Anila Vaghela

Posted on Movers and Shakers Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Anila Vaghela

Anila Vaghela heads Anila’s Authentic Sauces, offering premium curry sauces and accompaniments. She talks to Tandoori.

What inspired you to start cooking?
I was the eldest child and grandchild in the family and it was natural, growing up close to an extended family that included my grandmother and my great grandmother, that I would help out with food preparation. I loved helping and that love of cooking has stayed with me ever since. 
 
What kind of dishes were you eating at home as a child?
We ate Indian food all the time – snacks like samosas in the morning, dhal and rice at lunchtime and curries in the evening. Everything was made fresh three times a day, so it was non-stop in the kitchen. 
 
A hobby is quite different from running a business, so when did you feel it was time to turn to the latter?
I ran my first stall at a craft fair in March 19. At the time, I had just four curry sauces. However, it wasn’t until I had the option to take redundancy in 1997 that I decided to take the plunge and work on the business full time. My husband Dan supported the family while I began building up the business, brick by brick. I had to consider an awful lot like where to sell my products, the range, how to market it etc. 
 
There aren’t that many business women in the Asian food sector, has this ever been an issue for you in terms of how you may be perceived?
I was probably one of only three female business in the Asian food sector when I started Anila’s – the others being Nina Patak and Parveen Warsi. Very occasionally I’ve felt I’ve been ‘talked down to’ or I perhaps haven’t had the reaction I might have got if I’d been a man, but it’s not really been an issue to be honest. 
 
It has been some 14 years since you formally started the business, so has it all turned out to be as you’d hoped?
The retail landscape has changed a lot since I began, however, and now there are farm shops and garden centres selling good quality products in their food halls, so the market is much larger and expanding all the time. I’ve been so pleased to see my products in over 500 outlets in the country including places like Harrods and the food halls at John Lewis in Oxford Street and Bluewater. We also export to Ireland and Germany, with interest from other countries.
 
What does winning prizes for your products mean to you?
It means an awful lot to win an award. We’ve won many Great Taste Awards, and earlier this year our Goan Green Curry Sauce was named best vegan product in the Veggie Awards. It gives my products a stamp of approval and shows that others enjoy them as much as I do! 
 
What do you like to eat and drink yourself?
I have to have a curry or something spicy every day. I enjoy pasta, lasagne and pizza, but even then I use my chilli pasta sauce to give the dishes a bit of a kick. 
 
How do you relax?
I meditate every day with Raja Yoga meditation – the highest form of meditation – and once a year I go away for two weeks to a spiritual retreat on a mountain in India. 
 
How would you like to be remembered?
As a person who makes wonderful food. 
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