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Chef Ritu Dalmia
Born in Kolkata to a Marwari business family, Chef Ritu Dalmia joined her father's marble business at the age of sixteen. She often travelled to Italy on work and it was then she fell in love with its cuisine. Interestingly, her love for cooking also led her to try non-vegetarian food, not easy when you are coming from an all vegetarian household. Interestingly Ritu hasn’t undergone any professional training to become a Chef. From the first meal she cooked at the tender age of nine to where she is today, she has gone by her instincts and the belief - ‘Use the freshest ingredients and you cannot go wrong.’
First ‘wonderful disaster’
At the age of twenty-one she started her first restaurant Mezzaluna, in Delhi, in 1993, offering Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian accent. It was the first chef-run restaurant in the country. The cuisine, however, was way ahead of its time. It was in her words 'a wonderful disaster' and so after three years she closed shop and moved to London, where she opened the acclaimed Indian restaurant Vama with a partner, Andy Verma. Vama. A roaring success, it taught her all about running a restaurant professionally and gave her the confidence she needed. Frequent customers at Vama included the likes of Bryan Adams, Maggie Smith, Bryan Ferry, amongst others.
Her heart, however, longed to return to India. She came back to Delhi in 2000, but with unsure plans. The food scene in Delhi had changed drastically since Mezzaluna; ingredients were easily available and the audience had been exposed to international cuisines. It was then that in partnership with her friend Gita Bhalla, she started Diva. There has been no looking back since. Diva, one of Delhi’s finest Italian restaurants completed 11 successful years, and is one of the most recommended Italian restaurants in the country, also popular for its hand-picked yet extensive wine list.
Loved by Italians too!
Ritu also runs the highly successful Café at the Italian Culture Centre, and Italian diplomats prefer Diva when it comes to an authentic Italian restaurant in Delhi. She now owns five restaurants as part of Diva restaurants, each unique and interesting in its own way, as well as her own catering business. These include Café Diva in Greater Kailash I, Latitude 28 in collaboration with Goodearth in Khan Market, and Diva Piccola, the latest addition, in Hauz Khas Village. Host of two immensely popular cookery shows on national television – Italian Khana and Travelling Diva on NDTV Good Times, Ritu is also the author of the two cookbooks by the same name - Italian Khana and Travelling Diva – Recipes from around the world. Her most important tip – use the freshest of ingredients, and you cannot go wrong. Her latest cookbook, Diva Green: A Vegetarian Cookbook, is perfect for those wishing to reacquaint themselves with vegetables in all their flavour, colour and goodness.