Business Traveller India speaks to Anushka Pathak – Founder of Nava about turning passion into profession, evolving culinary trends and more.

What inspired you to foray into the culinary world?

My inclination towards opening an ingredient-driven restaurant is accredited to the first time I ever tasted a Chicken Liver Pâté – a present-day personal favourite of mine that I wouldn’t dare indulge in prior to 2015. Over the course of my travels, what stuck with me was the ability of restaurants abroad to take complete ownership of the ingredients they worked with while giving their guests an active insight into what goes on behind the scenes, through the visibility of open kitchens and interactive communal seating.

I have six journals filled with details on restaurants I’ve visited across the world – with handwritten details of what stood out about each place, my favourite picks from each of their menus, all accompanied with pictures clipped onto each page. I realised that if I was going to sincerely pursue this dream and turn it into a reality, research was important and so it became a practice after every new place I tried and it still is something that I do religiously.

I met my head chef – Akash Deshpande in the summer of 2018, on a dating app funnily enough. We’ve been friends ever since and what stuck with me was his love to make local ingredients shine in a dish and our menu is the perfect representation of this. 4 years in, this friendship turned into a professional dynamic that allowed us to execute our vision through the medium of Nava.

How has the experience been so far in running a restaurant like Nava?

It’s been exhilarating, to say the least. I’m constantly learning new things because I came as an outsider into this space and I’m not a chef. It’s all worth it for me – the good days and the bad ones.

What are a few things that we would always find in your carry-on luggage?

– Sunscreen or any form of SPF – can’t live without it.
– I’m an avid reader so I always have a book on me, especially when I’m traveling. At the moment, I’m reading Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and it’s always with me wherever I go.
– A notebook and a pen – because inspiration can strike anywhere at any time so it helps to have a diary handy to take notes/write down my thoughts.
– A bracelet of mine that is made out of Tourmaline crystals (they’re black in color). It was energized by Buddhist monks in a 24/7 chanting ceremony in Tibet and given to me by a close friend. Typically, I wear it all the time but during travel, it’s always in my carry-on so I don’t lose it while rushing through airport security.

Could you share with us a few tips that you have for anyone who wishes to be a restauranteur?

– You gain an understanding of the nuances associated with the craft as you go – so be discerning about the slightest decisions that you make.
– This is a profession where every day is truly a new day, so it’s vital to keep an open mind and have the ability to not only accept but also evolve through constructive feedback that comes your way.
– Patience is a virtue and is a catalyst for anybody who is in the hospitality space because it takes time and mountains of effort to eventually bear the fruit of your harvest, and that definitely puts one’s patience to a test. I know the zenith of my patience has certainly expanded since I started Nava.
– Never stop up-skilling and re-skilling (personally and professionally) – every ounce of knowledge that you receive from consumers or your contemporaries is a learning experience.

What’s next for Nava?

As a restaurant and hospitality brand, our goal is to stick to the core values of our business and our underlying culinary philosophy. We aim to consistently put forth a memorable dining experience through the medium of delectable food served by ardent staff in a welcoming environment, while ensuring quality maintenance, thereby leading to customer retention in the long run. As we inch closer to reaching our 1 year anniversary in December of this year, our goal is to identify ever-evolving trends in the Indian F&B industry, adapt and grow with them, while being digitally agile and focusing on nurturing the current standalone outlet in Bandra, in the hopes of future expansion and establishing outlets in major metropolitan cities across the country.