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21 & going strong: Cafe Delhi Heights owner Vikrant and Gunjan Batra

Vikrant and Gunjan Batra on marrying, raising kids, and running a restaurant empire

21 & going strong: Cafe Delhi Heights owner Vikrant and Gunjan Batra
Vikrant and Gunjan Batra don’t let work at Cafe Delhi Heights interfere with family time with their kids

A few days before the lockdown, I met restaurateur couple – Vikrant and Gunjan Batra – at their Khan Market outlet of Cafe Delhi Heights. I was on time but the couple had already reached a good 20 minutes before me. “I have OCD of reaching before the time,” chuckled Vikrant, 44. Gunjan was a bit nervous. After all, this was her first interview with the media. “I am an introvert. I don’t like the limelight. You will never find me sitting at an outlet, I am always in the kitchen,” said Gunjan, 41.

The couple, who celebrated their 21st anniversary this year, are two sides of a coin. For instance: He doesn’t cook, but food is his first love; while, she always loved to cook and the restaurant business was not her cup of tea till she met him. Interestingly, both knew each other from childhood, but theirs was not a love marriage. “We were family friends.

As we grew up, our parents talked about us getting married, which was initially surprising. Then, I thought, ‘she is a Stephanian, and beautiful, shaadi kar hi leta hu yaar, kya mana karna (I should get married, why say no)?’” grins Vikrant. Gunjan was apprehensive. “I was like, how can I marry somebody I am not dating? In time, I was fine. He has always been the talkative one. He blabbered a lot and I listened.” When they married in 1999, Vikrant was already caught up with the family’s catering and banquet business, while she got occupied with home, then kids, and time just flew by.

“Initially, we used to meet very less and I told her, ‘don’t be a pativrata’. She never complained. But I regret that I lost so many years and moments with the family. So, now after our daughter’s exams, I will take her on a trip abroad. Last month, I drove my son to our Chandigarh outlet, had breakfast there and came back,” said Vikrant, who loves road trips. When the kids grew up, Gunjan started taking an interest in the business. “Shammi [Vikrant’s nickname] would ask me for new recipes and to format the menu for banquets. In those days, there was no focus on food-display, live stations and grills at weddings. We introduced that,” said Gunjan, who likes discovering new recipes and trying them out.

A major turnaround to their way of life was with Vikrant launching Café Delhi Heights in 2011. “As a pastry chef, she takes care of the whole bakery production and Pan-Asian and European cuisines. With support from mom and Gunjan, I could set up businesses in other cities. The benefit of having women in the business is the hygiene level goes up,” said Vikrant, who is inclined towards local cuisines (as evident from the Cafe Delhi Heights and Dhansoo Cafe menus).

Gunjan starts her day early and plans it around her kids schedule – a 20-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter – while Vikrant wakes up after hitting the snooze button several times. “Our gym timings match only once in 10 days. So, we make it a point to meet for drinks and dinner at one of our outlets post work. For Valentine’s Day, my wife and I went to Dhansoo and had a good time with two couples. Something’s better than nothing,” he laughs.

A routine day involves conducting random checks at their restaurants. Lending ease to their working model is how the family has divided the company’s responsibilities. “My brother works on projects and takes care of the finance; I head the food, operations and marketing; my mom takes care of the Indian cuisine section... we don’t interfere with each other’s work. We have a WhatsApp group. If there’s a problem with a dish, bakery item or an upholstery item, we directly post it on the group,” adds Vikrant. Once their daughter completes her 12th boards, Gunjan will have ample of free time to assist Vikrant with the international business he’s venturing into, and other business-realted inter-city travels. Gunjan wants to write books and teach culinary art, and Vikrant wants to retire at his dream culinary school.

He can eat khichdi, or chholiya (green chickpeas) or Chicken Curry every day for three months.

She kicks while sleeping.

I am working out more.

I am experimenting with new recipes. Sometimes, Vikrant joins me.

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