Jasmeen Dugal  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Mention the word chef, and the mind conjures up an image of a jolly man in a tall white hat. Dispelling this stereotype, Ritu Dalmia broke the glass ceiling at 21 and launched nine restaurants in India, Italy and the UK, authored four books and hosted two television shows. Last week she launched Diva Goa. In conversation with the master chef synonymous with Italian cuisine.


''Diva Goa was just a one-minute-to-another-minute decision. My good friend and architect Edgar Afonso talked me into it and I just said 'yes'… it was not about market study or a part of some strategic plan! Truth be told, I didn't take any advice either; I just plunged into it. 'Diva Goa' reflects my core focus, without which I would not do a 'Diva', since we do not operate on a franchise model and all restaurants are controlled and managed by us; it represents what all our Divas are about i.e. simple, authentic and high quality Italian; no fuss, just good food.''


What do you find challenging as a restaurateur, I ask her. ''Like any other business, trained man power is the biggest challenge we face in the hospitality industry. Although, I love everything about the work I do, including the challenges, the high, the rush, the happy content faces of clients, the long hours… it's very, very addictive! We change the menu constantly, the decor is refreshed every five years, and each time I travel and see something new, I come back and try it out with my team; we just don't let boredom set in'' she grinned. So, what is the most important factor for a culinary experience, I persist? ''For me, it's the quality of food and service, with a genuine smile; everything else is irrelevant. You know, I've often been asked if I believe that part of creating a successful restaurant is constant contact with clients and if social media is the route or a more personal touch… and I maintain that I'm old fashioned and don't understand social media much; however much advanced social media may become, it can never replace the personal human touch.''


What's missing from the restaurant scene, I ask the lady who has travelled the world and helms restaurants in Europe? ''What's missing in India is easy dining places with very high quality food. It's a need gap. I think the restaurants in India are at a stage where they are still evolving. The eating-out rate here is much lower than most countries in the world, perhaps because our food culture is so rich that we are a bit slow in accepting and trying world cuisine… this mindset is changing now but we still have a long way to go.'' What's next on your platter, I ask as we wind up the interview. ''I cannot even plan what I will do tomorrow so how can I tell you what's next on the platter ;-) ''

RITU DALMIA Ritu Dalmia, the master chef synonymous with Italian cuisine!

RITU DALMIA Ritu Dalmia in the kitchen


RITU DALMIA One of Ritu's culinary creations!



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