She is the diva of Italian cuisine. Her restaurant was one of the firsts to serve Italian food in the capital at a time when people were unfamiliar with international cuisine.
Restaurateur and chef Ritu Dalmia has come a long way since then. After having opened restaurants abroad, she finally came back home to start Diva - an eclectic Italian restaurant in 2000. She thanks her travels for the inspiration, and of course the people of Delhi to have finally opened up to newer tastes.
In an interview with India Food Network, chef Ritu Dalmia talks about her travels, the power of social media and what does it take to sustain in a male-dominated industry.
How did you develop a liking for food?
I think my size says it all. I have always been curious about eating and cooking since a very early age.
What is your food philosophy?
Keep it simple and never compromise on the ingredients.
How have your travels influenced your cooking style?
Most of my cooking is influenced by my travels. Every time I eat something new, I want to rush back and try it out in my kitchen. It is never the same, but something new and delicious always comes out of it. For example, when I tasted Moutabel in Jordan it was very very different from the Lebanese, and in our mezzo platter, that's what I started doing.
What were your challenges while introducing Italian food to Delhi?
Lack of exposure and non-availability of ingredients are some of the challenges, but now these things are a story of the past.
How was it to cook for Mumbaikars at the Luxe Drive by Mercedes-Benz event?
Fabulous! I love Mumbai, and just adore the energy of the city and especially cooking for the people here.
Any plans of opening Diva in Mumbai?
I am often tempted to open Diva here, but I am not sure if I will be able to offer the same quality here as in Delhi.
How does it feel to be a chef in a fairly male-dominated industry? Why do you think we don't see too many women chefs?
I have never felt out of place being one of the very few women in the industry. The truth is that it is a very hard job - long hours, physically exhausting and a very anti-social way of living; and for women who also are home-makers, it really takes a lot of courage and finding the balance. I guess that is one of the main reasons why we don't find many women in this field. That said, we are finding more and more women in the Diva Kitchen.
Has social media impacted your life as a chef?
I was one of those people who had a serious aversion to social media, but I have to admit I have realised it is a fabulous way to connect to your guests.
How important are food reviews for you?
Food reviews are important when you are launching a new restaurant or a new product. Post that it is what you serve to your clients that will make or break the restaurant.