An era has ended at the Olive Group of Restaurants as the legendary partners—A.D. Singh, Manu Chandra and Chetan Rampal—part ways.
The legendary—and seemingly ageless—restaurateur A.D. Singh’s first venture was Just Desserts, a jazz café that served only coffee and desserts, in 1990. But he truly came into his own in 2000, when he opened Olive in Union Park, Bandra with his wife Sabina, introducing Mumbai to Mediterranean food and a “lazy and timeless dining experience.” In 2003, came the Olive Bar and Kitchen in New Delhi. In 2005, Olive Beach opened in a quaint bungalow in Bengaluru.
Olive became one of the most recognised restaurant brands in India. It also remains one of the most successful. While restaurants in India have an average shelf life of a couple of years, Olive has endured and expanded. The restaurant group has a number of restaurant brands under its belt now, including such popular names as SodaBottleOpenerWala, Guppy, The Fatty Bao, Monkey Bar, Toast & Tonic and The Grammar Room, not to forget several Olives. The newest member of the clan is Bottlenekk, a garden bar and eatery in Powai.
A large part of the credit for that expansion must go to Manu Chandra and Chetan Rampal, because it was only after partnering with them that the Group began expanding by leaps and bounds. Chandra and Rampal initially started as employees, Rampal joining the group fresh out of college with a diploma in hotel management and catering technology, while Chandra had a more circuitous journey.
Hailing from a foodie family, Chandra wrote a book on fusion cuisine while still a student at St Stephen’s College, New Delhi. A stint at the Culinary Institute of America followed and he also worked at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan. He eventually made his way to Olive Mumbai as chef de cuisine. Proving himself early in his career, Rampal was a restaurant manager at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai within a short time of joining.
In 2011, in what was perhaps an attempt to retain talent that A.D. Singh entered into a partnership with Chandra and Rampal. Olive Cafes South Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary, was formed (it was later merged with the parent company). Under it aegis, Monkey Bar opened in Bengaluru in 2012, India’s first ‘gastro-pub’ and a runaway success. The Fatty Bao came in 2014. The year 2016 saw the opening of Toast and Tonic.
In a longish post on Instagram, A.D. Singh announced the ending of the partnership. In it, he wrote:
“All good things must come to an end goes the adage. Though what it does is pave the way for fresh beginnings and new legacies. It is with sadness that we announce the moving on from the Olive Family, its two partners Chetan Rampal and Manu Chandra.
Chetan and Manu have been part of the Olive story for nearly its entire journey, from our humble beginnings in a largely overlooked suburb of Bombay, to one of the most admired restaurant companies in the country today. A story that hasn’t been without its ups and downs, expansions and closures, tears and celebrations – but through it all, we’ve always pulled through, together!
Learning from our follies and growing from strength to strength aided by our people to constantly push the envelope on innovation, often reshaping how restaurants were created and run in India today. Chetan and Manu have been instrumental in this journey, first as
employees of Olive, then as co-founders of Olive Cafes South Pvt. Ltd. And finally, as partners in the group company when the two entities merged. They have been an integral part of creating the many remarkable products that you have all come to love and enjoy.”
He ended the post with these words:
“As we part ways amicably, we know that some relationships transcend mere employment, and remain grounded in the goodwill and camaraderie built over these past many years. We wish them the very best in whatever they pursue on their new journeys and am sure they will continue to delight and entertain you as they always have.”
Manu Chandra’s parallel post scored full points for being nostalgic about the past and aware of what the future could hold. “So long, and thanks for all the Baos,” it said.
He went on to add, “It is wrenching to walk away from the various spaces that I have built, and which have been home to these precious milestones in your life. And this departure is no less of a milestone in my journey as a chef. I will always be grateful for the memories – for that is all we have left as time moves on its inexorable march. Memories of sun-dappled brunches echoing with laughter, exuberant dancing with far-more-talented-ladies, cleverly crafted tasting menus that melted even the most hardened critic, tired tots snoozing on sofas as their parents partied late into the night-in a place that prides itself as a second home for its customers.
“So here I am, jumping out of that plane again, but secured this time by the greater ballast of proven success and hardwon experience, a wry sense of humour untampered with time, and still no greys. I step forward towards a far bigger canvas and greater ambition – to finally bring to fruition cherished dreams and ideas that were set aside to focus on the daily grind.”
The reticent third partner, Rampal has not put out any statement as yet.
The question is, what next for Chandra and Rampal? Watch this space for more!