The story might well have gone some other way. Born in then-Calcutta to a Marwari business family, Dalmia joined the family stone business when she was just 16. Her work kept taking her to Italy, where she developed a liking for the local cuisine and learnt how to cook it proficiently. In 1993, at age 21, she set up Mezza Luna, a Mediterranean restaurant with an Italian accent in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village. The food was excellent, Mezza Luna’s fortunes weren’t. An undeterred Dalmia moved to London, where she opened Vama, an Indian fine dining restaurant. The restaurant was a big success and won rave reviews.
But Delhi beckoned, and in 2000, she came home to open her first DIVA. The fine dining restaurant was an immediate hit with food that Delhi had never encountered and a Wine Cellar that had no parallel. Dalmia never looked back, going on to open one winning restaurant after another and managing a staff of 200. With Cittamani, her new eatery in Milan, Dalmia has come full circle. She started her restaurateur life trying to introduce India to genuine Italian food; now she’s getting Italians to taste and enjoy the flavours of the Indian sub-continent. Cittamani’s menu is a fusion of Indian and Italian elements; with Dalmia cooking locally-sourced Italian ingredients with Indian techniques.
Dalmia’s entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to the hospitality industry has been recognized by many institutions, including Forbes which put her on its W Power Trailblazers List in March 2017 and the Indian Federation for Culinary Association, which in 2016 recognized her as one of India’s 25 biggest Chefs. In September, she was awarded the Ordine della Stella d’Italia, the highest civilian honour of Italy. Dalmia has hosted Italian Khana and Travelling DIVA on NDTV Good Times and authored three cookbooks, Italian Khaana, Travelling DIVA and DIVA Green: A Vegetarian Cookbook.
With the upcoming Goa launch of DIVA on May 20th at Andores Resort & Spa, Calangute, a rapid fire session between flights had Chef Ritu blazing away the answers, and some surprises too.
- 5 destinations that have influenced your culinary art and why ….
Italy of Course (Italian food is all about amazing ingredients
Japan- cooking is like true form of art
Thailand- the 5 senses- all of them are in harmony
- If I was not a Chef I would be ….
- India is the fastest emerging food destination on the globe. What is your opinion on it? What needs to be done to educate Indians on the food culture of the West vis a vis our own culinary history? Is this trend a sustainable, viable option from a business perspective, considering the momentum to go back to traditional organic foods.
I don’t quite agree with it. I still think Indians are very conservative with their eating habits, but that is quite understandable, any country with a rich food culture are normally more closed to accept other cuisines of the world.
- What is your favourite Goa memory and why
Raas amlet and bhajji pao at Margao bus station, when I was building my home in Galgibag, always stopped there on my way from airport to the south.
- What should Goa look forward to at the Diva Restaurant. Also, how this experience will be different from other contemporaries in the market?
What they would get at any other Diva Restaurant- good honest food, cooked with love and served with a genuine smile.
- Your favourite eating places in Goa and why
- Two cocktails that totally define the spirit and personality of Chef Ritu Dalmia,
GIN &TONIC the only spirit I drink- spicy yet gentle
- Advice to students in the hospitality sector
Keep an open mind and don’t ever think you know it all, every day you will learn something new.