He has brought two of the most popular names in hospitality – Olive Bistro and Soda Bottle Opener Wala – to the food crazy Nawabi city. He is a True Blue Hyderabadi alright but Shaaz Mehmood is anything but laidback. Juggling two of the most happening haunts of the city requires not just bagfuls of capital but also buckets of sweat and this bright alumnus of Hyderabad Public School is not one to shy away from either. A self confessed workaholic, he has been lucky to turn his passion into profession. In an exclusive chat with RITZ, the 28-year old restaurateur spills the beans on what it has taken to make his brands successful.
Life is interesting! Especially, if you’re somebody like Shaaz Mehmood who had the guts to stray from his professional qualification to follow his bliss! Bliss, in his case, was the hospitality business. Becoming a chef was his childhood dream. “Hospitality is naturally embedded in me because it’s always been a part of ‘Hyderabadi tehzeeb’. While I have studied law and have had other business interests, hospitality has always been my passion,” says the young entrepreneur.
Partnership with the noted restaurateur AD Singh, Mediterranean cuisine and the most scenic location of the city have all worked in Olive Bistro’s favour. Shaaz deserves to be applauded for making a mark in a city where people prefer to stick to the tried and tested cuisines. “When we entered Hyderabad, it was a task to educate people. Helping their tastes evolve was I believe the most difficult part. Like initially when we made pasta and served al dente, people thought we were serving it raw and we had to overcook it,” he shares.
But now the scene is quite different. With the influx of young professionals from outside and exposure of the residents to overseas travel, a lot has changed. There has been a surfeit of restaurants mushrooming in every nook and cranny. But Shaaz sees this as a positive sign of growth rather than competition.
So how did Olive happen in the first place? “A couple of years back we were at a family dinner hosted by AD Singh, the promoter of Olive, who happens to know my parents for aeons. I suggested that he explore opportunities in Hyderabad. A little later, we zeroed in on this property overlooking the lake, an ideal setting for Mediterranean cuisine. Thankfully, everything fell in place and here we are!” says Shaaz describing the journey.
His childhood dream of becoming a chef may not have come true but Shaaz’s passion for cooking has many admirers. “My friends say that they love the cheesecake I make; and I don’t use cream cheese,” he confides.
A die hard foodie, Shaaz loves trying out food at various outlets. “Within Hyderabad some of my favourite places are Cocos and Prego, but my all-time favourite is Café Zoe in Mumbai. I love the Lucknowi food at Point Pleasant as well. Though I love experimenting, nothing can beat home cooked Hyderabadi food,” says Shaaz.
Any success mantra? “My team is my strength. I owe our success to them. For me, work is worship. I believe that if you master time management, you’ve nailed it,” he says. That doesn’t mean he ignores other aspects of life. He believes in work-life balance like many youngsters of today. “16 hours in a working day is a lot of time, so one finds a balance,” says Shaaz who identifies himself with Harvey Specter, “The impossibly slick, impeccably tailored, and aggressively successful New York corporate lawyer at the centre of the legal dramedy `Suits’ is my role model,” he says with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Spurred on by the success of Olive Bistro which is almost 3 years old, Shaaz launched another franchise of the famous chain, Soda Bottle Opener Wala, which turns one this May. For a 28-year old entrepreneur, that’s quite an achievement, huh? Good show, Shaaz!