Love bites for Mumbai's famous couples from the food industry
This Valentine's Day, the city's most famous couples from the F&B industry revisit their romance and joint culinary adventures
Cooking it up
With adjacent cooking stations inside the kitchen at a popular five-star in Worli, Seefah Ketchaiyo and Karan Bane's first interaction in 2011, ironically, wasn't great. "He's really naughty, and sometimes, he would come by and fool around at my station. So, one day, I got irritated and said, 'Hey, why are you in my space?' I think after that, he thought I was egotistical, but he was kind and helpful and so, I got to like him," Ketchaiyo recalls. In the weeks that followed, the Thai chef tried flirting with Bane.
"Then one day, I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said he did and showed a beautiful girl's picture. I thought to myself, 'Wow! She's really gorgeous,"' Ketchaiyo shares. When her staff started laughing, she realised it was a Bollywood superstar. Talking about how they clicked, Ketchaiyo explains, "I am very hyper, but Karan never gets bugged or yells." "Just like a typical husband," Bane jokes, adding, "But I think what I really liked about Seefah is her strength. She is independent and supportive."
And though language wasn't a barrier, nationalities were, and for the first three years, convincing Karan's parents was a task. "I think after we opened The Blue [the chef-couple's now-closed restaurant] in 2016, and my parents saw how well it was doing, they finally understood that this relationship was good for me," he explains. Food, understandably, has played a pivotal role in their relationship and manifested itself not just in the form of their new restaurant on Hill Road, but also seeped into their everyday lives. Be it Ketchaiyo learning to love butter chicken or picking up the skill of making doodh-chai for Bane, or the latter wooing her with his culinary chops in Thai and Japanese cuisine.
Love pours over
Much like most people, Sakshi Saigal and Rahul Mehra's love story happened serendipitously. In 2013, Saigal, who had just returned from college in New York, was waiting to migrate to Barcelona for her MBA, and Mehra was waiting for the licences for his brewing distillery — which would go on to become the Gateway Brewing Company in 2014 — to come through. They were both working with a Mumbai-based NGO that works in creating employment for women with down syndrome, and that's where the two met. "I was interested in beers, and Rahul was home-brewing at that point. We also loved going to bars and trying cocktails, so that's how we got talking," Saigal shares. "I think we were very curious about the same things. But soon after we started dating, Sakshi went off to college and we were in a long distance relationship for about a year and half, which included me visiting her in Barcelona," Mehra tells us. When Saigal returned in 2015, she was mulling over what to do next. It dawned on her then, that no one in the city was making gin, and that became the fodder for their venture, Strangers and Sons, a homegrown gin company which launched in October last year. The couple married in 2016, and continues to step out on tippling escapades.
Eat, travel, love
Ask restaurateur-couple Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf when they first met, and you're likely to get two different answers. "My memory is that we met at The Ghetto, but he claims it was Busaba. Which is ironic because now, that's where we have Miss T [the couples' 2018 offering, which they co-own with a hospitality venture]," Devidayal shares.
The year was 2007 and Devidayal had taken a transfer to her tax services company's Mumbai office after living in London for nine years. Yousuf, too, was back in the country having quit his job with a San Francisco-based telecom company, and was looking at opening a restaurant. This eventually metamorphosed into The Table, the duo's 2011 Colaba restaurant, which opened a month after they were married in December 2010. And it was a shared love for travel and food that chiefly helped their relationship blossom. "I remember when I was a tax consultant, I'd be working till really late and Jay would come pick me up so we could go out to eat. The restaurants, too, are something that we feel connected over because we have created something cool together, but that's more about running a business. More than that, it's the joy that you get from sharing a common love for food that is truly special," Devidayal tells us.
Echoing her thoughts, Yousuf says, "Food has always been very important in my life, so finding a partner who also has admiration for it has made our life together much easier, interesting and loving. It has played an integral part in our professional and personal journey as a couple."
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