Gaurav Anand moved to the U.S. for love, but it wasn’t long before he got down to business.
Anand, who followed his girlfriend (now wife) to America, is the chef/owner of Curry Hill’s Bhatti Indian Grill and Desi Galli. He also helms the new Moti Mahal Delux, a successful operation in India dating back to the 1920s. Anand brought the business stateside, eager to show Americans that Indian food goes beyond tandoori chicken and naan.
Did you always like to cook?
It was never my vision to become a chef. I always loved cooking, I always enjoyed cooking, and suddenly my brother started a restaurant and I just started working with him and then just started enjoying it. One day I had cooks working for me, and I had huge party of 500 people, and I said, “Why is the food coming late?” They said, “If you don’t like it, then why don’t you cook it?” I said, “You know what, if I want to be in this business, I cannot be dependent on anybody, just myself.” So I said, “Let’s go ahead.”
Did you have any concerns about bringing an established brand to the U.S.?
The only concern was how we would get the same taste, because it’s difficult to get the same stuff: same [ingredients], same spices. We had this importer called Nanak Foods, so we gave them the list of things which we need from India and they did their research and said yes, we can get you all these things. We don’t use any color in our food. If you see anything yellow, that has yellow chili powder. If you go anywhere in the U.S., you cannot find a yellow chili powder. It’s very difficult. You get that from India.
Tell us about the menu.
I traveled a lot of places in India. … You cannot find a similar menu like this because all of the [recipes] are from different places. Each dish is from a different place because the recipe was give to me by a different person. I collected everything and put it all together and made a nice blend.
Are there differences between Indian and American audiences?
I think American audiences are the best you can ever, ever have in the world, and especially New Yorkers. Their attitude is mind-blowing, and they give you a chance, let me tell you that. They are so open to every cuisine.
What are some misconceptions about Indian food?
Chicken tikka masala is a British dish. There’s nothing in India called chicken tikka masala. People should only go to restaurants where the menus are small, not, like, 175 things. You see every Indian restaurant has everything in the world on the menu — they are not authentic. I don’t even have a buffet in my restaurant. There are no buffets in India. Buffets are meant for big wedding parties, where you have 500 people.