Here's a list of top food and restaurant women leading the food service game.
Radhika Khandelwal, Chef & Owner, Fig & Maple: Radhika started her culinary journey in 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. She started working in a restaurant and then moved to the kitchen and there has been no looking back. Fig & Maple was conceptualised because of her morals and a large part of it had to do with responsible living. “I truly believe in using local and seasonal produce because they are going to be the future of Indian food industry representing our culture very well,” shared Khadelwal.
Aditi Dugar, Founder, Maque Restaurant: Growing up, going out to dine was usually a celebratory occasion, or it would be to a local neighbourhood joint for Aditi Dugar, Owner at Masque Restaurant. “There weren’t as many good standalone restaurants, and I think that’s been the biggest change in the culinary scene – where each standalone is making an effort to serve good quality, fresh food,” she shares who believes that freshness has become key – where food would once feel processed or ‘bottled’, everyone now is much more aware of conscious eating and sustainability, which really is the need of the hour. “I found – with myself and many other women – our biggest obstacle to starting out was a lack of confidence. I started small, at home, and grew my business from there. Even if you can’t open a big venture immediately, it’s always good to just get started in whatever way you can – it will give you the confidence to move forward.”
Anahita Dhondy, Chef Partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala : Chef Anahita N. Dhondy comes from a family of Parsis settled in Delhi. Since childhood, her world has revolved around food. She takes inspiration from her mother, who has been cooking and catering Parsi food and baking cakes. Anahita started helping in the kitchen since she was 10 years old and knew from a young age that she would wear the chef’s hat as a grown up. “The kitchens are not used to seeing a female and, thus, it’s difficult for the staff to familiarise and work with a female chef. It’s not easy to get things done if your team doesn't respect and respond to you, so it’s imperative for you to keep a strong grounding and stand to face any issues that might come your way. At the end of the day, there is no difference between men and women, the work is the same,” she added.
Ishita Yashvi, Co-Founder, CrossBorder Kitchens : Launched in early 2019, CBK is 3 kitchens strong in Delhi-NCR and operates 6 incredible food delivery brands across multiple cuisines. “What is happening in the industry is that a lot of players are focusing on non-core aspect of the food and on the other hand we stay true to our core food values. We have our in-house tech, marketing, content and I think that is driving a lot of experience and is a game changer for us,” said Ishita Yashvi, Co-Founder & CMO, Cross Border Kitchens that is mostly into online delivery and cloud-kitchen business marrying generational cooking expertise with technology to deliver food conveniently without compromising on taste, freshness, and authenticity.
Gauri Devidayal, Partner, Food Matters India Pvt. Ltd: Gauri Devidayal is a law graduate from the University College London and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales. She pursued her career as a tax consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London and Mumbai for 8 years. After 8 years in London, Gauri returned to Mumbai where she was born and brought up. In early 2008, she met her husband, Jay Yousuf and was persuaded to leave the tax profession and to join him on his restaurant adventure. “The Table was the brainchild of my husband, Jay Yousuf, and me. Jay was fresh off the boat back from San Francisco and dearly missed the food scene he was fortunate to have at his doorstep in SF. Back in 2008, the restaurant scene in Mumbai was quite limited as the city didn’t boast of a place that served a heavily ingredient-focused cuisine. So that and the joy that Jay & I get from sharing a common love for food coupled to opening our own restaurant.”
Akriti Agarwal, CEO, Thirsty Beer: “Food per say has always been a huge part of my life and growing up,” shares Akriti Agarwal, CEO at Thirsty Beers who has grown up with big gardens / farms within her family homes and otherwise as well. “We as a family have always been exposed to a great mix of local and international ingredients, flavors and cuisines, added Agarwal whose father and grandfather were extremely fond of trying new things and they still continue to try and experiment. “There’s not a single industry that’s not challenging. It would be unfair of me to single out hospitality. But yes, it’s tough. One got to be tougher than usual.”
Sonia Puri, Co-Founder & Curator, Madam Gusto: “I have never considered it a competition between the genders and neither have I thought of it as a male-dominated sector. It has always been about passion and merit for me. All you need is to love your work enough to enjoy it and you are bound to succeed in life,” shares Puri who together with her husband has been travelling across the map to gather inspiration. They started their journey in 2001 as they launched their first Italian restaurant, called Italiano, in Gurgaon. “After stabilizing our first venture, we thought of exploring other cuisines from all parts of the world and that's when Madam Gusto was born. The conceptualization of Madam Gusto has been from our own travel sojourns, where we serve the global cuisines that we have explored in our tours and trips,” she added.
Avantika Sinha Bahl, Founder, Kampai- Plate & Pour and Mai Bao: From a young age, studying didn't interest Avantika Sinha Bahl and she always had a creative mind. As a child, she would spend days daydreaming and writing poems. “I always knew I was going to do something creative and different when I grew up! I went to NIFT, New Delhi and realized quite early on that this was not my cup of tea,” she added. After a graduation in Design, she decided to go to London for her masters in Luxury Brand Management. This is where she started shifting her focus on the hospitality industry. Starting her restaurant business has been the most fulfilling thing for her and she cannot wait to expand and showcase her ideas to the world. “Being one of the very few woman restaurateurs has its challenges but for me it's a great experience. I take pride in being one of the few women who have dared to get into an industry, which is so male dominated. The industry definitely needs more women who can change the game. As a woman I bring a lot to the table. We are natural multi-taskers, which is a great quality for a business owner.” She added.
Chiquita Gulati, Chef, Spice Market: “As far as I can remember, food has been a very important part of my life,” shared Chef Chiquita Gulati of Spice Market who started cooking alongside her mother and grandmother from a very young age, she loved eating, cooking, entertaining and the whole nine yards around it. Luckily for her, she was always encouraged and supported in everything she wanted to try and experiment. Back in 2006, when she and her husband returned to India they travelled extensively exploring different cuisines and its nuances. “When I started out it was difficult as I was the only women heading our team and I was younger than most of them. But eventually seeing my work and what I was made of everyone not only came around to following instructions but also respected me. Nowadays, it’s not such a rare sight at all, many women dominate the kitchens and excel in every area of hospitality,” she added further.