The Creative Entrepreneur
Rishiv Khattar, 34
The force behind NYC’s hottest new restaurant, Koloman, is agnostic about creative pursuits
It is easy to dismiss Rishiv Khattar’s success as is often thoughtlessly done with children of successful parents working in the same field. But there are two reasons why this 34-year-old won’t let that happen.
One: In a city like New York where new restaurants open every week, Rishiv Khattar has opened Koloman, one of the most successful restaurants the city has seen in recent times. The New York Times called it one of the season’s “most avidly attended openings” and gave it three stars.
And two: like his father, the hospitality industry veteran,who created some of India’s most-awarded restaurant brands—including Indian Accent—Rishiv Khattar is equally reticent about being labelled.
How did Delhi-born and bred Rishiv manage to get the pulse of New York so right?
Past in the present
Rishiv explains this with a sense of reticence and humility. “We were looking for opportunities in New York, and when we were offered a space at the iconic Ace Hotel—a brand that I’ve always loved—we knew we couldn’t pass it up,” says Rishiv, explaining, “For a new brand to work, we would need to create something that had high-volume appeal and a creative edge. We were considering European cuisines, when a friend introduced us to Markus Glocker, whose background is Austrian, but style is French. ‘Paris meets Vienna’ became a compelling hook, and Markus became our chef-partner in the venture.”
But there are French restaurants around every corner in New York City… “Yes,” Rishiv smiles, “and most follow either the bistro or brasserie model. So, we turned to the European café tradition for inspiration. This clicked well, both in the spirit of the Ace Hotel as a space where creative professionals can hang out, and as a differentiator in New York’s dining scene.”
That’s not all. “We dug into the history of European cafes and their design roots to turn-of-the-century Vienna and the secessionist arts movement,” says Rishav. “Koloman Moser—a pioneer of the movement—inspired us and the name of the restaurant.”
The glowing NY Times review, which HT Brunch columnist Vir Sanghvi retweeted with a note of congratulations, were ratification of Rishiv and his team’s creative ideas. “I was very thankful for the kind words the reviewer had for us and both excited and relieved that what we set out to do was connecting with people,” he says.
Rishiv’s last restaurant concept was Comorin in Gurugram, with its standout drinks and a twist: it was paired with Indian food. “Comorin was a very fun and different project, but that really helped with Koloman,” says Rishiv. “It was also very design-forward. My key takeaways from that project were that clear conceptual briefs are important for the execution to work, that the smallest details, from the temperature of a light bulb to the font used in copy, can have a big impact, and that you have to continuously adapt and tweak things as a project takes shape in a live environment.”
As is apparent, Rishiv is a deep-thinking, creative individual. But he refuses to be boxed into being called a concept creator or only working in the food industry. The former student of British School Delhi and UPenn has worked in public policy, co-founded a start-up, has an interest in literature… is blurring of platforms a creative millennial’s uncompromising trait?
“I’ve wanted to have as many different types of experiences I can, so boxing myself into one area seems limiting,” muses Rishiv. “I enjoyed public policy and co-founding the tech start-up equally. And creating concepts like Comorin and Koloman has been so much fun. But I continue to develop my interest in writing. I think it’s freeing to be able to apply your skills to lots of different areas.”
The Information Superhighway
Tanaya Narendra, 29
Her online persona, Dr Cuterus, is making all the right noises about sexual health
On World Menstrual Hygiene Day three years ago (May 28, 2019), a millennial doctor based out of Allahabad who brought menstrual cups from the UK to India every time she travelled there, decided to post a video about using one on Instagram.
Encouraged by her friends’ enthusiastic feedback, Dr Tanaya Narendra, a gynaecologist, decided to start an Instagram account dedicated to sexual health. She called it @DrCuterus.
Tanaya aka Dr Cuterus, 29, now has 1M followers on Instagram, 25.3k subscribers on YouTube, and regularly posts verified, crucial and much-needed sexual health information. She’s one of the biggest sexual health content creators in the country, despite all the trolling. And, she’s had a bright start to the year already with the release of her debut book, Dr Cuterus: Everything Nobody Tells You About Your Body.
With both parents working as fertility doctors, Tanaya grew up comfortable with conversations about sexual health, unlike the patients she met when she started off as a fertility doctor herself. “Many fertility issues are caused by the lack of access to information around sexual health. Most of these issues could easily have been prevented,” says Tanaya.
In her childhood home, there had been such a relaxed atmosphere that she was able to have respectful, candid conversations around sex, bodies and periods even with her brother, who was 10 years older, says Dr Tanaya.
Outside home was a different matter. For example, toddler Tanaya was made to stand in a corner when, at a birthday party, she was asked where her mother was, and she replied with, “Mummy kisi ki bacchedaani (uterus) ka operation karne gaayi hain”. “Bacchedaani is normal in my house. But, I was punished because adults thought even the word was shameful and bad,” recalls Tanaya.
When she started @DrCuterus, Tanaya got a lot of flak from outside her family.
But, given the misinformation on the internet, and the fact that India is in the midst of an underground sexual revolution that we are refusing to acknowledge, Dr Cuterus decided to stay the course. “We need to filter out the noise from actual authentic content and information,” she says. “People are having a lot of sex. Outside marriages, before it etc. We have apps like Grindr, Tinder. So, why not empower them with the information that they require to make better decisions for their life, their health and their genitals?”
Erasing the stigma
The stigma and taboo around sex still persists, but we have a particularly progressive set of laws around reproductive health and historically, we have been a very sex-positive nation.
“Unfortunately, along the line, we lost track,” says Tanaya, for whom the biggest challenge has been getting trolled for being a woman on the internet with a voice. “People are cruel sometimes. But the positives outweigh the negatives in so many ways,” she sighs.
So, what’s the future of sexual health awareness and education in India? “It’s so bright that you’d want to put on sunglasses!” she chuckles. “People are very willing to seek out that information, they are actively going out to seek answers to their questions.”
The Auteur of Entertainment
The DJ-turned-musician shows how evolving endlessly is the only way forward
Sahil Shah, better known as Zaeden, is quite unlike most musicians. For one, he started DJing in his early teens. By the time he was 23 years old, he had played at Tomorrowland, the world’s most famous EDM festival, opening for J Balvin. But, as he puts it, “I got bored of DJing. And I wasn’t really challenging myself as an artiste. I just wanted to learn more; I had that hunger for knowledge.” That’s when he switched from DJing and started writing and singing his own songs, releasing his first, Tere Bina, in 2019.
“This is just how I am,” Zaeden, now 27, says. “Since I was a child, I’ve played every sport, I’ve played so many different instruments. My mum tells me, ‘maybe being jack of all and master of none is a good thing in your case’.”
Sing for the moment
Not that switching to singing from DJing was an easy path. “I’d already established myself as a producer-DJ with my stage name, Zaeden. And from there, to get into Hindi pop music is one hell of a transition. Even the people closest to me had their doubts,” Zaeden lets on. “But it was more important for me to discover myself and grow as an artiste than it was to do shows. If I’m not growing as an artiste, I’m not growing as a person.”
Then he released Tere Bina. “After it became a hit, people said I was a one-hit wonder and that really motivated me to make my own album.” Does negativity fuel him? “It does,” he says. “It shouldn’t, but it does.”
Reinventing himself is the best way for Zaeden to express himself. So, does he think that his generation, and people younger than him are the future? “100 per cent,” he states. “We’re breaking away from the classic norm of having a composer, a lyricist and instrumentalists. You literally have people making hits in their bedroom. People express themselves even with limited tools. I think that’s special.”
Zaeden considers himself extremely lucky to have been brought up in a family that has always encouraged him to talk about his feelings. He also went to therapy during a particularly low point and says it gave him the clarity to focus only on himself and not worry about what others are doing.
“I did go through that phase where I was like, oh he’s getting more numbers or she’s doing this, blah blah blah. But I’ve stopped doing that; I think that gives me the mental stability to also do better on my own songs,” he says candidly.
Right now, Zaeden is working on another album and on a lot of collaborations. His new work, he says, is a departure from the previous dream pop chill sound, another way for this chameleon to reinvent himself. But he also has yet another trick up his sleeve.
“In 2023, I’ll definitely be exploring acting, for sure. I think I’ve proved myself with writing and singing. Hopefully, I can do the same with acting. The best would be to have my own songs in my movies. Look at Diljit [Dosanjh] doing that—it’s amazing and so inspiring.”
What kind of role does he think he’d suit? “Can I be honest?” Zaeden asks conspiratorially. “My favourite movie is Dev D and it’d be amazing to do Dev D 3 with Abhay [Deol] writing the entire script. That would be insane.”
Chills. Literal chills.
From HT Brunch, December 31, 2022
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