Cyrus Todiwala

Posted on Movers and Shakers Sep 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Cyrus Todiwala

Cyrus Todiwala OBE, chef-owner of Café Spice Namaste, is one of the UK’s most prominent Indian chefs. He talks to Tandoori.

What made you become a chef? 
The idea of becoming a chef had never occurred to me as a career. Even when I was selected by the Taj from college, I had no idea where fate would take me. But the seeds were sown when I saw the buzz in my uncle’s small hotel. It really sparked something in me and that was it. Now I doubt if I could have ever chosen another career.
You have the kind of successful career and recognition few Indian chefs can muster. Has there been any one particular aspect of being a chef that you have enjoyed most? 
I am a child at heart and will always remain so. Mischief, excitement and fun all come naturally to me. They all sit perfectly in harmony in my role as a chef! 
How do you think Indian restaurant cooking has changed in the UK during the past decade? 
Indian cooking is evolving all the time for the better in the UK. More young talent is rising and more chefs are pulling out the stops and making huge moves on the scene. More is also being offered by way of presentation, style, ingredients, regions, styles and so on.
As a high-profile chef, you are also actively involved in various issues to do with the restaurant and hospitality sector. In your opinion, what is the burning issue of the moment for the sector? 
I think the most burning issue for us all will be the most recent move by the Home Office to put very stringent controls on bringing in foreign labour. For many, this can be seriously counter-productive simply because we have taken this for granted as the option available to us at all times. 
What would you say are some of the most important elements of cooking for you as a knowledgeable chef – is it for instance ingredients, cooking methods or something else? 
I think the most important elements of cooking come from various elements including all of those above. The love of cooking comes first and with it comes creativity, excitement, happiness in the job and the willingness to please the diner. Ingredients are key and the better the ingredients we select the better no doubt the quality of food will be. Methods of cooking have to be improved too.  
You have cooked all over the world – is there any one place or experience that stands out? 
Yes! I have cooked in many parts of the world and still do all the time. However, each time I cook in the US, I get a certain pang of fear. Once in the States, I was doing a programme for the Jersey Herald and my entire kitchen equipment, pots, pans, induction cookers, etc, all got stolen at night.
What do you like to eat and drink yourself? 
I like most things but love my all time favourite dhan daar and taraeli machi – a simple Parsee dish of rice, daal, fried fish and oodles of papads, fried onions and garlic.
How do you relax? 
Anything from gardening to DIY, listening to music, going for long walks and even driving.
Is being a busy chef and having a family a tricky balance to maintain? 
It is a tricky balance indeed! But you have to find the right balance that appeals to both the family and yourself. Time is our greatest enemy and this is where the balance lies. Good delegation and having a sound team are great comforts for taking holidays, time out, etc. 
How would you like to be remembered? 
Tough question! But perhaps as a good man who loved his profession and did his best.
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