mid-day's 39th anniversary: Food for thought

By Dhara Vora Sabhnani | Mumbai

From his playful antics as a 10-year-old in his father's restaurant to working with some of the world's top chefs, a food entrepreneur comes a long way

It's not just the big names, but budding sous chefs too that Shetye supports through Chef's Table Week

Nachiket Shetye, 36
Director and co-founder, Cellar Door Hospitality

What you eat as a kid decides what you'll like on your plate for the rest of your life. And in the case of Nachiket Shetye, chef and director of Cellar Door Hospitality, it was what people ate around him at his father's Chinese restaurant, Nish at Kemps Corner, that defined his career. "It was exciting to go to the restaurant after school. I was more interested in spending time with the chefs than at the front desk," Shetye tells us.

And with time, his love for cooking grew. After graduating from HR College, he went to the Culinary Institute of America. And ended up working with some of the finest in the business including at legendary Japanese restaurant, Nobu. After five years in New York, he returned to Mumbai to open his first restaurant, which was Asian of course, and he called it East. Here, he met his future business partner, Mangal Dalal, a food writer. In 2012, Shetye got married and felt that he couldn't let family take a backseat while he worked 14 hours a day. He decided to shut down the eatery. By then, he had recognised the potential of the hospitality consulting market.

Since he and Dalal had experienced Restaurant Week in New York and London respectively, they realised they could replicate the format in India. In addition to Restaurant Week, Cellar Door curated pop-ups with famous chefs Gaggan Anand, Dharshan Munidasa and Ritu Dalmia. They also run Food With Benefits, a culinary fundraising programme. Apart from the big names, they work with promising young chefs to curate a six-course tasting menu for Chef's Table Week. "We want to provide a platform to the sous chefs, who work with some of the biggest restaurants but don't get a chance to showcase their skills. We understand what people go through to reach a certain level, and this is their moment of fame," Shetye says.

Having worked with countless restaurants, Shetye feels that although the industry in India is headed in the right direction, "we still have a long way to go. The copycat syndrome, and resorting to serving cheap alcohol to young drinkers isn't a formula that will survive. But with time, those who entered the industry for the glamour will fade. Only the serious survive. All we need now is support from the government for hospitality-friendly policies."

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