Don’t think you’re women or men. Just think you’re chefs: Niyati Rao

Boasting an impressive portfolio with the raging Ekaa at the culmination of it, Head Chef and Partner Niyati Rao speaks of her culinary journey this International Women’s Day.

Speaking to Niyati Rao, Head Chef and Partner at Ekaa, is speaking to a person visibly passionate about their job. 

From innocently romanticising seemingly gruelling working hours to keeping her head down and ploughing on, she does it all with aplomb. Her career is peppered with experiences chef aspire to including her time at the Taj Group of Hotels, The Zodiac Grill, Wasabi by Morimoto, and A Reverie. The same was followed by a stint at Noma, Copenhagen, which is regarded as the World’s Best Restaurant, before she finally came back to Mumbai in 2020.

While not debating the arduous nature of her beginnings, Chef Niyati isn’t one to immediately demonise it either. She says, “The biggest challenge is the long working hours. Not because of any restrictions that women have about going out at night. It’s just difficult biologically for a person to get through 18-hour shifts.” 

On international women's day, chef niyati rao speaks of the highs and some sexist lows during her culinary journey.
On International Women’s Day, Chef Niyati Rao speaks of the highs and some sexist lows during her culinary journey.

Coming back to the city, she set out on a quest to work with ingredients, playing with them and bringing diners an experience unlike any other. Thus came Ekaa, and the rest is history. That being said, it’s not all roses for the talented young prodigy. 

“You know how writers and poets face a writer’s block? Where they want to come up with something new but they can’t? I think evolving is a different challenge on its own, and sometimes you want to but you don’t know how to,” says the wide-eyed Niyati Rao. 

However, all of that is quickly followed by talk of getting inspired, building a community of chefs that pushes each other ahead, and more. All of this is enough to immediately convey the passion and promise she brings to each plate. For Chef Niyati, it’s about improving the attitude for both sides. 

With Ekaa and the accompanying excitement she brings to the table, one thing’s for certain. She’s here to stay, and to dismantle notions of women eventually leaving the business. While adamant on the validity of personal choices, she’s out to prove that ‘individual choices don’t need to be stereotyped on the basis of gender.’    

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