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Beyond the buffet: Inside the stellar kitchen at the East India Company

A chef and two floor supervisors share their holiday favourites, hot off the menu

East India Company staffers
Tash Tashub, head chef RK Tiwari, and floor supervisor David Gakwerere. Pascal Schmidt was unavailable. All photos by @ellenbondphoto.

Ottawa’s East India Company is known for the quality and variety of its Indian buffet, but they also want their customers to feel at ease ordering Mehra family recipes right off the menu.

So they asked three of their staff members to share their favourite à la carte dishes for the holiday season.

“We don’t sleep on our cocktails.”

Floor supervisor David Gakwerere has been with the team for seven years, after starting at the restaurant as a student. “I stayed for the food, but mostly for the people!” he said.

What Gakwerere loves most about working with the team is the togetherness. 

”We all pull together to give our guests the best experience day in and day out,” he said. “We keep it light and bright, so you’ll always find us with a smile on our face.” 

When ordering à la carte, Gakwerere recommends starting with an appetizer like the Fish Pakora or a Lahori Malai Platter. 

For drinks he suggests choosing from the restaurant’s wide range of wines.

“That said, we don’t sleep on our cocktails,” he added. “Our Whisky Khatta is an old standard and the Bombay Tea is perfect for colder weather — it will start you just right!” 

One of Gakwerere’s most memorable experiences at the restaurant was serving a French theatre company. “They were lovely people, which made for a fun evening,” he said. “And they gave me tickets to their play at the National Arts Centre.” 

  • East India Company cocktails
    East India Company cocktails
  • Warm chai
    Warm chai
  • Warm chai goes best with dessert
    Warm chai goes best with dessert
  • Plenty of options for both drinkers and non-drinkers on the bar menu
    Plenty of options for both drinkers and non-drinkers on the bar menu

“I love to make the lamb curry as a homage to Mr. Mehra.”

Head chef RK Tiwari has worked with the team for 22 years. Recruited by the restaurant’s late founder, Kamal Mehra, while working in New Delhi, he started at their Winnipeg location before moving to Ottawa to run the downtown Somerset location. 

What Tiwari loves most is working with the team and seeing their guests enjoy themselves.

“We cater many events including weddings, and I like being a part of people’s special day. I am still waiting for someone to do a destination wedding and take me along to cook!” Tiwari joked.

When ordering off the menu, this chef is partial to the Chicken Shish Kebab — a dish he has enjoyed since he was a child. 

“I also love making the Lamb Curry as a homage to Mr. Mehra for the buffet,” Tiwari added. “It was one of his favorites and I often remember him when preparing it.”

As a non-drinker, Tiwari suggests ordering a fun mocktail like the refreshing Mango Temple. But his favourite drink is a warm cup of chai at the end of a meal, perfect for warming up during the holiday season.

Tiwari’s most memorable experience was serving Indian film star Sanjay Dutt a number of years ago. “I was such a fan of his movies and loved meeting him in person,” he said.

  • Lamb Curry
    Lamb Curry
  • Fish Pakora
    Fish Pakora
  • Chicken Shish Kebab
    Chicken Shish Kebab
  • Dosa

“I was hired as a server and stayed for the environment.”

After working his way up from server to floor supervisor, Pascal Schmidt says he stayed with the East India Company for the past 10 years due to the supportive work environment.

Some of the people he loves to serve their guests from the High Commissions and Embassies. 

“They are always so thoughtful and kind,” he said. 

What Schmidt recommends off the menu for the holidays is ending your meal with the Milk Cake Fudge with chai. “It’s one of the best ways to stay warm,” he said.

Whether you’re looking to share a bit of holiday cheer, or want to introduce your friends, family and team to a host of new flavours from Indian cuisine, there’s something on East India Company’s menu for everyone.