World-renowned celebrity chef Dipna Anand and the co-owner of London-based famous Brilliant Restaurant is amongst the top 5 Indian women who are shaking up London's food scene.
Chef Dipna has been highly recognised for her culinary skills, courtesy her Indian roots which have been praised by fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, and also has the royal seal of approval from Prince Charles.
Not just that, her restaurant is also frequented by Bollywood stalwarts like the Bachchans, the Kapoors and her favourite – Shah Rukh Khan among others.
This Women’s Day, Chef Dipna highlights the highs and lows of women running a professional restaurant kitchen, a space that is somewhat dominated by men even today.
As a woman who shook up the scenes all the way in UK with her Indian heritage, what hurdles did you come across as an entrepreneur in a slightly male-dominated arena.
Here in London, restaurant kitchens are still somewhat male dominated and although the trend is changing, it does still exist. More and more women are now starting to take up professional kitchen chef roles and I am proud to be a prime example of this. When I enter various kitchens in and around the country whilst doing my pop-up events, it doesn’t really impact me if I see all males or more male chefs, in fact it inspires and motivates me to continue climbing the success ladder as the world needs more female entrepreneurs and chefs. So, in actual fact the only challenge really is that I may not be as strong (physically) as a male chef in a kitchen or I may not be as tall or as broad, however this has never or will never stop me.
Tell us your experience of cooking for the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
When His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall last visited our restaurant, it was in celebration for a Diwali event. I carefully thought about the ingredients and spices used as well as paying key emphasis on the presentation of the dishes. Some of the dishes I prepared were Paneer Tikka fresh from the clay oven as well as Tandoori naan and I remember he was totally in awe of how the dishes were cooked in the clay oven and then tasted them straight away and was totally wowed by what he sampled. He also enjoyed the Gajar Ka Halwa I had prepared and commented that he had never had carrots as part of this type of dessert before.
Would you like to share an anecdote during a visit by a Bollywood celeb?
At a catering event, when the organiser found out I was a die-hard Shah Rukh Khan fan, he put me in-charge of his dressing room (I was only around 13/14 years old) and I was on top of the world. When it came to serving lunch, I filled Shah Rukh’s plate and then asked what he would like to drink. ‘Pepsi’ he answered and smiled and asked my name and I even snuck in a cheeky photo. When it came to dinner-time, I saw him look for me and started guiding him as to what was being served. As I was about to ask what he wanted to drink, again he replied ‘Pepsi’. He enjoyed his meal and when he had finished, he asked another member of staff where the Pepsi girl was, so even now I am convinced he still remembers me as the Pepsi girl.
What is your life mantra, how do you keep it together under pressure?
Take any situation and apply positivity to it. Remain calm yet eager to succeed in all you do. Also understand you cannot always get it right, life is a learning curve and so long as we learn, we continue to better ourselves.
What do you have to say to young women who look up to you and wish to enter the culinary space?
To be successful in this industry, you need to have the right mind-set. There is no such thing as a perfect chef. Even the world’s best chefs cannot cook everything. Cooking is a journey – it’s a learning each day. So long as you have a passion and urge to cook, your skills in the kitchen are sure to develop. If the recipe doesn’t work the first time, question why and try it again. You are sure to perfect it. Don’t be nervous to try new things; be determined to try and even more determined to succeed. Another secret is to always stay humble and never be afraid to ask questions and learn along the way. This will grow your confidence and improve your skills throughout your journey.
A quick easy recipe that I absolutely love is my mango and feta salad with a Desi spin.
2 Perfectly Ripe Mangoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
120g Feta, cubed or crumbled
150g Tomatoes, 1-inch dices
75g Peppers, mixed colours, cut into 1-inch squares
150g Cucumber, cut into 1-inch sized pieces
80g Red Onion, diced into 1-inch sized pieces
25g Pine nuts, lightly toasted in the oven on 175°C for 4 minutes
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Lime, freshly squeezed
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Chaat Masala
½ Teaspoon White Pepper
Small handful of Fresh Chopped Coriander, garnish
1. In a mixing bowl, add peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mango, red onion, feta and pine nuts (in no
particular order), do not mix and leave to one side
2. In a small bowl to make the dressing mix together lime juice, olive oil, salt, chaat masala and white
pepper powder, mix well
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and using a wooden spoon carefully mix the salad together lightly
keeping all the ingredients as intact as possible
4. Plate up the salad, sprinkle with coriander and serve