Vaishak Nair talks to Tandoori

Posted on Movers and Shakers Sep 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
Vaishak Nair talks to Tandoori

Vaishak Nair, head the Kerala Group, the UK’s largest and leading south Indian restaurant chain, talks to Tandoori


The Kerala Group is the largest south Indian restaurant group in the UK. Do you think that south Indian food has become more popular in the UK over the past decade and why?
Kerala Group of Restaurants (KGR) which came into existence 25 years back has played an important role in creating an awareness of the regional specialities of India. For over four decades you could count the number of dedicated south Indian restaurants in Britain on one hand. This changed dramatically with the opening of KGR’s first restaurant in the heart of London’s West End about 25 years ago. For the first time ever, curry loving Londoners were able to get a taste of real south India in the West End. KGR, which from modest beginnings, has developed into a successful chain is celebrated not only for its unique South Indian Keralan cuisine, but also for its significant social, cultural and economic role in British life.


What is the essence of south Indian food and what makes it uniquely different from other regional Indian cuisines?
The emphasis of the food is on ingredients sourced from the region itself and “healthy food” where there is less use of oil, sugar and artificial additives and more use of natural herbs, spices and flavourings.


There are 10 restaurants in the group - how do the menus differ, if at all?
Each of our menus differ due to the concept we wanted to create with the group as a whole. This relates to the reason why each restaurant has a different name our idea was to let the food do the talking at each restaurant. We also wanted to convey that even a relatively small state in India, such as Kerala, can also offer much diversity in terms of taste and spice. The menus offer a combination of Cochin-Malabar and Travancore cuisine in the exciting and authentic south Indian tradition.


What is a typical working day for you?

A typical working day for me consists of waking up at around 7am, going to the gym and then starting my day in a fresh manner. Each day I tend to visit a different restaurant during the lunch time period, this is, however, dependant on whether I have meetings with customers or suppliers. During each visit I check that there is no staffing issues or shortages of any sort. Depending on how things go, each evening I go to a different restaurant to work. I have always been very hands on within the business. I rather set the example that should be portrayed rather than my staff attempting something and getting it wrong. After working the evening shift I head home and should be in bed by around 1am.


What do you like to eat and drink yourself?
I am a fan of all cuisines whether it be Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese all of which I enjoy.


What advice would you give to anyone wanting to open a south Indian restaurant?
My advice to anyone thinking about opening a south Indian restaurant would be look very carefully at the area in which you are opening and also make sure you maintain the authenticity of south Indian cooking.


How would like to be remembered?
The only thing I would like to be remembered for is carrying on the tradition and culture that KGR has been delivering for the past 25 years.

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