Love my Curry-chef Raghu Bhagirath (50) gently places a lamb chop in to a mix of green curry. After playing as a professional Indian footballplayer, graduating as a professional trainer, cooking as a chef in New Delhi, working on a farm and delivering newspapers in Biddinghuizen, he finally settled for The Strip in Eindhoven.
Each morning at 6.30 he appears on the scene of the Love my Curry restaurant on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. He fires up the heaters, grabs a cup of coffee and contemplates the schedule for the day. “I sit and think about what I have to do to have the food ready in time for the guests.” Somewhere around twelve the restaurant will be packed. On an average day, Bhagirath has 160 mouths to feed.
It was on a holiday in Amsterdam where he met his wife. They lived in India for a while but moved to the Netherlands in 2003. Bhagirath lives in between houses, during the week he stays at a small studio in Bergeijk, near Eindhoven. When the weekend comes he gets in his car to go see his wife, who still lives in their house in Lelystad. “When not with my wife I just sort of eat, sleep and wait until I can get back to work again, my mind always drifts to cooking ”, the chef says with a grin.
Yet, Bhagirath hardly is a one-trick pony. In India he served as a professional footballplayer for the Royal Airforce. A goalkeeper. That career came to an end when his body could not keep up with the competitive level after 9 years of playing. He became a trainer, working for several clubs in the Haryana area of India. This adventure was short-lived: “It felt like a burdon to get to work every day. After a while I decided to stop and look for something else.”
So he went home, to New Delhi. Until one day, more or less by coincedence he ended up in the kitchen of a 5-star hotel in New Delhi. His brother-in-law, knowing Bhagirath liked to cook, had asked a friend if the former footballplayer could come and learn to cook. And so he did. After a year of work his mentor said to him that the real authentic Indian food was not be found in the posh kitchens of the hotels but in the dhaba’s of New Delhi. “Withou hesitation, I packed up and left.”
I know that this is where I need to be.”
In the dhaba’s, small food-carts alongside New Delhi’s grand roads, the chef flourished. “I learned to make the traditional curry’s like Tarka Dal (pointing to a pan with yellow beans) or Rajma (kidney beans).” The bean-flavoured curry’s are his favourite.
After the road-side dhaba’s came the Dutch Restaurants. Bhagirath and his Dutch wife had lived in India for a while when his wife got homesick. “I guess she was okay with the warm winters but couldn’t stand the heat in the summers. She decided to go back home.” The chef followed.
In Lelystad the search for a job started once again. “It was a difficult time, I couldn’t find a job”, he says. After coaching a local amateur footballteam for a while, he worked on a farm and delivered newspapers to be able to make a living. But soon after, he found a cooking job again, working for an Indian restaurant in Amsterdam. “That was fun, but tough, I left home at 9 in the morning and didn’t come back until midnight.”
Finally, in 2014 he came to the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. Working for a catering company called Eurest. Campus management was looking for an authentic food experience to fit between Starbucks, Subways and Albert Heijn. “If there’s one thing I can offer, its authentic food”, Bhagirath smiles.
Walking around in his kitchen he looks into a curry pan, dangling above it he takes in its scent. Suddenly he looks up into the diner and says: “I’ve received offers from Canada and Australia to start my own business there. But I don’t even have to think twice about it. I know that this is where I need to be.”
Daan Willekes (Dutch Film House) made a short foodumentory on the chef, watch it here:
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