It is the loveliest feeling in the world when you realise two extraordinary individuals you have known for years are right up there in the global culinary world, which has finally recognised the enormous potential of India’s rich, diverse cuisines thanks to their efforts at the iconic brand—Indian Accent—which is all set to conquer Mumbai palates after winning top international awards and wowing New York.
Take deep bows, Rohit Khattar and chef Manish Mehrotra. Rohit comes with admirable academic credentials and easily qualifies for the big 10 of the food and beverages industry in India, with his impressive portfolio of 30 restaurants, two hotels and India’s most comprehensive performing arts and convention centre (India Habitat Centre). It is solely Rohit’s vision, commitment, passion and hunger to excel in his industry that has won him global recognition, with Indian Accent being the only restaurant from India to make it to the world’s 50 best restaurants list.
I take both these supremely talented food wizards a little bit for granted, having known them well before they became legit international celebs. While Manish is credited for reinterpreting nostalgic Indian dishes—notably, his unbelievably light and airy ‘Daulat Ki Chaat’ dessert, which is said to have originated in Afghanistan before travelling to the royal courts of India—he started his career at my favourite neighbourhood restaurant (Thai Pavilion) with another old friend and legendary chef, Ananda Solomon. It was only after the Delhi launch of Indian Accent (2009), that Manish rose to prominence. It took two years for Dilliwalas to get used to Manish’s entirely inventive approach to old favourites, but the twists were tantalising—like the blue cheese naan! Word of mouth about the brilliant chef soon had gourmet diners flocking—and talking! He is now the culinary director and corporate chef overseeing Rohit’s food empire.
I was fortunate to be invited by Rohit to attend a pop-up in Mumbai recently, and was not sure I would meet either of them. But, hello! Chef was right there, ensuring every dish coming out of the kitchen at Jolie’s (the glam private club established by the young Aryaman Birla), was presented impeccably. I greeted him with squeals of delight while congratulating the team for the big win.
When Rohit launched Chor Bizzarre in London (1990), it created a sensation for its eccentric décor and authentic Kashmiri food. I was invited to conduct a creative writing workshop sometime around then, and to our amusement we discovered not too many desis wanted to pay for a writing workshop, and the Brits were happy with their own writers, thank you! We laughed and bravely carried on, keeping ourselves amused with Mumbai/Delhi stories and eating the most delicious khaana. Rohit’s lovely wife, Rashmi (who designs all his projects) and their two children kept us company, as we chilled out enjoying London in the spring. Little did I know then just how fast Rohit would scale up his projects and make such a huge success out of all of them. With his passion for jazz, theatre and more, Rohit is a visionary with an eclectic world view and the hard-nosed business sense to see the most challenging hospitality enterprises through.
Mumbaikars are hungrily waiting for him to launch Indian Accent at BKC, with executive chef Shantanu Mehrotra helming the restaurant. Perhaps, Rohit will get to spend more time in Mumbai once that happens. And we can hang together as we once did in London. Waiting impatiently to savour Manish’s signature masterpiece—the Daulat Ki Chaat—in Aamchi Mumbai. Go on… get your bibs on, Mumbaikars.