Today, Nandan owns and runs a popular vegan restaurant in Lisbon called Princesa do Castelo. As a believer of food that is good for the mind, body and soul, Nandan also conducts cooking classes around Europe.
I grew up loving to cook and travel and thus wanted to work in hospitality. Unfortunately due to family pressure, I put my dreams aside to pursue a career in finance. The accident however, changed my perspective and I didn’t want to continue wondering what if I’d followed my passion.
What were some of your most memorable experiences from SHMS?
I’ve been vegetarian my entire life and the school made sure I always had vegetarian options available. When I first started Service Studies and Practice, I was not very comfortable handling meat and the teachers were supportive and offered to assign me to desserts or the cold kitchen. However, I realised if I truly wanted to become a Chef, it was essential for me to learn to handle meat and thus decided against it.
I will forever be grateful to the staff, teachers and generally everyone at SHMS who were supportive and made me feel at home. Even today I often tell friends and people I meet, that studying at SHMS was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
Why did you decide to relocate to Portugal?
I did my internship at The Ritz Carlton Portugal and enjoyed living in Lisbon. After graduation, I decided to stay and explore other opportunities in the city. There were many Yoga instructors returning to the city after their retreats to India and they came back missing South Indian cuisine, especially masala dosa (savoury Indian crepe filled with potato and spices), which is one of my favourite things to cook and eat.
One of the Yoga instructors contacted me on Facebook to make masala dosas for an event. People liked it and from 2012-2014 I found myself cooking vegetarian South Indian cuisine at events, retreats and private dinners.
I then got the opportunity to head the kitchen at Princesa do Castelo and eventually I took over the restaurant in 2015.
How difficult was it for you to transition from an employee to an employer?
It felt like I was pushed into the water and forced to learn to swim on my own. It was initially difficult to see my colleagues as my employees. They are all of different ages and have different ways of doing things. But I’ve been blessed with a great team and we overcame the initial hurdles and now we’re managing the restaurant pretty well!
Being a life-long vegetarian, and now vegan, do you find it difficult to find food when you travel?
I would say five to six years ago it was very difficult. I remember a road trip I took with some friends to Italy during my time at SHMS, and all I ate was Pizza Margherita! It has changed a lot since then. Vegetarian and vegan diets are gaining popularity around the globe, which makes travelling as a vegan much easier. These days when I travel, I spend a lot of time visiting different vegan restaurants to see what other people are creating and getting inspiration from there.
Nandan graduated Swiss Hotel Management School with a Post Graduate Diploma in Hotel Operations Management:
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