Conversation With IWBS – Kainaz Contractor

Kainaz is a B. Com graduate by education, restaurant manager by training and food writer by profession always wanted to run her own restaurant, ever since she could remember. Her dream of running a restaurant made her decide that she would spend her 20’s learning about all aspects of a restaurant. Her dream has come true in the shape of Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu and a new endeavour called Bhawan

How did you decide to dive into F&B? 

I was raised in a family where the discovery of new food was just a way of life. Being Parsi inherently instills in you a love for food. But for me, it was more than that. My father was in the Navy so I grew up in a lot of different cities with a lot of early exposure to different regional cuisines and varied street foods. Eating out was always considered a luxury, reserved for special occasions. My most vivid memory of dining out at a restaurant was Nanking in Colaba, Mumbai, where I was first introduced to the charms of the industry. To an outsider, no career seemed more fulfilling than having a bustling restaurant full of happy diners tucking into food that you couldn’t get at home. It’s safe to say that I was determined to live that life! I have, since then, been connected to the F&B industry both directly and indirectly for over a decade now. First as a restaurant manager at the Taj Hotels and then as a food writer with BBC Good Food India. Opening a restaurant was always a dream that was long harboured and everything just fell in place once Rahul and I discussed our common vision to open one in Delhi. This was in 2013. 

What’s the one thing about old restaurants that you miss today?

The over familiar and warm service extended by old-timer servers who took great pride in their job and always remembered what you liked to order. Also, the small bridge overhead the fake pond with fish at the Chinese restaurants of yore.

Does Parsi food in Delhi have a similar draw as in Mumbai?

Naturally not as much as Bombay given their long standing love affair with Irani cafes but definitely on the rise over the past few years since we opened Rustom’s. But the curiosity and intrigue surrounding the cuisine has now given way to loyalists and regulars who have graduated from not knowing anything about Parsi food to now having favourites they regularly order and introduce their friends to now. 

What was your chief principle while designing an outlet and its menu?

It has to fulfil a want or a gap in the market. We would never make generic menus and concepts that don’t excite us or the diner. It has to be food that we like to eat. Being self taught, we’ve always tried to work on familiar recipes and concepts but tried to give it a different spin, one that would possibly introduce the diner to a new flavour profile or a combination they never thought to like. All our menus undergo seasonal menu additions and changes, constantly evolving with the times and seasons. 

What is the one most important factor for you while rating a new F&B outlet?

Consistency in food, innovation and service.

What’s that one dish or drink you have never managed to like and conversely, your comfort food/drink?

I have yet to jump on the Matcha bandwagon. Not a fan. Dimsums and Dhan Dar Patio – a parsi lunch staple of steamed rice, toor dal tempered with garlic, turmeric powder and fried onions served with prawns / fish in a sweet and sour tomato curry.  

What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a hard day?

A good single malt on the rocks with a splash of water. 

Any advice to aspiring F&B professionals?

It’s going to be a long ride of learning, unlearning and adapting so put your head down and gain as much experience as you can. Put in your dues, develop your own unique style, before you own / lead your own restaurant or bar team. 

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