Restaurateur Zorawar Kalra Talks About His Trend-Setting Journey

Zorawar Kalra, a true trendsetter, has changed the face of India's hospitality industry over the last decade. Taking forward Jiggs Kalra's legacy as the "Czar of Indian Cuisine," Zorawar has not only made a name for himself in India but has also taken modern Indian cuisine around the world, with restaurants in England and the UAE. However, Kalra is much more than a culinary trendsetter. He was recently seen screening his dancing abilities on an Indian television dance-based reality show and acing it too.

He gets candid with Slurrp about his journey so far, the legacy he has maintained, his foray into the cloud kitchen, and the plans that lie ahead.

Q. Tell us something about your journey in the hospitality industry and how you have retained the legacy of your father, Jiggs Kalra.

Jiggs Kalra is a very big name, and keeping up the legacy is a tough task that I have been given, but I have tried to do my best. It has been built over many decades and continues to thrive, with restaurants he would be proud of and trading concepts he would approve of. So I think that's how I have tried to maintain his legacy. The journey has just begun, and though there’s a long way to go, the sense of responsibility and pride toward Indian food that he had is ingrained genetically in me.

Q. As a restauranteur, what do you think a foodie looks for when eating out?

Eating out is the number one form of entertainment for Indians. It is, in fact, 40 times larger than even Bollywood, which is the second most popular form of entertainment. Every time people step out, they want to celebrate life. They are going to leave their worries behind and enjoy themselves with friends and family. People go out looking for a great time to relax, and on the contrary, the bars and restaurants have to ensure that the patrons walk out happier.

Q. How was your experience with the business during the grappling times of the pandemic?

The pandemic was a very tough time, and it was a true trial by fire. It was a complete existential crisis in the industry's existential prices, and the other industries suffered a lot of losses. The restaurants were shut down permanently as a result of the pandemic. A majority of the workforce left cities, which is still an issue since there is a shortage of high-quality staff even today. And as a result, it has been one of the toughest challenges the industry has faced. It is a testament to the fundamental strength and tenacity of the industry that they are able to come out on top despite that. However, the industry has learned to handle costs better and not engage in excessive expenditure. It’s been a tragedy but a great learning opportunity as well.

Q. What made you launch the cloud kitchen business, and how has your stint so far been? Is it different from so many other pizza chains across the country?

Slyce Pizza is a passion project. We worked on it for over a year and a half because we wanted to bring the pizza experience into people's homes. The focus of Slyce pizza is to use fresh ingredients with great topping combinations and cook them in wood-fired ovens. We ensure that the pizza reaches your home directly.

Q. Being quite a trendsetter in the food and beverage (FnB) world, what is that one food trend that you absolutely cannot let go of and one that you will never repeat or try?

My two favourite cuisines are Indian and Japanese. But the one trend I want to propagate, and I see that it's currently not picking up as much as it should be, is the concept of Japanese robata, which I’m doing in my PA PA Ya now. I’m sure once Indians try it, they will fall in love with it. It is similar to our tandoor concept.

Q. If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?

I think the biggest challenge that the industry faces is getting the required license to set up restaurants. There are hundreds of authorities to which we must adhere. If there could be a single window to get the authorizations, it would make life easier. It is the most important thing that I want to change in the industry right now.

Q. Tell us something about your stint with dancing. How did you decide to give it a try?

I was very apprehensive about doing the dance show; however, my wife convinced me to go and give it a try. It was a huge challenge, and I was completely outside my comfort zone, but despite that, I took the stage. I have a lot of love and admiration for dancers, and I think it is one of the greatest human expressions of creativity. I've evolved into someone who would now like to spread dancing to others. I may perhaps inspire others who want to get into the dance. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Q. Entrepreneurship, dancing, judging a show—what should we expect from Zorawar Kalra next?

TV has become an integral part of my life now. I am doing my TV show right now and reinventing myself more. We are rapidly expanding across the globe with our brands, and they will soon be all over the globe.