THE YEAR THAT
Sid Sahrawat, 37, recalls how a health scare made him realise the importance of not taking things for granted
We were in the process of opening our second restaurant, Cassia — on July 14, 2014 — when we won a restaurant of the year award for Sidart. So the timing seemed to be on our side. Except it wasn’t, because I got very sick at the end of June.
We had been so busy we had skipped our flu vaccines that year. One day I had a sore throat and went to the doctor for some antibiotics. Then I got chest pains, so went to the GP and had some tests. And I got sent straight to hospital for more tests. The condition was called myopericarditis, caused by influenza — basically the heart was attacked by influenza, enlarged and was swelling under attack.
I was pretty close to having a heart attack, which was a big shock at that age. Initially I thought it would mean a few hours in hospital, and I was laughing about it. But they kept me in and kept doing more and more tests and weren’t happy with the results. I had been there for about a week, kept in isolation, and the Cassia opening was getting closer and closer. There were a lot of different tests.
And even when I was given the all-clear, they wanted to keep me in for another day but I discharged myself on July 10 with just four days to go to the opening.
We had people about to start work, food was on its way, there were two soft openings planned — I didn’t want to have to cancel all that because I was stuck in hospital and then find out that I had been okay all along, so I took the risk, and fortunately it turned out all right and we had a great opening.
But I learned my lesson about health. It really was a wake-up call that changed my life. Now I stay away from too much carbs and refined sugars, and I go to the gym. I had to become a little more relaxed about everything. For the first three months I wasn’t even allowed to cook. I was in the restaurant, plating and managing people and looking over everything but the doctors didn’t want me too close to heat or lifting anything too heavy.
I was on a lot of heart medications and am still on blood pressure and cholesterol medicine. And I’m conscious of my staff’s health. I tell all my chefs to take time out regularly. And we have a programme where everyone has flu jabs. Flu is taken quite lightly sometimes, but I know how serious it can be.
People ask me if my illness was the result of working too hard. I don’t think it was, but opening a restaurant is very stressful and maybe my immune system just wasn’t ready for the flu.
I also learned never to take anything — not just my health — for granted and how important it is to have a life you’re happy with. Both our restaurants are family-driven businesses. My wife Chand and I have two children — Zoya is 7 this month and Roan is 2. We have to live for our families.
I learned my lesson about health. It really was a wake-up call that changed my life.