It was a childhood dream for Anushka Pathak to enter into the restaurant business. “Although I don’t cook, my travels along with the hardwork and sacrifice that people in the culinary industry make always inspired me to give them credit where it’s due,” she points by adding that no day is the same and we’re only as good as our last customer experience - even if they've come in for the 104th time - but that’s the beauty of it. There is no harmony or monotony but that’s what helps us put our best foot forward under pressure. She started Nava, an ingredient-focused restaurant in Bandra, Mumbai this year. “It’s no secret that Bandra West has an abundance of eateries to choose from when it comes to the decision making process of your next dine out destination. However, closer to the end of the second pandemic-induced lockdown, we concluded that despite the suburb’s extensive food & beverage scene, there was a visible void - owing to the lack of an ingredient-forward restaurant in the area. We realized that almost (if not all) restaurants in the said category were based in South Mumbai,” she added and that’s when her culinary journey began.
5 tips you would want to share with fellow women restaurant owners.
○ Take each day as it comes because it will never be the same
○ Make it a point to have female employees across departments - including the kitchen and front of house
○ It’s not all glitz and glamor - finances and budgets are everything
○ Leadership is playing both good cop and bad cop and that’s okay
○ You have to be crazy about something to do something worthwhile
When did you think of doing an ingredient-focused restaurant? How do you research and decide on the menu?
When we were conceptualizing the restaurant, our overarching goal was to bridge the aforementioned gap and make ingredient-driven food ‘accessible’ on this side of the sea link. Therefore, with Bandra’s diverse clientele that extends across age groups, the heart of Mumbai was the most adequate choice for us to bring our project to life. When we got down to the creative process of drafting the menu and thereby sourcing ingredients for the same, the agenda was to be creative while retaining a sense of familiarity and nostalgia throughout the food that we were putting on the table. All our chefs in the kitchen belong to/have grown up in different parts of India. We held a briefing at the very beginning of food trials wherein our Head Chef had everyone bring in one ingredient that they individually or their family/ancestors grew up eating. This task didn’t just apply to chefs but also applied to our mixologists and myself as the founder too. I’m originally from a small town called Satna in Madhya Pradesh and my family business is in mining. There is a certain citrus fruit that grows abundantly across our mines called ‘Kaitha’ i.e. ‘Wood Apple’. I grew up eating chutney that was made out of it and Kaitha is now the second course on this season’s 6-course vegetarian Chef’s Tasting menu. Similarly, all of the ingredients that were brought in by other employees are central elements in dishes across our food and beverage offerings. The benefit of the above was that the process helped us find our suppliers directly. We leveraged the regional diversity of our team and their personal knowledge of where they grew up along with their rapport with local vendors from those respective regions to source our ingredients, thereby making supply chain logistics convenient for us in the long run as well.
Who is your inspiration from the Indian hospitality industry?
Gauri Devidayal - what she’s done with her business is not only intriguing but also empowering
Top Trends that you foresee
● Cuisine agnosticism is here to stay - ingredient is the hero
● The presence of female chefs and mixologists is on the uprise
● Subsidiary kitchens (such as cloud kitchens running out of existing dine-in standalone restaurants) will take center stage and add value to the brand (as they already are)
● Sustainability will not be a “buzz-word” but an imperative for an industrial kitchen