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Singing songs of soulfood

DECCAN CHRONICLE | SURUCHI KAPUR-GOMES
Published Nov 15, 2015, 5:34 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 3:02 am IST
This fourth-generation Malaysian is making waves in India with cuisine from his country
Ravi Nahappan
 Ravi Nahappan

He is a maverick of sorts. And so comfortable in his skin, it is any wonder that this fourth generation Malaysian Indian decided to foray into the Indian hospitality segment with a  different set of ideals. Ravi Nahappan calls Singapore his base, and then goes on to travel across seas to spread the Malay flavours. He recently opened a successful  Malay canteen Nasi and Mee in Bengaluru, and plans to take the Asian trail across the country. “My formative years were in Malaysia and Singapore. I’m a fourth generation Malaysian but culturally still very Indian.  

My paternal grandmother had never been to India but was so proud of her heritage and even joined the INA to fight for Indian Independence under Subhas Chandra Bose. She actually opened one of the first Indian restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and now I’m bringing Malaysian food to India! My father has also been involved in the food and hospitality business for over 35 years,” says Ravi, who did his early schooling in Malaysia and Singapore, and has wonderful memories of his boarding school in England. Chemical Engineering and Finance might have taken him through college (University College London and University of Warwick), but it was the hospitality industry that his family is known for in Singapore — Lioncity Foods that lured the ultimate foodie in him.

Affable, very down-to-earth, and not afraid of getting his hands dirty, the 34-year-old Ravi recently got married to his sweetheart Aurelie Zeller, and has a deep spiritual connect to what is destined. “My wife Aurelie is from Paris. Like most couples, there are two versions to our love story — Mine and the truth! We met in Singapore through mutual friends and I believe it was my unorthodox dance moves that caught her eye. When you know, you just know. I popped the question at Borobodur, which is a wonderful Buddhist temple in Yogyakarta. The ascension of the temple depicts the route to Nirvana, which I felt had some symbolism as we travel through life together,” says the restauranteur. His wife is very much a part of his culinary journey. “Her excitement and love for cooking has  been a major influence. She’s got a great gig as a banker in Singapore and is incredibility supportive,” says the whiz kid who was an investment banker too.

Deep in the confines of one’s mind is the philosophy that shapes life, and for Ravi too, it’s been a belief in stepping out of comfort zones and challenging ideas that keeps him going, “I’m a firm believer in Kaizen or continuous improvement.  Proof of concept takes time. Right now, it’s all about serving the good comfort hawker fare at our outlet. We’ve been most humbled by the positive response our restaurants have received.”

The enterprising guy is a total sports buff, “Like food, sport is another great connector of people all over the world.  Football, tennis, cricketI could watch any sport.  I’m a huge fan of Roger Federer. What a gentleman on and off the court. Incredible discipline and dedication to his craft and even at the tail end of his career,” says Ravi, who also dabbles in interior design to express himself further.

For Ravi, food is a true reflection of the movement of people over time. “We recently stayed with friends in Tuscany and it was a magical week — eating fresh tomatoes from the garden, learning about olive oil, spectacular gelato and exploring the wines of Montalcino. I had to get reacquainted with my old friend, the treadmill, after that week,” smiles the man who’s next culinary expedition is Japan, “18 months late but I also owe my wife a honeymoon!

He loves the buzz of India but feels there is still a lot needs to change in hospitality here, but he has his own philosophy that keeps him going, “To be honest, my philosophy on life is constantly evolving,” he confesses.
 

 

 

 

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