Cyrus Todiwala: Pearls of Wisdom

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cafe spice namaste, Indian cuisine, Chef, Culinary art

Cyrus Todiwala, owner of two restaurants, one cafe, an MBE and an OBE, shares his thoughts on the industry
Cyrus Todiwala, owner of two restaurants, one cafe, an MBE and an OBE, shares his thoughts on the industry
Cyrus Todiwala trained in India as a chef and worked in hotels and restaurants there until he moved to the UK in 1991. He opened Cafe Spice Namaste in London in 1995 with wife Pervin, and has built up a successful business while also dedicating much of his time to training and developing future talent. He was awarded an MBE in 2000 and an OBE in 2009. 

The 18 years we've been at Cafe Spice Namaste have gone so fast.​ ​When you first open a restaurant you never imagine spending 18 years in the same building. 

The city has changed a lot in 18 years.​ There are less people in the vicinity of the restaurant now and spending power has reduced greatly. We have had to adapt to survive.

In the last 15 years I have seen so many changes to legislation.​ There is so much more for the small business to pay out for now.

Changes in immigration laws​ have affected the restaurant industry and other industries, but having said that there are things we can do. 

I have been hatching the idea for a competition to inspire young chefs to cook Asian food​ for about seven years. I had to wait until this year to see it come together and I was so pleased to get the backing of the Master Chefs of Great Britain. 

British-born chefs can cook Indian food, no problem.​ I started my career as a French chef and worked in Switzerland doing pastry. There are lots of Indian chefs cooking French food out there, so if they can do that why can't British chefs cook Indian food?

More people must come forward and take advantage of the opportunities open to them. ​The Asian and Oriental Centres of Excellence could be very very helpful to the industry, but only if there is more uptake.

I do my best when it comes to developing young people​. We owe the industry a huge amount of gratitude, so I hope that what little bit I do helps. I have a huge amount to do, but if I find the time then colleges will have my help.  

Turkey has a bit of a stigma attached to it​, but you can do a lot with it. The meat is pretty adaptable which is why I've chosen to cook with it at the Skillery at IFE this year. 

I try and split my time between Cafe Spice Namaste and Mr Todiwala's Kitchen at Heathrow​.​ I try to go to Heathrow every other day, but it is hard to be so hands on in two businesses. 

My two sons wanted to go their own way,​ but they are currently managing a new cafe in Victoria Park, Hackney for us. It opened last year and is a bit of a different step for us as it's a traditional park cafe serving sandwiches and full English breakfasts. It surprisingly works quite well for us as a business.  

When it came to getting my honours​ I was surprised on both occasions. A lot of people have treated me differently since I've had them. People often ask 'how did you get them?' 

At Cafe Spice Namaste we have kept to the ethos of doing what we think is right. ​We take a lot of time to ensure that the food we cook and service we provide is consistent, so that when people walk in here they know what to expect. 

Cyrus Todiwala will be holding a masterclass at The Skillery at IFE​ at ExCel London on Monday 18 March at 1.15pm. 

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