Romy Gill, MBE is a British/Indian chef and cookery teacher, based in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire. In 2014, her restaurant, Romy’s Kitchen, was shortlisted as “Best Newcomer” in the British Curry Awards. She is one of the few female Indian chef/owners on the UK restaurant scene, and was appointed an MBE in 2016. Gill’s style of Indian cooking is very different as she avoids the use of unnatural food colourings and is a fan of combining Indian and British cuisine. In an exclusive interview she talks about the challenges she faced and her love story with Indian cuisine
What inspired you to become a chef? Was it by chance or by choice?
I always wanted to be a chef but dad said no, as he knew I wouldn’t survive in the male-dominated industry decades ago. He was right indeed, but moving to the UK I missed my family, friends and the food I grew up eating. Food gave comfort and helped me with my anxiety. So I guess circumstances led me to become a chef.
What were the challenges in setting up your own restaurant on foreign soil?
There were many – from getting a loan to change use to a return took three and half years and then nine months for builders to finish the job. Being a woman immigrant everything was against me but hope and desire to feed people kept me going on.
Would it have been any different if you hadn’t been a woman chef?
Definitely; there would have been a line of investors helping to open the place, and people with money get a change of use so quickly. I had to fight for so long.
What kind of cuisines do you advocate and specialise in?
Traditional Indian food that I grew up eating and the flavours are very much from sweet food serving with a modern twist.
How has the restaurant scene evolved in India?
I think it’s evolving all the time.
What about food? Are Indians more open to experimenting with different cuisines now?
In UK the older generation Indians like to stick to what they are comfortable with. They will always end up saying I can make it better at home but the younger generation is more open to new styles.
Your insights on India’s gastronomic heritage?
As Indians, we are very lucky, Indian food has been influenced by trade and invaders. Indian food is just not Indian, regional food is just wonderful. We are a nation of so many religions, culture, caste and rituals which reflect in the food and traditions.
The culinary tourism potential in India?
With Tasting Symposium like these, changes will happen. I think Incredible India and the ministry of tourism need to cherish our heritage and showcase it.
Do you think Indian chefs are now open to food design and presentation techniques?
Chefs always have and now more so, chefs like Manish Malhotra, Gagan Anand and more are doing so creative tasty food.
Any advice you wish to give aspiring young chefs in India?
Forget about being on TV, cook with your heart and understand the seasoning and flavours that will make customers happy. As Anthony Bourdain said, If I am an advocate for anything, its to move. As far as you can. the extent to which you can, walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, open your mind. There is no social or family life with long hours and weekends working, so one has to balance that, no one else will do it for you.