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Women don’t realise their strength’

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TodiwalaShe encountered a lot of upheaval in life but was undeterred by the situation. Mrs Pervin Todiwala, the co-founder of London-based Café Spice Namaste, in a chit-chat with Asian Lite, talks about her journey from Bombay to Britain. The co-founder and patron of Café Spice Namaste, the Indian restaurant she set up in London with her celebrity TV chef husband, Cyrus Todiwala, two decades ago, is today at the centre of one of the most dynamic and enduring family business in the UK’s £3 billion Asian cuisine industry. However, the journey wasn’t a cake-walk for the couple. “The initial hurdle when we were new to this country was quite big. Cyrus had come to the UK on a work visa, and the company that brought him here went into financial crisis. Overnight, we became homeless following the takeover of the house which was included as part of the agreement with the previous owners, and of course, the struggle with the Home Offi ce,” said Pervin, also the cofounder and director of Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, The Park Café and Assado. She helped Cyrus when he took over the restaurant. Pervin’s second career as a happy ‘domestic engineer’ didn’t end until 1993 when, now fi rmly rooted in the UK with her family, she decided to embark on a new calling. Since then, she’s been working as a restaurateur and overseeing the front of house and operational side of Café Spice Namaste while helping to expand the family business. “During our rough days, cousins and family members helped us but we never ever put our hands out. Also, there was a strong purpose not to go back as returning to India at that time would’ve meant defeat,” said Pervin who’s a graduate with honours from Mumbai’s prestigious Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition. Recalling her past, the former chef of Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel, said that Café Spice Namaste broke-even in its first year itself. “It was a proud moment for all of us, we got tremendous support from the staff who are still with us,” said Pervin who prefers to call herself as a Bombay-born girl. If Cyrus is in every inch the culinary master, Pervin is the entrepreneurial backbone. Her business and marketing savvy are evident not only in the continued popularity and adaptability of the restaurant businesses, but in the development of a line of hand-made condiments under the Mr Todiwala’s Splendidly Pickles & Chutney’s brand. Giving a sneak-peak into the current scenario of Asian cuisine, Pervin who firmly believes in the saying, ‘nothing is impossible in life’, said that the cuisine has revolutionised the global food industry. “These days, most of the top chefs in the world use Asian stuff which is an unseen revolution. “Despite this, the concept of Indian food is still cheap and cheerful,” said the recipient of Michelin BIB Gourmand Award. “When people buy Italian food, they never complain about its price even if a plate of pasta costs them more than £10 but when it comes to Indian food, our fellow people say that these stuff can be made at home. You may be able to make them at home, but you won’t get the same taste, flavour and aroma that you get in our food,” Pervin who was recognised for her contribution to entrepreneurship with a 2013 TIAW 100 World Difference Award from The International Alliance for Women, argued. However, Pervin who was made an Honorary Dame d’ Escoffi er of the Les Dames d’Escoffi er, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fi elds of food and hospitality, in 2013, was upset about the fact that there are still very few women chefs. “Why is it that most of the women still don’t consider a career in the hospitality industry? The industry is run mostly by men. Though not physically, but women are stronger than men, and we don’t realise our strength,” said the mother of two sons. And if you ask, what makes her tick? “Always think positive in life,” says Pervin, who likes to do her own things in her kitchen although she doesn’t hesitate to take advice from her celebrity husband.   @@@Anjana Parikh

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