A young entrepreneur, in the highly competitive food industry- Ilvika Chandawarkar is bringing in innovation and new concepts to her family business- the renowned group of Malaka Spice restaurants in Pune. She talks to us about her culinary journey and all things food.
With a glass of hot water and some lime squeezed into it, ten minutes of meditation and then I hit the gym.
I’ve spent most of my time in restaurants; as a child, I would hang around my mother working in the kitchen and watch her make curry paste and chocolate mousse for the small restaurant we owned back then. It then morphed into me stepping into the same industry - from catering college to Taj and then back to the home ground.
lvika wears Cooch Behar silk ikat set.
I come from a family who have been involved in the restaurant business for twenty five years and my own journey began within the same industry. Our lives revolves around food to a large extent. My mother was a chef and the rest of my family members also know how to cook up a storm so we grew up eating wholesome, delicious meals. As a result food is an integral part of who I am and I am increasingly passionate about it.
Tell us about one of your most memorable meals ?
My parents would have to be out for the night sometimes when I was kid. My mom would make a barbecue chicken which was her way of appeasing a four-year old to stay at home with her grandfather. A lot of my memorable meals are what my mother used to cook.
Your favourite city for food? Tell us about some of your favourite food spots.
My favourite city for food would be Mumbai. I spent my college years there and also ended up working till I was twenty-five in Mumbai. There are many memorable places over there. It’s a little difficult to pick a favourite since it changes every time I visit.
Do you face any challenges being a female in the kitchen?
I am currently working as a project manager for Malaka Spice and when I was working in Mumbai, I was managing a restaurant so I've largely been involved in the Front of the House rather than kitchen operations. However, I feel any person faces their own set of challenges when working within an industry and these are offset either by willpower and a positive mindset or having a supportive set of people who believe in you and what you bring to the table!
A chef you look up to in India and internationally?
My mother was someone I looked up to growing up - she was very innovative and increasingly creative in the kitchen and I would have loved to see what she would have come up with if she was still around. In India, I'm always interested in what Chef Thomas Zacharias is doing, and of course, Chef Prateek Sadhu amongst others. I have a bunch of friends and family also involved in the food industry and I can say I'm an avid follower of everything they put together. The same holds for chefs on an international level!
Your favourite cookbook?
My favourite cookbook is Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan.
Ilvika wears Bagh midi dress.
What's your alternate career fantasy?
If I had to pick one though; it would probably be filmmaking or writing fiction - telling stories is something I’m extremely passionate about. Yet I don’t exactly have an alternate career fantasy; I believe that it is possible to do everything you’re passionate about in some way. I love to write and perhaps one day, I’d want to be a writer and so I make it a point to practice the craft every day. I love the environment and I want to take up drives for sustainability and cleaning the streets and contributing in my own way.
What's your favourite part about your job?
The people! Working with teams and bringing a smile to someone’s face.
One thing you learnt from being a business owner?
I don’t think you can call me a business owner just yet, but if there’s one thing - patience goes a long way. Everyone blooms at their own pace, be it the people who are a part of your team or your business or yourself.
If you were to eat only one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be
Every Sunday, we would have mutton curry at home which is cooked by my father or fried fish with a konkani style coconut chutney which is eaten with rice. That's the one meal I could have for the rest of my life.
Favourite travel destinations ?
Within India? If you’re a wildlife enthusiast like I am, I have had the best memories of going to Corbett and Binsar. Outside India - Vietnam is a must do.
Most interesting thing you read/listened/saw this week?
Atomic Habits - James Clear, Chanakya on Management by Ashok R. Garde
Photographer: Lokesh Bhoyar
Muse: Ilvika Chandawarkar