Mumbai-Born Chef Vicky Ratnani is a foodie first. The celebrity status is the natural progression of his love for food. From cooking for Nelson Mandela to being the chef de cuisine of the largest kitchen at sea, there are many achievements that make him a culinary icon. In a chat with our deputy editor, Ratnani shares some of these unique experiences, new ventures, and challenges of being a chef. By Adila Matra
Vicky Ratnani talks about his experiences and upcoming ventures
Tell us about your introduction to cooking. How did you become a chef?
More than cooking, my love for food started with eating. Eating with all my friends, eating at the neighbour’s house, eating sandwiches in school, and so on. I was intrigued by food and was interested in trying out different flavours from different communities. When I got into college, I realised it wasn’t for me. That’s how I got into the chef’s profession, and haven’t looked back since.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a chef? What are your greatest achievements?
The first challenge I faced was when I worked on cruise ships. It was a difficult life: 14 to 15-hour shifts, seven days a week, and living in a small cabin while staying away from my family. But it taught me to be humble, open-minded, and punctual. The other challenge came when I came back to India and set up restaurants. Both Auris and Nido were the beginning of the cool, high-energy restaurant trend in India. One of my biggest achievements is my first cookbook, Vicky Goes Veg. It also became an extremely popular show in India.
Another big achievement of mine was being a personal chef to Nelson Mandela when he was travelling. Being the chef de cuisine of the largest ever kitchen at sea is a very memorable moment too. I had 180 people working for me and we used to serve around 18,000 meals every day on the Queen Mary 2.
Tell us a bit about your delivery service Speakeasy Kitchen, and Speak Burgers, your latest venture.
During the pandemic, I started Speakeasy Kitchen, a delivery service that focussed on familystyle cooking. We also had this rotisserie chicken concept where we served whole chickens with sides. The Speakeasy kitchen is being rebranded now. I have also started a brand called Speak Burgers that serves gourmet burgers inspired by my travels. They are pocket friendly as well. We have two kitchens in Mumbai.
Three restaurants and their dishes that you would recommend to our readers?