This Mumbai-born Parsee is the Chef Patron of Café Spice Namaste, Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen, Assado, and The Park Café in London, United Kingdom.
From ‘chef of genius’ to ‘creator of the classiest curries in the City’ and in 2014 ‘BBC Food Personality of the Year’, Cyrus Todiwala has been called all manner of good things. This Mumbai-born Parsee is the Chef Patron of Café Spice Namaste, Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen, Assado, and The Park Café in London, United Kingdom.
Since a young age, Todiwala loved to cook. When he was a boarder in a school outside Mumbai, he had the privilege to help out at his uncle’s hotel. Here, he spent a lot of time in and around the kitchen and learnt the workings of a restaurant. “I had my mum to inspire me [too]. Then came college and the diploma in Hospitality where cooking took my fancy again,” says Todiwala, about a career that was not as highlighted or heard of then as it is today.
About 25 years ago, he decided to leave a secure Executive Chef role in the Taj Group of Hotels in Goa to start all over in the UK with his wife and kids. “I had no idea what I was getting into. But perseverance paid its dividends and eventually what I set out to do we did. It was all about getting the job done well, introducing our great cuisines to an ever discerning British public and working hard to train and develop people who would help achieve our immediate goals and objectives. Word spread and new partners found us and Café Spice Namaste happened. That then brought with it a chapter in our careers,” recalls Todiwala, of his initial years of hardship and success in UK.
In 2011, with his wife Pervin, Todiwala opened Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen, the signature restaurant at the Hilton London Heathrow T5 and in 2013, The Park Café at Victoria Park East, followed a year later by Assado by Cyrus Todiwala in the Hampton by Hilton in Waterloo. Today, he cooks, teaches, runs three successful restaurants, and does more than his fair bit for charity and the community.
Todiwala believes that food has transformed his life. “From being conservative to now being bold and wildly expressive, I find that my life has taken a great turn. Today, I grab every opportunity and use it as best as I can,” he says, calling food a big influencer “From what we buy to what we cook to what we eat, food is all around and captivating. Food influences your thoughts, the people around you, your style, your creativity, and your interests. The more you learn, the more you crave for more knowledge and the more your passion deepens, and this influences creativity and endorses your style.”
Through his food and restaurants, Todiwala has introduced Parsee cuisine, culture and heritage to the locals. Khaadraas Club Dinners held at Café Spice Namaste every four to five weeks feature heirloom recipes from his mother and aunts in Mumbai and India. “I have a responsibility towards the Sub-Continent as a whole and more so towards India and we have always tried our very best to keep that balance,” he adds.
The popular chef is the author of five books: International Cuisine: India; Café Spice Namaste: New Wave Indian Cuisine; Indian Summer; The Incredible Spice Men with Tony Singh, published by Ebury and the BBC, and nominated for a 2013 Specsavers National Book Award; and Mr Todiwala’s Bombay: Recipes and Memories from India, nominated for a 2013 World Food Awards Cookbook of the Year.
Being a celebrity chef, he appears regularly at top food festivals around the world, including the BBC Good Food Show and Taste of London. Todiwala is the proud recipient of a Craft Guild of Chefs Special Award and has been made Fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and the Master Chefs of Great Britain.
The celebrated chef has a busy schedule ahead. He states that his future plans comprises of “another new restaurant being added to the Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen Collection, introducing The Khaadraas Club in our restaurant in Goa, a new cook book, launching a new small business, and just managing day to day work and life, hoping that I can somehow take a bit more time off and travel a little more.”
He hopes to build a school of Asian and Oriental cookery someday. “To train young and older people to develop into Asian chefs and hence offer the industry wholly trained chefs ready for a job in one of the many cuisines of Asia. That way we can share our knowledge and skills and train others to help the food industry and culture grow in Britain” concludes Todiwala.
What advice would you give young chefs about to start their culinary journey?
The first piece of advice I have to give young upcoming chefs is “BE PATIENT,” good will come your way. Work hard, talk less, ask more, and listen and learn. Get better at one thing at a time and don’t try to be good at everything at first. Keep your eyes open and learn. Be inquisitive. Also be respectful and treat people with kindness and the world will open up to you. Do not be hasty to rise fast, remember that there are always others who know better than us. So the more skills you develop first, the easier it will be for you to conduct your own brigade better. Do not be afraid though, our hard work and perseverance pays off in the end.
What do you think of the contributions of Indians to their immigrated countries?
Indians unlike immigrant communities are more often than not very hard working and very contributive to the society around them. Be it UK, USA, Canada or Australia, the four greatest regions of Indian migrations, Indians have created wealth with hard work, grit and determination and often under severe restrictions and pressure.
Indians have always given back more than they could hope to receive and most of all the Indian diaspora globally gives back to India far more than the wealthiest Indians in India would ever imagine.