'Introducing Italian food has been adventurous'

Chef's diary

'Introducing Italian food has been adventurous'

She experimented with Italian food at a time when very few Italian ingredients were available in India. At that time the only thing people in India knew about Italian food was pizzas and pastas.

Yet, despite several challenges, chef Ritu Dalmia opened Cafe Diva in 2001, with Italian food as its speciality. Today, she runs as many as seven restaurants in the city and continues to feel determined to serve innovative and different dishes to people.

Recently, during the Mercedez-Benz Luxe Drive in Gurgaon, Dalmia prepared authentic Italian delicacies for a diverse audience. In a chat with Metrolife, she gets candid telling about her journey as a chef, her focus on her restaurants  and her views on the current food scene in India.

Excerpts:

Tell us about your love for Italian cuisine?

My interest in Italian food began during a school trip to Italy, I was just 10 at that time I then joined my father’s marble business at the age of 16 and it was then when I extensively explored Italy. That is when I fell in love with Italian food.  I think that was when I knew that I wanted to be a chef. There has been no looking back since then.

What difficulties did you face while introducing Italian food?

When I first opened Diva in 2001, there were very few ingredients available in India. It used to be a scramble of cheeses, olive oils and meats. At the time, not all guests had a palate for Italian food. So it was an interesting time — both in the kitchen and with guests. But it has been adventurous all the way.

How has your journey been so far?

It has been super fun. My restaurants have given me immense joy. Some moments of heartbreak have been there. But if someone asks me, ‘Would you do something different if you go back in time?’ my answer will be a ‘no’.

What is the focus of your restaurants?

All our restaurants have their own character, personality, and special menus. They are all about exploring food from around the world and are not only restricted to Italian food. The menus in each of my restaurants have something that I saw and loved during my travels.

Is there anything that you love or hate about your job?

It’s important to wear many hats and not only a chef’s hat. What I love more than anything is to be in the kitchen and with my guests. There is nothing that I can say I hate per se, that’s a very strong word.

What is the current food scene in India?

I think it is a very exciting time in India. People are welltravelled and there is a huge space for entrepreneurs. Today, I see many youngsters  doing things that I couldn’t even have imagine during the time I started.  So I am all for youngsters making a mark in the food scene in India.

Which is your favourite food?

I have always been a huge fan of homemade simple food! 

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