My restaurant, nilgiri’s, turns 15 on the 9th of July and it seems like only yesterday that we started this dream project.
Fifteen years is a long time in my industry, just like it is in cricket, another of my dream games!
Longevity in the kitchen, or on the pitch, is not a hallmark but a necessity. The longer you play, the better your credentials; just go and ask Don Bradman.
Well, running a restaurant is like playing cricket and just as in cricket there are lessons to learn.
These fifteen years have been a h-ll of a learning curve for me personally.
I had a dream, when I was younger, that I would run my own restaurant and here I am, to this day, living this dream!
But as in cricket there are some good ‘ups’ and some not so good ‘ups’. And yes, I mean “not so good ‘ups’” because there are no ‘downs’.
Success is not about what you have but how you deal with it.
They say cricket is the great leveller, a hundred today could be a first ‘ball duck’ tomorrow.
Well, running a restaurant is also a great leveller, a full house today could be a ‘duck’ tomorrow.
However, be that as it may, you must believe in yourself and back yourself and keep going, just like a good cricketer does; he keeps on going and going!! We have tried doing this for nearly two decades. You get caught out, you get stumped, you’re LBW but you keep batting for your team. Well, that’s what my team and I have been doing!
Nilgiri’s has been a memorable journey for us all, and to tell you the truth there have been a few regrets [these might appear in a blog one of these days], there aren’t many regrets, but overall, I would not change a thing!!
Every day brings something new. There is a cooking class to do, or a chef’s table to cook for. Then there is a cooking demonstration at a primary school, or at the restaurant. A new menu starts every month, or there is a birthday party to cater for, or there’s even a wedding reception to cook for. So, you get the picture, there’s never a dull moment. There’s always something happening!!
And last week was one such week that I will never forget.
We had the most amazing function at the restaurant.
No, it was not a birthday party, or a wedding reception, or a cocktail party to celebrate someone’s 21st. These are all amazing in their own way but this was different.
This was a charity dinner.
And it was a charity dinner for the game of cricket!!
Imagine that?! I get to give a charity dinner for cricket!
Basically, my son is going to Sri Lanka to play cricket against the local Sri Lankan clubs and schools and I am told it is going to be a ‘cracker’ of a tour.
Two teams of 12 players each, and some parents and coaches, will be on this island for about 12 days to give some up-and-coming cricketers from Sydney a chance to play on a different kind of turf [literally and metaphorically!].
The tour is self funded which means there are no sponsors and so all the players and parents must foot their own bill.
Some are comfortable with this idea, some parents are happy to fund it with a little stretch to their budget, and some just can’t stretch that far, no matter how keen. Well, there are three very talented kids who just can’t make it unless someone can dig deep into their pockets and sponsor them to go.
So, we had a highly difficult, but not an impossible, task to raise money to pay for these kids to go on this cricket tour.
We discussed it and thought that a charity dinner could possibly help in getting the kids over the line.
The target was to raise $14,000 to take care of the travel, accommodation and food for these kids.
So, I said that I’d host and cook for the dinner. We advertised at our restaurant, the cricket club did the same and we got 98 guests who paid $75 per person which immediately gave us $7350.
But we needed at least $6500 to make up the deficit.
And this is what I love about Australians, they are always supporting the needy and the underprivileged and Sydney did not let us down!!
We had Mitchel Starc speak to the gathering from England via satellite and at our end Josh Hazlewood (he’s an Australian fast bowler for those of you who might not know), Alysha Healy (she’s the wicket-keeper with the Australian Women’s cricket team) and Chandika (he’s a former Sri Lankan opening batsman),Lachlan O’Connor (former NSW U-17 captain) came in to do their bit, at no cost.
Jeff Bolt brought in the audio visual system and was also the DJ for the night, at no cost, and the wines were supplied by Samuel Smith & Son, the beer by Mumbai Pilsner, the soft drinks by Coca Cola and nilgiri’s provided the food and service, at no cost.
The menu included methi murgh, laal maas, kalonji baingan, and for starters we had our speciality cocktail dosai, followed by kozhi milagu varuval with roomali roti.
But there is more, in spite of the generous gifts from all the above. If you can believe it we are still short of funds, so we decide there must, of course, be a few items to auction on the night to raise the extra few thousands. I mean, who has ever gone to a charity dinner and not had an auction?
So, more generous donations appeared in the form of: Mr Greg Chappell donating his training cap, Kashmiri shawls were given from Meenakshi, the NSW Blues donated a fully autographed cricket bat, Mark Waugh donated his training shirt, and one Mr Sachin Tendulkar donated an autographed bat!!
Well, when I saw the last item I just knew who was going to bid for this one!
(No, not me, my son of course! The poor chap put in all his savings to get it, and he did!!)
But there is more, all the photography was given free and the photos on the night taken by my friend JS (John Slaytor) and to celebrate 15 years of ‘survival’ in a tough business nilgiri’s did not take a cent.
And what a night it was.
We raised $9000 from the auctions and then came the icing on the cake . . . my friend Dr Alok Sharma promised $2000 from the Rotary Club of Wagga Wagga!!
Unbelievable! We asked for $14000 and we ended up raising $19000. You Beauty!!
What more could we have asked for to celebrate our anniversary month, good food, good wine and some good cricket talk?!!
And, as I look back on that night and the extraordinary generosity and goodwill of all involved, the words of a Scottish minister come to mind, “You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others.”
Anna Datha Sukhi Bhava!!