Former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar's daughter launches new kitchen studio in Lower Parel

Updated: Apr 19, 2019, 12:41 IST | Shunashir Sen |

Young chef and former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar's daughter Devika launches a smart new kitchen studio in Lower Parel

Devika Manjrekar (right) and operations in-charge Natasha Gandhi at the open kitchen. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Devika Manjrekar (right) and operations in-charge Natasha Gandhi at the open kitchen. Pics/Bipin Kokate

How does a person go about building a career? Well, the obvious first step would be to decide on one. And it was at the age of 17 in 2011 that Devika Manjrekar first had an inkling of what she wanted to do in life. "I was in college doing my BA and started watching too much of Masterchef Australia. I know it sounds clichéd. But I was addicted, and that made me passionate about food, leading me to start off by writing a blog," Manjrekar says sitting in a kitchen studio she launched earlier this week, called Pop-ups by Devika.

Manjrekar in front of a wall covered in pasta
Manjrekar in front of a wall covered in pasta

It's a fairly compact but smartly designed space in Lower Parel, located in a lane with a temple, bang opposite the Bombay Dyeing showroom. Manjrekar hosts us there on a weekday morning and a bunch of empty cider bottles stacked neatly in a corner serve as remnants from her launch party held earlier. The main door opens out to a long, curved wooden table that can seat roughly 20 people. An open kitchen lies on one side, with a table that functions as the pass, but which can also be moved around to create more space since it has wheels. And a wall covered with the various culinary degrees that the 25-year-old has amassed reveals how Manjrekar's career has evolved since the time she was a teenage food blogger.

"I was constantly in search of good food to write about back then, but didn't really find it in city restaurants. So I was like, 'I have to learn how to make it myself.' That's when I started experimenting in the kitchen and reached a point where I was certain that [being in the F&B industry] is what I want to do," the youngster says, adding that she told her parents — former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar and wife Madhavi — that she wants to drop out of college to study the culinary arts.

Manjrekar Family
(From left) Mum Madhavi, Devika and dad Sanjay Manjrekar

But she also says that they gently persuaded her to rethink her plans since her future still wasn't set in stone. Seeing the wisdom in their advice, she enrolled herself for a one-month course at Ireland's Dublin Cookery School at the age of 19, which became a sort of baptism by fire since she realised how intensive working in a professional kitchen could be. That was further corroborated when she joined Le Cordon Bleu in London immediately after her graduation for an exhaustive one-year degree. Finally, after working for a bit in the British capital, she returned to India in 2016 aiming to jump headlong into the food industry here.

cakes that the young chef baked
Cakes that the young chef baked

That, though, turned out to be a bit of culture shock. The sort of professionalism and hygiene standards she had seen in the UK were as absent here as, say, a vada pav stall would be on the beaches of Brighton. "I didn't see myself being in that situation for long, and decided that I would learn as much as I could and then find something else," Manjrekar says, revealing how she next did a month-long unpaid stint with a British chef and a summer course in Italy, where her love affair with the country's cuisine began.

After that, it was back to square one. She returned to Mumbai, started doing small pop-ups at her home in Prabhadevi, realised that people were labelling her as home chef (which she was uncomfortable with), and applied yet again for a six-month work experience with British chef Sabrina Gidda. "She's of Indian origin, but born and brought up in England. And at 30, she is the head chef of an Italian restaurant in London, which for me was like, 'Goals!'" Manjrekar says, adding that this was the turning point in her own career.

For, it gave her the confidence to chart her own path. And after a second brush with hosting pop-ups at home and at restaurants, she eventually hit upon the idea of opening the kitchen studio we are sitting in. The plan now is to host pop-ups, workshops, masterclasses and even supper clubs of the sort that are common across England. There is in fact a dinner slated for tonight, where the menu entails her signature dishes like gin-cured salmon, miso-glazed eggplant, spiced roasted pumpkin, and panna cotta. Manjrekar is also mulling the idea of opening up the space for other creative arts such as comedy gigs and small exhibitions, which could work since her studio has been designed aesthetically by Jashan Sippy of Sugar and Space (a yellow wall covered entirely with bits of pasta deserves special mention). But her dream for her career is to eventually own a restaurant by the age of 30, which would make her go one up on Gidda, her idol. And going by the single-minded progress Manjrekar has made ever since an addictive TV show sucked her into the world of food, we wouldn't be surprised if she manages to do just that.

Dishing out nuggets of info

The Manjrekars live in Prabhadevi and as a family, some of the restaurants in the city they like frequenting are The Bombay Canteen, Olive and Yauatcha. Devika, whose strength lies in Italian cuisine, says that the one dish she makes that her father Sanjay — one of the Indian cricket team's batting mainstays from the 1990s and now a television commentator — likes the best is roast chicken. She also adds that of the three Masterchef judges — Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris — Mehigan is her favourite.

At: Pop-Ups By Devika — Kitchen Studio, shop no 7, ground floor, Kabir Ashram Building, Lower Parel.
On: Tonight, at 8 pm
Log on to: insider.in
Cost: Rs 3,250 to Rs 3,750

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