A Humble Beginning in Himachal Pradesh

I was born in 1972 in the beautiful mountain state of Himachal Pradesh in North India. We had a large family of 32 people including uncles, aunts and cousins and we happily supported each other every day.

My mother was the family cook, and my grandmother assisted her with all the mise en place and sometimes took over the cooking too. I still remember the incredible aromas wafting through our kitchen when both these formidable ladies cooked for the family.

As a young boy, I was immediately drawn to the kitchen, marvelling at how my mother and grandmother added their lovingly prepared spice mixes to the food.

Each addition created the most captivating aroma, and the colours magically changed into different shades of yellow, brown, and red. The final dish had the most beautiful single colour, which looked beyond tempting. It touched all my senses, and I knew at that moment that cooking was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Connecting with Nature and Food

While my passion for cooking was growing, I also had to help with outside jobs such as looking after our agricultural land and joining the female members of our family in growing vegetables, fruits and grains.

I began to understand how our food came to the table and how much we enjoyed the deliciousness of food grown in sunshine and open air. This simple food journey made a deep and lasting impression on my mind.

Now, as a professional chef, I source ingredients that are locally grown to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible.  Fishing in the local rivers and lakes was a hobby, and I was happy to help provide fresh fish for my mother and grandmother to cook. We practically lived off the land and ate fresh produce grown under healthy conditions.

Early Adventures

When I entered my teens, I started helping my mother in the kitchen. Lighting the woodfire was extremely exciting. My mother taught me how to make ‘roti’ (flatbread) for the family and a completely different way of making them to feed the wild birds.  

I also helped my dad in his welding shop from 11 pm until 4 am. We had to start late at night because there were frequent fluctuations in the electricity supply during the day when more people were using it.

Once I finished working in the shop, I had to go home to get ready for school, often missing classes due to the pressure of work in my dad’s shop. This was challenging, but I also had to gradually start helping other relatives when I was barely 10 years old.

I remember making my first paratha (flaky bread) with a few spices and a potato and green pea curry, which is when I learned how to use spices correctly. Everyone in the family absolutely loved it.

My grandfather also had a large plot of agricultural land, just enough for the family. After he closed his shop, he worked in the field, and I, along with other family members, helped him. We grew seasonal vegetables, grains such as corn and wheat, and we also had plum trees, lychees, oranges, bananas, and figs.

Growing Passion and Formal Training

By the time I was a teenager, I loved cooking chapati (wheat flour flatbread) with kidney beans or fresh vegetable curries, which my mother showed me how to cook.

I helped my mother when she had requests to cook food for birthday parties and pujas (religious ceremonies). This gave me a good idea of how to cook for large numbers.

My passion for more adventurous culinary experiences was born, and I dreamed of becoming a chef. I knew I wanted nothing more than to become a chef and share my food with people from different age groups, backgrounds, and nations. I also knew that I had to have formal training to become a professional chef, so I applied to one of the best known catering colleges in North India.

To my delight, I was accepted, and I took my first steps toward becoming a professional chef.

Professional Journey and Achievements

After qualifying, I started working as a trainee chef in one of the best hotel chains in India, The Taj Group of Hotels, for four and a half years.

I specialised in local Varanasi cuisine, cooking dishes like vegetable tahari (an aromatic rice and vegetable dish cooked with roasted spices) and nimona (a delightfully spicy crushed green pea and potato curry). I also cooked popular tandoor/chargrilled items and exotic kebabs, completing a tandoori platter.

At this juncture, I was selected by another prestigious group of hotels known as Oberoi as their tandoori chef. My experience in the Taj hotel enhanced my creativity, and I began creating more tandoori food with great flair and imagination. I cooked delicacies like tandoori potatoes stuffed with grated paneer (Indian cheese), saffron, almonds, and pine nuts, and stuffed tandoori pickled chilli.

I won the Chef of the Year title among the 35 hotels in the group and the best recipe award by the Caterer magazine in the UK. I trained chefs in the Oberoi hotels and received two promotions, from demi chef to chef de partie, cooking local delicacies from my homeland Himachal Pradesh.

These dishes were unknown outside my mountain state, so people were curious, and once they tasted them, they kept coming back.

International Recognition and Mango Lounge

At this point, I was headhunted by Iqbal Wahaab OBE to work in his newly established, and now famed, Cinnamon Club. I was honoured that he travelled to India and handpicked me out of several other chefs, and I arrived in London.

I had a successful spell in that prestigious restaurant, working with renowned chef Vivek Singh, until I was offered a job as an executive chef in a large hotel and banqueting hall called Baylis House in Slough, near the Royal town of Windsor.

I accepted the offer and moved to Slough, where I took over the kitchen with a number of professionally trained chefs to work under me. Baylis House became known as the best Indian banqueting hall in the area under my leadership, winning several media awards for its food.

After a successful stint at Baylis House, I had the opportunity to take over as the head chef in another proposed Indian restaurant, Mango Lounge, which was launched overlooking the Royal Castle. I set up the kitchen design and layout and trained chefs and front of house staff.

Mango Lounge opened its doors in 2007, and customers started pouring in and returned again and again. The food in Mango Lounge won over these customers’ hearts with a unique touch of combining traditional flavours and modern serving ideas.

Within two years, it won the prestigious award of Best in Berkshire by the prominent local newspaper, The Express. I was also an ambassador for National Curry Week by Kingfisher.
four pieces of char grilled prawns on a white plate. Below the prawns there is a yellow sauce. It looks like a soup. There is spring onion and coriander leaves and stems around the dish.A white bowl with a harden sugar on top. It looks like a crème brulee. On the same plate this white bowl is on there is a scoop of light green ice cream.A close up shot of lamb chops. There are five char grilled lamb chops and they're on a cast iron skillet and there is onion and peppers below the lamb chops.A shot glass filled with layers of sauce. The bottom layer is white, then it goes into orange, then green, then purple and on the top their is a large battered prawn in the glass. This shot glass is on a black plate and on the plate towards the bottom right of the image there is mushy peas and a scallop in a cylinder shape.A fish curry in a red/orange sauce with some coriander on top. This dish is in a white plate.