I love food, gastronomy and people who are on the same page as me……hence, I was quite keen to have a telephonic rendezvous with the young icon of this month, Yatin Hegde.A polished, very cultured voice greeted me and before I knew it, a very lucid autobiographical account of a gentleman was mine to imbibe and write about. Three things struck me immediately. Yatin is a gifted and lucid speaker with clarity of thought which is noteworthy. Second, he is an extremely well sorted person who does not get swayed by the crests and troughs of Life. Third but not the least, Yatin is a man with a mission……. a soulful, committed, gastronomical mission.
Born in the traditional hospitality- sector driven family has its veritable Headstart….Yatin’s father was one of the pioneers of the classical Udipi prototype hospitality enterprises….that which colors the top of “favourite” list of delicious,wholesome and utterly hygienic eating-out experiences of the discerning Mumbaikar.The yummy South Indian concoctions served lovingly at these ‘joints’ have assumed National and in fact, Global profiles. Interestingly, the emphatic success of this genre of business enterprise also has at its fulcrum, a curious conservative approach and a slightly staid methodology of operation.
As a schoolboy, Yatin was at his father’s restaurant during his vacation and got an opportunity to learn hands-on the intricacies of the trade on the shopfloor. Today, Yatin is profusely grateful to the strict disciplinarian of a father he has! A father, who insisted that Yatin be the most modest apprentice at the lowest rung of the hierarchy….waiting at tables,clearing the dishes and gaining firsthand the most valuable lessons of dignity of labour.He admits that he was an eager student and a fast and astute learner, hence,he was soon at the cash counter.The logistics and the financial aspects of the game were immediately no strangers to him.
He continued his education side by side, mastering people skills.His naturally affable personality and value based upbringing helped him at every step of the way.However, he started feeling thwarted by the predictability of it all.His superior intellect and analytical mind made him realize that the customer had all the winning cards in his hand and was the one who called all the shots.He realized that contemporary Indians due to their well rounded knowledge and extensively travelled profiles now had started developing adventurous palates. They were changing in their food preferences…….hence,Yatin deduced that the time had come to metamorphose.The caterpillar was poised to become a butterfly……but that is where his arduous journey began. Ironically,Yatin had an uphill task convincing his father that if they had to survive in the hospitality industry, they had to reinvent themselves.His father belonging to the Olde World cadre was neither impressed nor convinced about the potential of his ideas.However, Yatin was a man driven by purpose,diligence and single-minded focus.He finally managed to get his father to come around.
Well,well….Spirit Kitchen and Bar was born….!!As they say the rest is history.It was a concept totally different from the conservative, maybe even run- of- the- mill Udipi experience which the Hegde Clan had provided to innumerable loyal and well satisfied Mumbaikars.At the same time, there were some very fundamental similarities between the old and the new.Uncompromising quality,delicious food and a memorable eating experience were still their goals and Yatin promised that they would always be.So, then what was different??The understated faintly Colonial and utterly classy facades, the stylish decor and food ,which was the result of tireless experimentation to achieve nothing but the best.Little wonder, that now Mumbai boasts of four Spirit and Kitchen Restaurants spanning Ghatkopar to Borivli and what have you.The Icon,Yatin had ARRIVED….
He hands to his Alma mater all the credit of doing a fabulous job of putting the World skills in his kitty.He specified that the ethos of SPJ as he calls it is one of the most valuable takeaways from his MBA program.He definitely agrees that a structured MBA training was a mandatory requirement for his practical skillset.Yatin also deeply appreciates and recognizes the importance of the contacts he made with scions of other business families, by way of seniors and peers.He maintains connections with quite a few of them even now and the bridges built in the MBA days are strong and sustainable.
“What plans for the future,Yatin?”….my question drew an answer in the form of an enthusiastic guffaw and a statement hued with passionate drive and enthusiasm.”I would like to continue scaling new heights and would like the restaurants to carry a brand image synonymous with finesse,elegance and amazing food!” was his answer.
Yatin, throughout his interview had given innumerable take home messages which can be beacons to his juniors and the youth of today.As I was poised to wish this very promising young man, all the success he deserves, he invited me to his Spirit and Kitchen for a meal so gracefully that not only have I accepted but am actually looking forward to an unparalleled gastronomical experience.God bless you,Yatin….may many stomachs and hearts be satiated by your magic ladle!!
Dr. Jyoti D. Vora ,
Msc., PhD, F.S.Sc. , MASFFBC, CME (USA), NET CLEARED, CERTIFIED FUNCTIONAL FOODS SCIENTIST (FFC, USA)