BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: As a Mumbaikar living in the suburbs, I clearly remember my college days about 27-odd years ago.
Travelling to the picnic spots of Gorai and Manori either with college friends or family meant passing by the iconic Uncle’s Kitchen.
At that time the link road was a bumpy, narrow two-lane suburban road and the junction or chowk was prominently known as Uncle’s Kitchen junction. Uncle’s Kitchen was actually a small shack serving yummy Chinese food, which ultimately transformed into a full-fledged professional restaurant.
Now the new ‘Uncle’s Kitchen’, at a different location in the vicinity of the original one, is a landmark fine-dine Chinese restaurant at Malad – a ‘home away from home’ for many suburban Mumbaikars to dine with their near and dear ones and at the same time relish the delight of unique hospitality experience.
The restaurant has been serving mouth-watering and health-conscious and hygienic food to people including college students, professionals, film industry professionals and celebrities for the last 30 years.
It has established itself as a name synonymous with delicious cuisines. On the special occasion of completing 30 eventful years we spoke to Ronnie D’souza, the restaurant’s owner and “guiding force” to share his wonderful experiences.
You have completed a successful journey of 30 long years, first of all, share your feelings with us.
Ronnie D’souza: It has been an unbelievable and amazing experience that words can’t describe. The restaurant started on 8th January, 1987. Now, we are in 2017. We went through so many changes, 30 years is indeed a very long time, a long journey.
Why ‘Malad’ was the place to establish a ‘Chinese’ restaurant at that point of time?
Ronnie D’souza: We had a property at Orlem in Malad. And my father was very good at cooking. He always wanted to start something of his own. There was a gentleman named Gregory D’Souza, who was my dad’s good friend. He was ready to support my father financially and help him start his own restaurant. Gregory was mostly known here to people as ‘Uncle’. Both of them decided to run the restaurant. By the time, my dad had received a job offer from Dubai. He thought he will come back after a few years and start the restaurant. But, unfortunately, after six months Gregory passed away and my dad immediately returned to Mumbai. He then started ‘Uncle’s Kitchen’ in Gregory’s memory. And then onward, it’s been his blessing and our hard work that helped us overcome some of the toughest times.
What is the ‘success formula’ of Uncle’s Kitchen?
Ronnie D’souza: Well, our success formula has been “to remain honest with the food we serve our clientele; good quality, good service and to serve the food with love.” It is very important to serve your food with love. We make our guests feel at home. And we are very consistent and strict with our food quality. The restaurant which started off as a 20-seater is now a 150-seater in the AC and non-AC sections.
What about your Home Delivery’ system, people say you even deliver to Lokhandwala in Andheri West?
Ronnie D’souza: We started ‘home delivery’ in 1987, the very first year we founded our restaurant. It was a new kind of an idea. No one knew what ‘home delivery’ was all about, people at that point of time used to be surprised after knowing about the system. That time, not many people had telephone connections. Only few used to place orders on telephone. I remember, my father used to send me for the parcel delivery on a bicycle. My elder brother was in the kitchen. We, four members of the family worked together – very hard in different departments.
Don’t you have any expansion plan in mind?
Ronnie D’souza: We may think in the near future. But at the moment, we don’t have any such plan. We give personal attentions to our guests. Youngsters, who used to visit the place as kids today drop by with their girlfriends or wives and even children. So, we are serving generations for two decades and we happily want to put our attention at one place.
How is your food and cuisine different from other Chinese restaurants?
Ronnie D’souza: Well of course, we have to be different, otherwise we can’t survive for so long. Our quality is altogether different. For example, we are the ones who introduced the “Chicken Lollypop”. Our Fried Chicken Chilly is also without batter, without any coating; we have various Schezwan varieties. Now, we have introduced low-calorie pastas.
Who are your regular patrons?
Ronnie D’souza: Well, our restaurant is strategically located. Several renowned film stars, while shooting in the Madh Island area drop in on their way back from their shoots or they order parcels from here. At the top of my mind we have Raza Murad, Anupam Kher, Ajay Devgn, Suresh Oberoi and many others as our regular guests who relish our food.