This celebrity chef’s restaurant is frequented by the likes of Prince Charles, Amitabh Bachchan, and Shah Rukh Khan
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Dipna Anand
To say that celebrity chef and restaurateur Dipna Anand was born into the restaurant business is an understatement. She was born to food and a tradition that travelled three different continents to be London’s renowned Brilliant Restaurant today.
Her grandfather, Bishen Dass Anand, started the first Brilliant nightclub, hotel, and restaurant in Kenya in the 1950s. When the family migrated to the UK in the 1973, he passed on his cooking skills and knowledge to his two sons. Dipna’s father Gulu Anand and her uncle Kewal Anand opened the first Brilliant Restaurant in 1975 to keep their father’s traditional family recipes alive.
Today, Dipna continues the family tradition and is Chef and Co-owner of the Brilliant Restaurant in Southall, London. The UK media has included her among the world’s top 10 hottest female chefs and the top five Indians who are shaking up London’s food scene.
She remembers that as a little girl, she and her brother would spend all their free time at the restaurant to help out during busy nights.
“My brother and I used to try and make ourselves useful by setting tables, filling drinks and following basic orders from mum and dad. I enjoyed watching my dad cook in the restaurant kitchen. Even at that age, I took a keen interest in the kitchen and how the dishes were put together. I knew I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” she recollects.
Dipna was fascinated by the bulk cooking, sometimes even stirring the ladle when her dad would even let her. She says, “At home, I made my space under the kitchen table above which mum used to be rolling her rotis and cooking. I had a blanket under that table and also a stool. I used to stand on the stool and try to help her. I would ask lots of questions and when I would get tired, I would sleep under the table with my blanket. This is probably my earliest memories of being in the kitchen.”
Dipna completed her degree in Hospitality and Catering from the University of West London, even bagging a scholarship to do a Master’s there. She won her first National Award for her A-Level Food Technology project on ‘Low Fat Indian cooking’.
She officially started working at the restaurant at the age of 16. At 18, she was working weekdays at Tesco to increase her knowledge of customer service, and on weekends helping her dad at the restaurant.
Punjabi cuisine with a British twist
Chef Dipna Anand
Dipna brings her own special touch to the food at Brilliant.
“I specialise in Punjabi cuisine as well as Indian cuisine with a British slant or a twist. I love experimenting with quirky flavours and tastes and also cook up a delicious traditional British Sunday roast. All the cooking I do is close to my heart, especially when I cook my grandfather’s recipes that dates back to over 70 years. When cooking such dishes, I think about what my grandfather would have been like. This is probably exactly how my father is - passionate about his cooking and a person who cooks from the heart.”
Dipna’s approach to cooking is clear and definitive.
“When I enter the kitchen, I always do so with a positive and clear approach. If I have any worries or stress, these are left outside of the kitchen because when you cook, you should do so with an open and clear mind. Cooking should be enjoyed and not counted as a chore.”
Her signature dishes are Soya Stuffed Masala Mushroom and Masala Chicken.
Brilliant Restaurant is frequented by many celebrities. “Prince Charles has visited us twice and he told us it was some of the best Indian food he had ever eaten. Our other celebrity customers include Bollywood and Hollywood actors, singers, politicians, and ministers including Kevin Kostner, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Cliff Richard, Ted Heath, Princess Ann, and Chris Tarrant,” shares Dipna.
She adds that Chef Gordon Ramsay has also visited them twice and called it ‘proper authentic Indian cooking that comes from the heart’.
“To have Ramsay say we serve some of the tastiest Indian food he has eaten is a huge compliment. To have him learn from us for his cook-along TV series, on which we taught him how to cook using the clay oven, is an achievement in itself. He is the most friendly, encouraging, and supportive chef. When I met him for the first time, he told me I would go a long way. Those words now ring in my ears and I thank him for his faith in me and his encouragement."
Dipna also did a series comprising 10 episodes on food and cooking for B4U channel in 2017.
The future looks scrumptious
Does she have any major plans for India?
Dipna says, “Not yet. Although, if an opportunity were to come up, I would most certainly consider it. One of my books has just been launched in India by Sanbun Publishing, so who knows? Opening a restaurant in India is also something I have been asked to do and if an opportunity comes along, I most certainly would seriously consider it.”
Though Dipna’s parents were born in Kenya, her grandparents are from Gujranwala in Punjab. “They were Punjabi through and through, and my grandfather had a vast knowledge of Punjabi cuisine. I visit India at least twice a year and get ideas as to what I can cook when I get back home to the UK.”
She wants to continue running her restaurant business and her own cookery school. She also enjoys carrying out pop-ups and wants to continue her partnerships with Levy UK, which includes working with Chelsea Football Club, Tottenham Hotspur, London Excel, Wembley SSE, Twickenham Rugby Stadium, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa Football Club, and Leicester City Football Club - a few of the major venues her restaurant supplies food to. She is also about to create some of her own ready-to-eat packaged products. For example, magic masala suitable for items like salads and fries.
Dipna says it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female - running a business will never be easy.
“Many years ago, there was a preconception that men were far better than women in running businesses. However, that thinking has far been left behind and today, the number of female business owners as well as leaders is higher than it has ever been before. As a society, we have changed considerably and today some of the world’s most successful businesses are led by women. There will always be challenges but they make you stronger, and this is all part and package of learning. However, the rewards far outweigh the difficulties you face running your own business.”
As Chef Gordon Ramsay told Dipna, with a brand name like Brilliant, “You have to be nothing less than brilliant”.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)