From fronting the global gourmet outreach to enriching the cultural palate of the West, Samyukta Nair is creating a culinary gold class
My childhood was multicultural and had varying degrees of immersion into global cuisine. Mom had grown up in Europe, Dad in India. They spent their married life in the US. I was a sociology student who was open to new experiences in taste, colour, fashion and culture. Food was a fulcrum of my life. There was a global dynamic always at play in our conversations and at the dining table, tastes were ever evolving. I grew up privileged and living for many years in NYC gave me the chance to visit art galleries and tune in to the cultural scene. The exposure to different artistic themes and guests my parents entertained educated me — scholars, literary giants, art promoters and industry’s most eminent would sit down and discuss perspectives and their passions. Those influences were a crucial part of my growing up. Later, I became an accidental restaurateur, thanks to my grandfather Captain C.P. Krishnan Nair, the founder of the Leela Group.
My parents Dinesh and Madhu Nair always inculcated in us a respect for guests, the desire to make them comfortable. The core of hospitality is to be hospitable. It was never just building hotels, it was about building lifestyles. I learnt quite early on that we have the responsibility of positively influencing someone’s day or mood. We wanted to create an environment that allows people to engage and come into their own.
BECOMING THE DESIRED DINING TABLE IN UK
My father had an investment in the UK. It never really took the shape he wanted it to. He began reassessing his priorities. As a family, we had multiple discussions about having our gourmet footprint globally. In 2001, the Leela Bengaluru Jamavar was born. My father then encouraged me to take Jamavar to London. And London was our first international outpost. It was a first step towards expanding our knowledge about Indian cuisine curation. Knowing where you come from, being proud of where you come from opens up endless possibilities about where you’re going. Developing an existing product with perspectives from experience brings satisfaction.
THE BEIJING INFLUENCE
I studied International Business Certification in China for eight weeks as part of the study abroad quotient of my Nottingham University degree. The time I spent there helped me understand the country’s popular cuisine and dishes from different regions. My love for Chinese cuisine became the springboard outside the Indian taste realm. Mimimeifair is about eternal love for the culinary genius of the Chinese. It’s housed in a three-storey Georgian townhouse in London. The home had great bones but needed a new filter. We went about curating the historic home to suit our culinary programme. The food references mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore. The bespoke design has a keen focus on art
that is historic and has a nostalgic vibe.
TRIBUTE TO THE DABBAWALLAS
Being in London, I also realised how much of value my time in Mumbai had added to my outlook, career and me as a human being. I had to pay tribute to the food thread that keeps Mumbai alive and ambitious. The bustling metropolis of Mumbai evolved from seven reclaimed islands. And the Dabbawalas reflect the city’s rich history. Bombay Bustle, my offering to the casual dining scene in London, encapsulates the innovative spirit of the Mumbai Dabbawalas. While being boutique and luxe, BB also brings rustic Mumbai onto your platter.
DAYS DEDICATED TO PROGRESS
I don’t really have free time. Lines blur in hospitality. It’s immensely gratifying when your ventures turn into a culture. Every day is spent trying to create better experiences and understand the emerging trends in cuisine and comfort. I do have a tight circle of friends. I also work out. There are times when we reach sense saturation, because in hospitality all our senses are always being used. So I do go out to take in new experiences. I visit art galleries. I am currently enjoying the artistic works of Dhruvi Acharya and Aditi Singh.