Chef Jay Morjaria on finding solutions amid volatility

Chef Jay Morjaria on finding solutions amid volatility

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Jay Morjaria as part of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Jay Morjaria is a UK-based chef, author and food consultant. In 2013, he founded Sutra Kitchen, central London’s first meat-free cooking school, and released his debut cookbook ‘Share’, a unique collection of simple global recipes. In 2016, he left the UK to work and train in South Korea and East Asia, which led to the launch of his pop-up brand Dynasty dining club.

Since his return to London, he has been cooking up a storm with prominent chefs and food brands as well as hosting a series of sold-out supper clubs. He recently opened JAE as a permanent residency in Dalston, featuring an innovative changing menu with a focus on a Korean-inspired menu using British seasonal produce.

When did your love of food begin, and how?

My love for food started at a very young age. My parents were one of the first East African Indian families to import Kenyan and exotic produce into the UK. They then went on to own restaurants where I spent a lot of time helping out. It was inevitable that I would have a career in food and restaurants.

What do you think has been the most profound realisation or discovery about yourself over last few years?

The last few years have been a huge learning curve for me, I have had some great opportunities, which have included finding my passion for East Asian food, in particular Korean food.

This led to me spending time in South Korea, where I embraced the food and culture and learnt how to cook authentic Korean cuisine. This really gave me my direction and has resulted in me hosting dinners for the Korean Embassy, consulting on East Asian restaurants and most of all opening JAE, my East Asian/Korean concept at Untitled Bar in Dalston.

What has been your career highlight?

For a chef, the greatest joy is people enjoying my food and so opening JAE has been my greatest highlight. I have received amazing recognition and positive reviews, not only from my diners but from mainstream media, fellow chefs and trusted bloggers.

Moreover, it has given me the opportunity to share my concept, which I have been developing over the last few years, and bring it to life for others to enjoy. Of course, opening at such a volatile time with the fear of lockdown hanging over us has bought certain challenges but it has just made me more determined to find solutions to stay open.

What has been a low that has been your teacher?

‘Million Pound Menu’, which aired on the BBC/Netflix, got my face 'on screen' and gave me international recognition but it was bittersweet as although I got offered £500,000 investment on the programme, this did not actually transpire.

This was a low as I received so many messages of support, people eagerly awaiting the opening of my restaurant only to not be able to open.

However, what it did teach me was that there was a demand for my food and audience ready to eat it. I can proudly say that I have opened on my own, with my own investment.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist will be catching up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.

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