The chef with no name 24 January 2020 How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
In this week's issue... The chef with no name How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
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My life in hospitality: Rajesh Suri

13 March 2008 by
My life in hospitality: Rajesh Suri

Highs…

It's exciting times for us right now. Tamarind has exceeded all our expectations and Imli, our Indian tapas restaurant, is getting established. It takes two years to get there, I think, but our plan now, over the next five years, is to open three more Imlis in London. We've also had an offer from Dubai, so we're working on that, too.

My background's always been in F&B. I did my management training with Oberoi hotels, becoming F&B manager for Gulf Airlines' hotel group in Bahrain before working at Veeraswamy and Red Fort in London. It took me a year-and-a-half to be completely sure that I wanted to join Tamarind.

I said: "You give me the budget and then leave me alone." I was never allowed to make 100% decisions in my previous job, so I knew what I wanted from my next move. Seeing all our plans take shape and winning awards, including our Michelin star in 2001, was fantastic. When head chef Atul [Kochhar] decided to move on, I didn't have a day off for months. I had to make sure that our new executive chef, Alfred [Prasad], knew what was required for a star, which we've retained for seven years.

You need to create a culture of success in a business. It takes time, but once you've created that understanding among your staff, you can relax a bit. And now, if we employ someone new, the team know within three days whether they're going to work out or not.

London has changed since I first came here: it's become terribly expensive, and there's a new breed of restaurateur who spends a hell of a lot on creating something fashionable. But, for me, success boils down to service, how you manage people and what you put on the plate.

Lows…

In the early days, London wasn't an easy place. I must have registered with 20 agencies, looking for a good job, but nobody knew me and everything was different. I'd been used to working in hotels with four or five F&B outlets, whereas here one or two was the norm.

It took me about two years to convince people I had the capability and that I could work hard. But London's my home now. It's given me a lot, and you can never get bored with the restaurant industry here.

Profile
Age 46

Status Married, two sons

Lives East London

Drives Mercedes

Career highlights Winning a Michelin star at Tamarind, the first British Asian restaurant to win a star and, in 2005, launching Indian tapas restaurant Imli

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