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The Architect of Crafted Dishes: Chef Aanal Kotak Her restaurant business is profitable, and she anticipates achieving a break-even for the manufacturing unit this year. Also, up next is expansion into the Horeca segment across India as well as internationally

By Entrepreneur Staff

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Chef Aanal Kotak

Aanal Kotak, one of the recognized Gujarati chefs and the co-founder of The Secret Kitchen recalls that she had to opt for Fashion Designing at NIFT as a career in hotel management wasn't highly encouraged in her family to take up as a profession. But Kotak was determined. Despite all odds, she became first in her family to venture into the food industry and to pursue a career as a chef, "My passion for cooking fueled my dream of opening a restaurant. From an early age, my goal was clear: to pursue hotel management studies and establish a restaurant."

Kotak was so zealous for cooking that she left her own Mehendi function to audition for 'The Rasoi Show'. Her culinary journey began in 2011 when she appeared on a TV cookery show and emerged as the Youngest Chef of Gujarat. Six years later, she began her entrepreneurial journey by establishing her own restaurant: The Secrets Kitchen. "The turning point came when people began asking questions like "We love your food, but where can we eat it" or "We want to taste the food you cook." It was these inquiries that sparked the desire within me to embark on the journey of launching my own restaurants," she shares. At present, she has over 13 restaurants across national and international locations

So, what makes her restaurants stand out? "I invest a significant amount of effort in curating the menus for my restaurants, which is what sets them apart. These menus feature lesser-known and hidden gems from Indian cuisine—dishes that you typically wouldn't find at most eateries. Notably, our menu includes the innovative "Caged Samosa," inspired by samosa-shaped ghughras from Anjar, Kutch, and the modernised "Dhokla Fondue," transforming ancient Moong Dhokla flavours into a delightful fondue served with steamed dhokla. These dishes, savoured globally, showcase the unique culinary experiences offered," she adds. Interestingly, she conducted thorough research on Royal Indian cuisine before curating her menu and came to a conclusionthat homemade spices were the key ingredient.

She prioritizes every aspect of the dining experience, including food, ambience, taste, and presentation, "For example, at SouthAk, one of my restaurant brands, we serve food on steel plates shaped like banana leaves and provide an array of condiments to enhance the dining experience." In 2023, she launched her book "Secrets of a Professional Kitchen".

Her restaurant business is profitable, and she anticipates achieving a break-even for the manufacturing unit this year. Also, up next is expansion into the Horeca segment across India as well as internationally. "We aim to expand to Dubai, New Zealand, the US, in addition to Australia and Canada. I'm launching a few new outlets in Vadodara and Ahmedabad which are more premium. Globally, our restaurant chains are expanding to Canada and Dubai. Also, our Horeca and retail products will soon be accessible in New Zealand, Dubai, and the US. Additionally, I'm introducing a distinctive quick-serve restaurant chain that promises a unique food and will make us stand out in the market," she concludes.

FACTSHEET:

No. Of Employees 100+

No. Of Co-Founders: 3

Year Of Inception: 2017

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