Comfort & Joy

Introducing our guest Chef for 2024, award winning chef, food writer and restaurateur Ravinder Bhogal.

Ravinder’s cooking is a joyful and ‘inauthentic’ cross-pollination of continents, communities, inspiration and immigrant cuisine. Born in Kenya, of Indian parents, she now lives in London and runs the award winning restaurant, Jikoni’s; writes for the Guardian, Financial Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and has authored three best selling cook books. A favourite amongst fellow chefs, Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi declared Jikoni’s one of their favourite places to eat. We chat to her about the magic that comes from creating a ‘no borders’ approach to cooking.

What is your first food memory?           

Probably eating ice cream at a kitsch 1950s-style ice cream parlour in Nairobi with my grandfather. I was particularly fond of their chocolate dip cone and their bar stools at the counter that you could spin around and around on until an adult yelled at you and asked you to sit still! The parlour is still there and I revisited it in December for nostalgia’s sake. I found we were both older and wearier.

How did you learn to cook?

I learnt to cook from my mother. She is an incredibly talented cook. Intuitive and brilliant, she can cook for 5 or 50 without breaking a sweat. I also learnt from her that cooking for others is, and should always be, an act of love.

What was the inspiration behind Jikoni’s?

We are a neighbourhood restaurant – I sometimes like to say an “unrestaurant” because Jikoni is so special. It’s a place where friends and strangers gather to eat food that is an expression of the immigrant experience – a longing for what we left behind and the wonder for our new landscape. Our food is what happens when those two powerful things are reconciled.

What were the challenges in setting up your own restaurant?

How all-consuming it was and having to learn so many things so very quickly. 

What have been the pinch-me highlights of your career?

There have been so many. Having Yotam Ottolenghi name our restaurant as a favourite in the book Where Chefs Eat was pretty momentous and then choosing us again for his lunch with the FT – he’s everything I hoped he’d be and more and wears his star very lightly. Having Nigella Lawson name our Scrag End Pie as the best shepherd’s pie in London. Meeting and cooking for my food heroes like Claudia Roden, Nigel Slater, Simon Hopkinson, Yotam, Jamie Oliver and then there was Paul McCartney who is a total legend. Also recording Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware was a real moment because I genuinely love the podcast and both of them.

But there are simpler times too. Like when I finish work in the evenings and look back to see the restaurant twinkling with warm light and looking magnificent, full of happy people, our team being their good, genial selves, and I just feel such a real sense of accomplishment and also disbelief that our vision has come to life.

What’s comfort food for you?

Khitchadee and achaar or a big bowl of linguine alio olio with chilli and lots of Parmesan. Basically carbs. 

If you were cooking for a big celebration what would you make?

It would really depend on the season but I am a fan of an abundant table of lots of things to share and pass around the table.

What does luxury mean to you?

If you mean where food is concerned then its great produce with provenance made/ grown by producers who are in tune with and conserve with nature.

What has been your most memorable meal?

Probably many years ago in Sicily. We got off a delayed flight, tired and in bad spirits – we were starving – what the kids these days call hangry I guess. It was the middle of the afternoon – peak siesta and everything was closed. There was one restaurant emanating a wonderful fragrance onto the street – we found the door slightly ajar and begged for a table. They were closed for a private party but after much whimpering from us they made us up a table on the outdoor terrace overlooking the exquisite Mount Etna and what followed was course after course of seasonal delights – yielding buffalo mozzarella with buxom tomatoes and the grassiest olive oil, home made pasta with truffle and cheese, pork cotoletta and then my favourite ever pudding Tiramisu. It was the stuff of dreams. I think I even managed a disco nap in between courses.

What’s next for you?

A BIG announcement soon, but I couldn’t possibly tell you just yet! 

Quick Fire Questions

Favourite ingredient: Fresh curry Leaves – I love the fragrance of them and there is just no substitute. 

Next travel destination: I am off to Malta in a few days which I am very excited about as I have never been.

Favourite drink: Our Bay and Pomegranate Negroni at Jikoni 

Favourite hotel: It depends on where in the world, but I have a soft spot for the Connaught in London as I had a lot of dates there with my husband. I recently stayed at Anantara Al Jabar Al Akhdar in the mountains in Oman and was captivated by the stillness and views.

Who inspires you most: My late grandfather. I have remained in awe of him – of his generosity and deeply entrenched belief in the Sikh ideology of seva or community service. He was hardworking and full of Punjabi verve – a pioneer who left everything he knew to take a voyage to a completely new country. He embodied for me all that was good and pure in the world – he was the exemplary man.

Bookings for the Glastonbury Opening Night Feast will open on Monday 13th May for all our 2024 guests.

All images Kristin Perers