We spoke to Ravinder about the concept of 'cooking across borders', the process behind her new cookbook and the future of the restaurant business.
On her background and career journey
Ravinder is the founder and owner of Jikoni restaurant in Marylebone, a journalist and an author. She was born in Kenya, moved to the UK at age 7 and she absolutely loves being a Londoner, saying "it is a privilege to live in such a diverse part of the world" and have that feed into everything she does. She has East African, Indian, British and Persian heritage.
On the success and inspiration behind Jikoni and her recipe book 'Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen'
As an immigrant, she always felt that she had to fit into this certain version of Englishness that was in front of her but explained that it was like "getting into a skirt that's a size too small", it was just never going to work. So she describes the creation of Jikoni as a microcosm of her subconscious thought and energy of what Englishness actually means to her. It is "my part of the universe that's my Englishness", a space for diversity, hospitality and kindness that represents her ancestry and somewhere that feels like home no matter where you come from.
The recipe book follows those themes and also includes stories touching on political topics, for example, gender politics about women and the therapy of communal cooking. It is important to her to represent the women that came before her; "I'm cooking for them every time I come to the pass".
Your Comfort and Joy subscription service runs on renewable energy and uses compostable packing - how important is it to you that you incorporate sustainable practices in your business?
In creating this subscription service, she was adamant that she wasn't going to make any compromises in her vision, emphasising that we should all stop and think how this pandemic has given us an opportunity to reengineer the world around ourselves into one that we want to be a part of. Hence, she decided to go plastic-free, with their packaging breaking down in just 90 days. They hope to be pioneers of sustainable change in the industry, "kicking the ball forward".
They have also partnered with Nishkam SWAT, a charity that provides free meals to the homeless and vulnerable people in our communities. With every Comfort and Joy meal ordered, Jikoni donate a meal to the charity. Details on how to order can be found on their website.
How much do you think your experience of food growing up has led to your ethos of 'cooking across borders'?
Growing up in an immigrant community, she found that immigrant food for her is "the preservation of the old [strong cultural recipes] overlaid with the new [the food of their new home country]". She believes Jikoni offers meals that make a political statement - that the blending of two cultures creates something better than the sum of its parts.
Where do you believe the future of the restaurant business lies?
The future is tough, restaurants need support from the government, landlords, neighbours and communities. "But the word restaurant comes from the word to restore - that’s what we do and we will continue to do that".
You are now a weekend columnist for the FT - what is a particularly memorable recipe that you've shared?
The first recipe she wrote for her column - a pink peppercorn and rhubarb crumble! As always there was human story added to the food, in this case a feminist story about finding her voice and being able to achieve her dreams.
What is your key fashion accessory that represents your personal style?
She loves her jewellery from Alighieri, especially as the brand supports Refuge, a charity supporting those experiencing domestic abuse. It is "fantastic to wear brands that have substance and support important causes".
What is your favourite restaurant (other than Jikoni)?
The Wolseley in Mayfair - their hospitality is incredible and the restaurant truly feels like it's made for everyone from all backgrounds.
Whose wardrobe would you like to rent - dead, alive or fiction?
"Yours [Eshita, our founder] or By Rotation's incredible wardrobe!" (No, we didn't ask her to say this!)