“I can’t afford to be nice,” comes the surprising response from India’s most revered celebrity chef, whose trademark smile and charming personality have made Sanjeev Kapoor a household guest for those who have diligently tuned into his incredibly popular cookery show, ‘Khazana’, these past 17 years.
‘Nice’ is exactly who he is to the millions of fans who have celebrated marriages, christenings and countless festive occasions while toiling away in the kitchen to recreate his gastronomic fare with the same finesse that is savored across his restaurants across India and the Middle East.
With three restaurant brands already popular with patrons across Dubai, Kapoor was in the emirate to launch the second outlet under the Options umbrella at the Mövenpick Hotel, Deira.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7 with that cryptic statement, Kapoor further explained: “When you run a business in the hospitality sector, you cannot afford to be nice about mistakes and errors that directly affect your end customer. The impact is substantial enough to make or break your business; you don’t get a second chance.”
Visibly tired after a delayed flight and a week that saw him jetting into Bahrain, Delhi and various other cities before landing in Dubai, Kapoor still managed to sound upbeat about his latest offering in the emirate.
“This is the second outlet we have of Options in Dubai, and next on the menu is the plan to bring The Yellow Chilli brand here. I think there is plenty of scope for this mid-market, family restaurant to thrive here,” he said, adding: “We could easily fit 15 here over the next few years.”
Is there space for so many outlets in a market that is already overridden in the hospitality arena?
Kapoor certainly seems to think so.
“Fifteen years ago, when we launched Khazana, everyone warned us back then how tough competition was in the Dubai market. However, our philosophy is, if the product is good, it can work anywhere,” he explained.
Quiz him why the focus on The Yellow Chilli as opposed to Khazana, Signature or Options and Kapoor has a story to share.
“Khazana is the pioneer, which we opened here 15 years ago and there is a uniqueness in that, which we don’t want to rob the brand from; similarly, Signature is a fine dining concept that needs to retain its exclusivity,” he explained.
What about Options, which, surprisingly, is exclusive only to Dubai?
Kapoor laughed and narrated the origins of the brand, saying: “Six years ago, when we were hunting for a location for a new restaurant, we heard of an opening at the World Trade Centre Convention Building, which was ideal for our model.
“However, the location already had a license issued under the name ‘Options’, which we were not allowed to change so the name stuck.”
Kapoor also said that he is currently in talks to take this organic brand global, with the Masterchef revealing that Houston, Texas may soon be on the menu for Options.
These days, aside from jet setting across countries opening new restaurants, Kapoor is also gearing up to appear on the Star Plus’ reality TV show, ‘Masterchef India 3’, where he will join Chef Vikas Khanna and Kunal Kapoor in discovering the country’s next best culinary talent.
For an entrepreneur, who also manages a 24-hours cooking channel of his own in FoodFood, was there time to don a chef’s hat for yet another TV show?
The Masterchef tends to agree, saying: “I could have done without it yes, but the stakes were high and it’s a huge franchise that would have direct impact on anyone who’s in the business of food. How could I say no?”
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