Sarah Todd & Riyaaz Amlani on how to grow a food empire
Want a crash course on how to run a restaurant? Fox Life’s new show Grilled is essential viewing, according to F&B Tycoon Riyaaz Amlani, who is one among the trio of judges on the show. The 10-episode series will see Riyaaz alongside Sarah Todd of MasterChef fame and musician and food enthusiast Vishal Dadlani mentor 12 contestants vying for the Rs 1.5 crore prize to kickstart their culinary dream. We got chatting with Riyaaz and Sarah on what to expect on the show, why coffee shops may have an expiry date and how to grow a food empire with no knowledge of how to cook.
Grilled is not just a cooking show.
Nope, I don’t know how to cook.
And like you, most restaurant owners are not chefs — so how does that work on a reality on television show on running a restaurant?
Teamwork. Out of our 12 contestants eager to start up a food business, some didn’t know how to cook while others were seasoned chefs. So it was their ability to pass on tasks to other people who are good at something — that’s what won the day.
You’re all about experimental new concepts. What current trend or business model do you predict is not going to work in the next decade?
Coffee shops as we know them today are going to have an expiry date very soon. Like a Starbucks, for instance. I mean, you can get a great cup of cappuccino anywhere and unless they update and remodel themselves, it’s just commonplace.
With 44 restaurants in 11 Indian cities — give us a crash course on running a food business.
A restaurant is a culmination of all the senses, influences, inspirations in one place. It's not just about food, but a very holistic experience. After 17 years in the business, I can tell you that while restauranting is one of the most demanding, yet also one of the most satisfying businesses there is. Nothing feels better than walking into your restaurant and seeing people having a good time.
With the business meetings, restaurants to run and now shoot schedules — do you ever get the time to eat a home-cooked meal?
Everyday. I always make it a point to get home for dinner.
While shooting a reality show on food, did it feel surreal to be sitting at the other side of the table?
Absolutely. I was extremely emotional the first few days filming for two reasons. Firstly, I remember the nervous feelings I had sitting in the contestants’ position and just how life-changing a show like this can be. Secondly, I can’t believe how far I have come and it still feels surreal to have had so much experience in such a short period of time and to be considered an expert. Still pinching myself!
You said in an interview that your favourite country is India.
India has welcomed me with open arms and I feel extremely thankful. The country is so rich with culture and food and so diverse. I recently went on a holiday to Rajasthan and I felt like I was in a different country, the food is so different to every other place I have travelled to.
We hear you’ve picked up some Hindi since you set up a restaurant in Goa. What words do you use most frequently in the kitchen?
Jaldi jaldi and fatafat (laughs).
Do you have any plans to visit South India? Do tell us what is lined up for 2018.
I have actually been to Chennai and I loved it and can’t wait to visit again soon. I’m currently working on another restaurant project, so you can keep an eye out for that.
From modelling to MasterChef to power woman restaurateur — you’ve reinvented yourself big time. For folks who want to switch lanes or try something new — what are your thoughts from lessons learned en route?
Find your passion, I have tried so many different careers in my life, completed so many courses until I truly found what I was passionate about, and that is cooking. In everything else I did, nothing stuck and nothing fueled my soul. Enjoy what you do for work and you never work a day in your life. People ask how I fit it all in but simply, I love my work and it is also my pleasure.
Grilled airs Mondays at 9 pm on Fox Life.