I opened up a restaurant.
And in a boom, it closed down in 1.5 Years. And I Went into depression
I went into a big depression. So when I was homeless on the streets with a sleeping bag A friend of mine picked me up And that is where the real change happened. When a baby is born, his first interaction with food is done with the family. Maternal Grandmother, Paternal Grandmother, Mother feed them food, and the infant understands that there is food beyond milk. And food is a very important entity in an Indian Household. It’s a very important point in the conversation in an Indian home. And that happened with me as well, Especially in that 70s era when only one channel was broadcasted. We had fewer choices and life was very straight directional. There were a lot of discussions about food. And being a part of that generation, food actually got imprinted on our DNA naturally. So the first interaction was when Daadi as a magician, you know frail old woman, as a magician, used to go to the kitchen, when she heard the magic word, “Daadi Bhukh lagi hai” And daadi went to the kitchen and cooked things. It felt like this is some sort of powerful magic chamber. After that, My grandfather used to take me to Gurudwara every Sunday. He was army personnel, so being disciplined was natural. So every Sunday, with his turban tied, he used to go to Gurudwara. I used to sit on the backseat of his cycle and used to go there as well. So I was 5-6 Year old and didn’t have much to do there. I was naturally gravitated towards langar since it was the place where the real action happened. So, when people used to worship and all, I was sitting there, interacting and observing things. This was an establishment of a relationship with food. Someone also told me to do something instead of just slogging around. So, at the age of 13, I cooked something for the first time. It was Sweet rice(Meethe Chawal) I was happy that I can cook as well. So I started getting into it, but it was not my choice of profession. The turning point in my life came when I started exploring Lucknow even more. Teenage friendships, Roaming Around, leaving home for an hour and coming back after 4. Bunking school & stuff like that. That is when you explore the city. And moreover, when you explore Lucknow, you realize that Food isn’t a hot topic just for our family & friends, but for the whole city. And that is where the real change happened for me. The relationship of Lucknow with food, that relationship was bigger than my relationship with food & more endearing. I thought about it and that relationship attracted me. Lucknow’s relationship to food attracted me because it was better Or bigger than my relationship to food. I thought that this is something I have to do There used to be a man who cooked kebabs, I asked him If I can learn work from him. He was very talkative, his name was Munir Chacha. He used to talk about incidents and facts to every customer he sold kebabs to, as it is prominent in Lucknow. I enjoyed a lot talking to him. One day, I asked him about learning how the craft from him. I was 15 Years old. He told me to come, and I went back and I told my parents that I have taken my career decision, and I And I am going to become a cook. I want to become a cook just like Muneer chacha. Till now,It was all innocence. Suddenly, now we are moving to India in the 90s. That time, you could have either become a Doctor, Engineer or try for UPSC after graduation. Being a chef was not an option. My father was an IIT Kanpur graduate, gold medalist. So there was a pressure to maintain the legacy as well Parents claimed that the boy has gone crazy. And the parents said you’re just a child, you don’t know anything about your future. That was the time when that innocence crossed that line. And that stubbornness kicked in that this is what I want to be. It was probably adolescence, teenage, a small town bottled up kid, wanting to break through. All of it together. And that stubbornness made my claim that I will show you that I can do it. I will prove my seriousness towards this. Everyone thought it to be just a few days thing. So I Went to Munir Chacha and I was there with him for 8 months. I had a bargain with him, this is when I was 16 and a half. I used to cook kebabs with him. Being stubborn has another advantage, it makes you responsible since you have to prove what you say. Munir Chacha’s formula was simple. Wake up in the morning, put the coal on the rooftop, when it dries, bring it down in the evening and keep it in basement The point isn’t how much cooking I learned, but the kind of work ethic it inculcated in me. And when I reached Hotel School, there were Big steel tables. I used to work on that wooden log and suddenly you are in the hotel school since parents agreed to it. And then you see these steel tables, and I thought that I cannot do this. This all involves Hi-fi chef coat wearing work. I was literally shaking, nervous that How will I work among these big people. But when I cut my first fish, there was a fish in the table, I got it all. It’s my relationship with food and the tool that I have that matters, not the place. And that is the lesson that has remained with me forever. It’s our relationship that matters, It’s our relationship with what we deal with that matter. The surroundings don’t. Life went on, and it progressed a lot. By God’s grace, I became an executive chef at the age of 25 And then, Arrogance kicked in. I thought I am the real deal since whatever I touch becomes gold. And then, when the whole thing got into my head, I moved to the US, opened up a restaurant. And in a boom, it closed down in 1.5 Years. I got destroyed due to my arrogance. And I went into depression. I went into a big depression. My business partners called me and gave me a cheque for 5000$, saying thank you very much, you aren’t required from tomorrow. And I was a partner in that restaurant. And I was told that this is what you deserve. And the restaurant filed for bankruptcy. And I don’t know how, but magically, I was at psychiatric counseling, because I felt I was very depressed. And I started getting calls from India, even though I hadn’t informed anyone that I was going through a bad phase. People whom I had helped at some point started calling me Telling me that they are working in Ireland by my grace. Suddenly people started calling. 2 Things happened. First, it bought back my confidence to bounce back. And that relationship with people that it gave back to me. When I was homeless on the streets, with a sleeping bag, a friend of mine picked me up. He got really angry when I was refusing him to help me. He helped me anyway, by displaying 2 menus in his restaurant. One was his, one was mine. This actually bought back my ‘stubbornness to win’ back. And when you are rock-bottom, you become even more stubborn, to bounce back and win. And I came back with more stubbornness. And I also came back with more faith. Sometimes you just do things, and you believe that you will get rewards for it. And when that happens, you get faith back, you have faith in what you do. When I got it back from so many ways Friends, People I had done with, I umm, I got my faith and my stubbornness back. And after that, From nothing, I opened up 5 restaurants in the USA, some in Canada. The next test of stubbornness happened when my father was diagnosed with Cancer. I came back to India and had decided that I won’t let my father go. And he is here. He is kicking. And we are extremely happy. And whenever I get ready to cook, this is how I want to end it, I am who I am, right. And the real me comes out when I see a fire. And when I start to cook, initially its all about being stubborn, that I ought to craft the creation that I have in my mind. And then there is Faith, faith in that fire, that the final product, the biryani, will be a masterpiece. You know So between that stubbornness, & that faith and my relationship with food, is where my life has happened. You know And I am so glad, I am so glad, that I went through what I went through. It can either be that A man makes you count his accomplishments, but I am looking forward to my next failure, I am looking forward To going down again, because it is an amazing source of strength. We can all learn from each other’s life. What one can learn from my life is that one’s relationship with his medium, craft, and skill set is very important. Relationships are everything. Me and my relationship to food is who I am. And I have the stubbornness, to live life my way as long as I have that relationship with me. Relationship, Stubbornness and Faith, that is I would pass down if I have to pass down something. Thank You very much.