In the immortal words of Albert Einstein, “Only a Life lived to the service of others is worth living.” The word hospitality has its roots all the way in the New Testament. Derived from 2 greeks words - the first means ‘Love’ and the second ‘Strangers’. The Love of Strangers is what drives the multi-billion dollar business in today’s day and age. And in the background on most counts are the people who are responsible for making us feel at home away from home. Meet these power ladies who are redefining the Goan Hospitality landscape one day at a time.
Suzette Martins of Mum's Kitchen smiles the minute you see her, let alone say anything, to begin with. As one enters Mum’s kitchen with its landscaped garden and Goan themed décor within, Suzette lovingly known to all as Suzie offers a cup of tea and with a long pour quip; “There is no greater joy than serving and looking after guests irrespective of their ethnicity or social background. Welcoming and making them feel comfortable and friendly is what every guest is looking out for.“ Coming from an artistic background and an artist herself, Suzie realized that after entering the hospitality industry her perception and outlook changed to looking at everything with an artist eye and mind. Food, having always been her passion, keeping up to the consistency on a daily basis means that there is no escape from hard work and tons of patience let alone room for error.
Deep in the villages of Saipem lies an institution that has seen a symbiotic change of avatar. House of Lloyds while today is the torch bearer of Goan cuisine in metropolitan cities, Nerissa Dcosta has seen it grown slowly and steadily being silently at the helm behind. From a Chinese food stall in the couples early days into the food world to the humble establishment they rented on the bustling Calangute road also known then as Lloyds, Nerissa has seen the landscape transition right in front of her. Now as she sits in her manicured vibrant garden of the family house with the backdrop of 150 years of legacy with their sprawling mansion she resonates her motto as to how Lloyd and she have been successful on their culinary journey. “Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you.” This was a quote she imbibed from Danny Meyer when she started her journey and it has never failed them since. Being a torchbearer of Goan cuisine is a tough act she quips. The masalas are the hero of the story as well as, on some days can be the villain if not attended to with utmost love and care. But that is what keeps them on toes along with her mother-in-law, Celia who till date supervises the masalas prepared in her home kitchen keeping the consistency intact.
Anisha Hassan of Saligao Stories greets us in the bylanes of Saligao at her lush courtyard at the back of her ancestral mansion which these days is tastefully converted into a lounge bar with a courtyard as well as a quaint dining area regaling lost antiquities from yesteryears past. With an infectious smile, she mentions how glad it is to come back to one's roots and add a splash of homegrown lost cuisine in Hyderabadi and Goan offerings. She further elucidates “Whether it is at home or at Saligao Stories, I believe that the food I cook and serve tells the tale of my journey and my family's. Hospitality to me, is best characterized by a generous spirit and an interest in preserving traditions. My journey thus far has been one fuelled by passion for food and cooking is what I love and do best!’
Vanna Lunardon of Pomodoro Italian Bistro is happy and content dishing out wholesome food to her patrons who keep thronging her modest tropical eatery day in and out. With breathtaking views of the Dona Paula sea, one can sit back and relax and enjoy Italian delicacies at her bistro. Seated across us in a very nonchalant relaxed mood Vanna is all smiles when she talks about her love for hospitality reminiscing her childhood in Italy. “My passion for cooking started a very early age when I used to help my grandmother and my mother in the kitchens to prepare the household meal on holidays and every Sunday. Italian cuisine is simplistic in nature but it takes time especially for freshly made homemade pasta - gnocchi, lasagna, etc. It is an art form. Hospitality to me is adaptability in what needs to be prepared seasonally. Take for example this season in Italy is one for wild herbs that are used in risotto ravioli and soups. I have always had this passion to go through the woods to look for these wild herbs and turn them into good food. This is my ode to my customers who I would love to serve and make then understand the true essence of Italian cuisine."
Shimonti Gupta fondly known as Rumi of Cuebebar Smokehouse, Natti's Naturals is all laughs and positive affirmations as we sit down with her in a tete-e-te in her sprawling Smokehouse in Goa. With a twinkle in her eye, she brings to note - that Cuebebar is Goa's first smokehouse. Her ethos to Hospitality lends an ode to all things experiential. After leading global marketing and communications for top MNC's for over a decade, she made her peace with her true calling, inspired by her son Chef Arjun and moved to Goa with the family. For her "Hospitality is a way of life and is a behaviour that is inbuilt. You either have it or you don't. For me its everything experiential. Its a larger than life attitude laced with professionalism, compassion and consistency".
Not too far away overlooking the fields of Anjuna in a little nook lies Baba Au Rhum. Everyone's favourite goes to all day diner. When one met Dayini Feraud for the first time, it is evident that she is the driving force behind the ethos and vibe of this place. Laid back and relaxed, a yogini herself she exudes a sense of calm and service that is infectious to all her staff and diners around. "Hospitality is a success when your customer leaves your place with a smile wanting to come back with their friends! My journey with food started 20 years ago with a pizza truck in Germany serving hot, sweaty, dancing people delicious wood-fired oven pizzas!” Having travelled the world as I got older and wanted to settle down and have kids and Goa was the apt option. From that point on, I met my business partner Leo and we thought that good French breads and pastries were missing on the culinary landscape so we put our heads together and Baba Au Rhum was born.”
On the bustling streets of Calangute lies Koi Asian Dining and Jade Bar run by Shefali Gandhi and her business partner Aziz Lalani. Shefali has hospitality running in her blood and is someone who understands the pulse of the moment. "Hospitality to me is the understanding of the market and moulding what one has on offer to suit the situation but not losing one’s roots and authenticity in the process."
In the neighbouring vicinity is Sumera Bhalla who is the guiding force behind Amavi. Reticent and shy she lets her food do the talking on most counts. After we sat down over a cup of coffee, we delved into the mindset of what makes her tick and her thoughts on the ever-changing landscape of hospitality in Goa. “For me hospitality means the ensuring a superb guest interaction wherein the guest feels welcome at every stage of the experience. Hospitality is natural for us as Indians since we are bought up with the notion 'Atithi Devo Bhava'." Having started out her career in Dadar catering College & O.C.L.D. laid the foundation stones for her culinary education and this was reinforced at every stage of the tutorial. The foray into my own restaurants hence ensured that this became a way of life.”
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An award winning photojournalist, Nolan is torn between food & travel. Having held multiple exhibitions across- he loves to capture the essence of a meal or moment through his lens. Known for his love of food he believes in making viewers salivate over drool worthy pictures, titilating their palates over social media. His photography added vivid dimensions through his contribution to the book The Culinary Heritage of Goa which won the Gourmand Best in the World for Historical recepies in 2015. Author of the ever popular food/travel blog www.nolansatwit.com, many have commonly referred to his wit or 'twit'iness. A recepient of the prestigious REX Karmaveer Chakra award by UNESCO he spends most of his time divided between sampling the various offerings of the gastronomic world and his unending quest for new and far flung places.