The world has two kinds of people (yes, we’re back to that line). Those who are nice because that’s how one should be, and those who’re nice because that’s who they are. Chefs Hanisha Singh and Jamsheed Bhote are the latter. Whether it is bringing hearty food to people at inexpensive prices (where they could’ve charged a lot more); taking pains to train service staff so they grow through the ranks, or continuing to assist restaurants even after their consultation period is concluded–its a quality that shines through their eyes as they speak passionately about their work. Partners not only in life but also in work, they’ve been in Delhi’s food industry for over a decade now, curating for some of the city’s favourite restaurants. From menus to operations, staff training to design, equipment to supplier chain, they’ve taken care of it all. Evoo‘s artisanal wood oven pizzas, Shibuya‘s fun Asian food, and Le Cantine easy European-Mediterranean cuisine in Delhi – the duo has hand in all. They even lent their expertise to Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner, Suryagarh hotel in Jaisalmer, and New York’s Aroqa (which serves modern Indian food). But if this is the first time you have heard their names mentioned, it’s because they are infamously low-key. But their recent transition from consultant chefs to freshly minted chef-owners posed the ideal way for me to get a peek into this reclusive couple’s journey.
Plats, their first, very own restaurant, is a modern European space that serves flavours from across the globe using European cooking techniques. Innovation that marries chorizo and dim sums, turns the humble potato and broccoli into craving-worthy dishes, and evokes memories of childhood as you bite into desserts – that in a nutshell defines Plats. It is no wonder then that it is fast becoming a must-visit restaurant.
“More than us, our parents were pushing us to do something of our own,” says Singh about finally opening Plats. “This particular spot came to us twice, and we were like let us look at it seriously. We never met anyone who we’d want to partner with, so one thing was sure that whatever we open will be ours, which was also a big risk.” “But everything started falling in place, and you don’t want to break the flow…” chips in Bhote. A turnaround time of three months—from ideating to a spanking space — while they simultaneously wrapped up other work commitments gives you an insight into their efficacy.
Both graduates of the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development—also where they met—Singh went on to work with Oberoi Mumbai, Kitchen Aid, and the now-closed Smoke House Grill Delhi before she started consulting, while Bhote worked at Tres, consulting when it had closed for a revamp. The time they spent working abroad — Singh’s time in Asia and Middle East with Kitchen Aid, and Bhote’s job in London for three months – not only helped them gain experience in working with varied cuisines but also the skills they needed to train their staff.
Both have been chefs who have run their own kitchens, and learnt a lot in the process. “Working at Tres changed a lot of things for me. I was quite aggressive in the kitchen, because I wanted everything done right, so I would lose my cool. Tres had two other chefs and soon I realised if three of us are going crazy on the staff, soon there’ll be no staff,” shares Bhote. “It’s not that I’m a saint in the kitchen, but my people skills have improved a lot. Tres helped me become a better chef for sure, in terms of handling the entire restaurant too.”
For Singh, the major change happened when I chose to move out of hotels. “After graduating, I worked at Oberoi Mumbai for under a year and chose to move out–the major issues I faced were because I’m a woman. Things have changed a lot today, but when I started out it wasn’t like that.” From there, she moved to Smoke House Grill Delhi, “I was so enamoured by Riyaaz [Amlani] when I had interned at Mocha Delhi, and one day wanted to work with him. And when I left Oberoi Mumbai, his head chef was leaving so I ended up heading the kitchen.” She credits this experience for teaching her the most in her field.
However, working together when you’re married is not always smooth sailing. “Initially it was very difficult to be honest Chefs tend to be stuck in their ways sometimes,” Bhote shares. “Sometimes there’s no right or wrong – everyone just has a way of doing things, so we need to pick the best from both,” Singh adds. Over time though they’ve reached a rhythm, dividing the tasks between them seamlessly, be it managing Plats or their two-year-old daughter at home.
That’s not the end of their learning though. Whether it’s unending commitment to good work, or their eagerness to learn a new craft, they are up for it. “We’re happy with our work and as long as we feel we’re doing justice…it’s more about looking for contentment in what we’re doing. And I have no qualms learning anything from anybody, and I have no qualms stating it.”
You know that at their foundation, they’re a chef duo with great skills and dedication, and minds that converge all into producing F&B spaces that are loved. And for two people, who were always certain they wanted to work in the food industry, Singh and Bhote have realised their dream in the best way possible.