Chefs Bani Nanda, Megha Kohli & Radhika Khandelwal Discuss Friendships In The Industry

In an industry synonymous with the terms ‘whirlwind’ and ‘pressure-driven’, it’s rare to Stop.Breathe.Smile.Go. Then it’s not necessarily by choice that most F&B heavyweights tend to tread solo in their culinary journey. However, every once in a while an insider comes along who goes beyond themselves to weave friendship within the fraternity, and share the craft of spreading smiles beyond the patrons and among the industry insiders. And this once, the capital is witnessing this change by not one, not two, but three ace chefs who have enthused friendship into Delhi’s F&B scene.

Say hello to the inseparable trio, Chef Bani Nanda (Miam & DSSC Power Packers 2016 Awardee), Chef Megha Kohli (Lavaash), and Chef Radhika Khandelwal (Fig & Maple and Ivy & Bean). They’ve each carved a niche for themselves and are soon becoming forces to reckon with in the F&B milieu. This Sisterhood of The Chef Hats effortlessly pairs this with unshakeable friendship, celebrating each other’s triumphs, and constantly encouraging each other to strive for more – a long pending serving of fresh meringue for the industry. If you haven’t bumped into their camaraderie about town or haven’t seen it splashed across their social media, we’re here to bring you out of your rabbit hole and showcase the dynamics of this power trio. The three ladies get chatting in this #DSSCExclusive and spill the beans on the love, laughter, and labour shared by them.

How did you all meet – was it BFF at first sight or friendship that grew with time?

Megha: I met Bani through our Oberoi Hotels background, and got a positive vibe from her since day one; but the friendship grew with time to reach where it is today. With Radhika, it was love at second sight! We met at an event at Bani’s and the following day Radhika came alone for dinner at Lavaash. I ended up sitting with her and we hit it off instantly, since then there was no looking back!

Radhika: I knew of Bani & Megha, and respected their work a lot; but we finally met at a chefs’ night hosted by Bani. I booked a table for one at Lavaash the night after, and Megha never left my table – that’s how we grew close! Bani & I got close when she saw me dying when I had just opened Fig & Maple, it was something she could relate to. I then became a regular at Miam (which Bani fondly calls the ‘Dukaan’).

Bani: Megha and I go back to our Oberoi Days, we met earlier but weren’t this close until recently! Radhika came for my Chefs’ Night. (Laughs) she is a socially awkward child! But we really hit it off and clicked.

The one moment when you realised you wouldn’t give up on this person even for the last bar of chocolate in the world?

Megha: With Bani, it was when she told us that she took Betadine instead of Benadryl for her cough, and was scared for her life. I had the biggest laugh of my life and appeased her for the next 30 minutes. That’s when I realised how much I adore her and wouldn’t give her up for anything in the world!

With Rads, it was when she reached for our lunch plans with a visibly upset expression. It just broke my heart to see her like that. That’s when I knew I’m not going to give up on her for anything or anyone.

Radhika: Bani would give up Megha for pide (just kidding!). I knew that this is forever and I won’t give it up for anything when we all came back from our respective summer vacations and realised how much we missed each other’s company.

Bani: I will give up both Radhika and Megha for Pide!

What goes into making this equation work and not succumb to the pressure and competitiveness this industry offers?

Megha: We have genuine love and respect for each other, and we are more proud of each other’s achievements than we are of our own! We also discuss things among ourselves extremely frankly and are a 100 percent honest – we know that we have each other’s best interests at heart, and always have each other’s back.

Radhika: We have each other’s back, respect for each other’s work and achievements. You’ll find all of us rooting for the others’ success at all times!

Bani: I’m just not a competitive person! I feel like we can all coexist happily without the drama.

The trio at their favourite hang out

Does having a close knit group of friends within your own industry also mean you have a strong support system?

Megha: Yes, because they know the industry as well as I do, they understand the pros and cons of the business. They’re able to offer the best advice and suggestions for my next move.

Radhika: Yes definitely, they are also my finest critiques.

Bani: Yes, these girls are always looking out for me. We give feedback to each other and we can discuss flavour combinations! I held a baking class recently and these two came to help me set up and conduct the class.

Your one tip for not letting professional life intrude upon the personal?

Megha: Never mix work and personal life. It’s an unsaid thing among the three of us to always keep it separate.

Radhika: We leave work at work. It’s hard to maintain a work-life balance, but eventually we got the hang of it!

Bani: I have many acquaintances in the industry, as does everyone in their respective professions. The key is to keep a distance and only get candid with the few that really click with you and are likeminded.

Any plans for a collaboration, or do you believe in keeping the two ‘P’s separate?

Megha & Radhika: We have been discussing a pop-up for a while, but haven’t got down to executing it; because whenever we meet we have so much other stuff to talk about besides work. And also that we are super lazy outside our workplaces!

Bani: Yes! I have a baking class in mind!

One memory together that you cherish fondly?

Megha: For our first sleepover together (which we’d been planning for ages), we booked a hotel room and thought we would go crazy drinking, dancing, and talking the night away. But when the time came we simply curled up in our beds, watched Love Actually, and Bani slept off before midnight! Radhika and I can still never get over how we behaved like typical ‘uncles’ – had a drink, watched some TV, and dozed off. Cracks me up even now!

Radhika: When we left a group of people, just to be together at a next door restaurant.

Bani: We have so many. Our recent getaway night was super fun!

Your favourite dish or dessert by the other two?

Megha: By Bani it’s the Salted Caramel Cake , and the Eggs Benny by Radhika.

Radhika: Pide by Megha, and Chocolate Raspberry Cake by Bani.

Bani: Megha’s Pide and Radhika’s Sweet Potato Burger.

Your go-to place in Delhi for an evening together?

Megha, Radhika & Bani: Has to be Lavaash!

Among the three of you, who is – the reckless one, the careful & contained one, and the one always bringing the carefree and composed one to a middle ground?

Megha: Reckless is Radhika, Bani is the middle ground, and I’m the careful and contained one. I know both of them are not going to agree with me on this one!

Radhika: Megha is the reckless one for sure, I would say Bani is the careful and contained one, and perhaps I strike the balance.

Bani: Megha is the reckless one, Radhika is the careful and contained one, and I bring the two to the middle ground.

 

Doffing our hats to the chefs’ skills of carving the perfect balance between the personal and the professional, here’s to a life where the Pide never gets over, the Eggs Benny keep us full, and the cakes are countless.

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