine with all of them.
If you could choose your final meal, what would it be? Good Indian food.