Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia




MUMBAI-BORN CHEF Vicky Ratnani is a foodie first. The celebrity status is the natural progressio­n of his love for food. From cooking for Nelson Mandela to being the chef de cuisine of the largest kitchen at sea, there are many achievemen­ts that make him a culinary icon. In a chat with ADILA MATRA, Ratnani shares some of these unique experience­s, new ventures, and challenges of being a chef. Tell us about your introducti­on to cooking. How did you become a chef?

More than cooking, my love for food started with eating. Eating with all my friends, eating at the neighbour’s house, eating sandwiches in school, and so on. I was intrigued by food and was interested in trying out different flavours from different communitie­s. When I got into college, I realised it wasn’t for me. That’s how I got into the chef’s profession, and haven’t looked back since.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a chef? What are your greatest achievemen­ts?

The first challenge I faced was when I worked on cruise ships. It was a difficult life: 14 to 15 hour shifts, seven days a week, and living in a small cabin while staying away from my family.

But it taught me to be humble, open-minded, and punctual. The other challenge came when I came back to India and set up restaurant­s. Both Auris and Nido were the beginning of the cool, high-energy restaurant trend in India. One of my biggest achievemen­ts is my first cookbook, Vicky

Goes Veg. It also became an extremely popular show in India. Another big achievemen­t of mine was being a personal chef to Nelson Mandela when he was travelling. Being the chef de cuisine of the largest ever kitchen at sea is a very memorable moment too. I had 180 people working for me and we used to serve around 18,000 meals every day on the Queen Mary 2.

Tell us a bit about your delivery service Speakeasy Kitchen, and Speak Burgers, your latest venture.

During the pandemic, I started Speakeasy Kitchen, a delivery service that focussed on familystyl­e cooking. We also had this rotisserie chicken concept where we served whole chickens with sides. The Speakeasy kitchen is being rebranded now. I have also started a brand called Speak Burgers that serves gourmet burgers inspired by my travels. They are pocket friendly as well. We have two kitchens in Mumbai.

Three restaurant­s and their dishes that you would recommend to our readers?

The thali at Shree Thaker Bhojanalay in Mumbai and Peking duck at The China Kitchen, Hyatt Regency Delhi (

Americano in Mumbai (americanob­ has an amazing menu too.

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