The modern menu and the men behind it: Nikhil Hegde

They’re known to transform the staid to the splendid, ordinary to the extraordinary and all this with complete panache and finesse. They can go to extraordinary lengths to serve that one perfect meal that will leave a lasting impression. Their offerings whipped from the freshest ingredients can make any diner sink in their teeth and go gaga over their epicurean delights. And it’s not just about the food memories they help create that tend to last a lifetime, but also the extreme reverence and warmth with which they handle their modus operandi. Meet these restaurateurs who are at the helm of culinary affairs in their kitchens serving a treasure trove of culinary treats and are clearly the talk of the town for all the right reasons.

Text: Namita Gupta.

Nikhil Hegde, founder, Smallys Resto cafe

The entrepreneurial plunge: An engineer by profession, Nikhil worked with an event management company before he started Smallys. “The restaurant name was conceptualised by a dear friend because of the mere size of it. It was challenging as this business is nowhere close to Arcadia. I wasn’t looking for anything baroque or extravagant. I wanted a place where youngsters in the city could jam up and grab some fresh food. Not many know how to throw in a freshly minced patty with pricing that’s pocket friendly. We created the dollar burger too. My journey to the kitchen began early as a child, but I was always getting myself into trouble. I had no knowledge about the restaurant industry and decided that the ideal way was to start as small as possible and tied up with top chef John Paul who had culinary experience across the world and also headed Bengaluru’s biggest microbrewery. My first business plan was rejected by two investors until I decided to take the plunge myself. I learnt everything from scratch,” recalls Nikhil.

Technovations: “I started India’s smallest restaurant at 138 squares (according to the Limca Book of Records 2015, approved and featured). I will never forget how our first few customers were sitting on the staircase outside the restaurant because we were literally an elbow room restaurant. I still have the desire to complete my culinary school and I will in the next few years. Instagram is my favourite and I’m totally glued to it every night. It connects me to food lovers, chefs, restaurateurs and dreamers. Innovation in food can only come through the gift of the hand and taste buds. I love experimenting in the kitchen,” says Nikhil.

Culinary trails: Confessing to being a thirsty traveler, the young restaurateur adds, “I’ve been around the globe in awe of scrumptious food! My last was in Moscow, Smolensk and Saint Petersburg. Cafe culture is rich and it really can give you a tip or two on cracking the books. My personal favourite is French and Asian! It’s a tough job staying ahead of the pack but we are confident of raising the right investment to drive us to go to other cities across India.”

Smallys, Ulsoor, Church Street, Koramangala, Kammanahalli and BEL Road.