As the maxim goes, "when one door closes, a window opens," and for one Houstonian affected by the recent economic crash, the window became a restaurant. Chef Shiva Patel, co-owner and executive Chef of the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen, previously worked in the financial industry. In the years leading up to the economic crisis, she attended culinary school at night.
After being laid off in 2008, she saw her unemployment as an opportunity to start from scratch and follow her culinary aspirations, joining forces with her life partner Rick Di Virgilio, owner of Oporto Cafe, to develop the Queen Vic Pub. In this week's chef chat, we speak with Shiva about her new restaurant, her curries and how she's able to keep calm and carry on.
EOW: You are educated in the business and financial fields and before becoming a professional chef, you were working for a major bank. What was the impetus for the transition?
SP: I always knew I wanted to work with food, and was calculative in making my gradual transition. I enjoy the world of real estate, and it helped me finance my passion for food.
EOW: Is there a philosophy that you've taken from your banking background that may also apply to the kitchen?
SP: Work with your heart, and the product will be successful.
EOW: You're life partners with co-owner Rick Di Virgilio, who's also owner-chef of Oporto Cafe; can you explain some of the benefits as well as challenges you two face working together?
SP: Rick is like my twin. The benefits of working together are bountiful. We can pick up where the other has left off, which is very helpful when there is a lot of moving pieces in our business.
EOW: Can you describe any important lessons learned during your time as an executive chef?
SP: Keep calm under stressful situations...it is contagious and sets the energy for your environment.
EOW: As a vegetarian since childhood, how have you learned to cook meat so well? SP: I do taste everything made. As far as cooking meat, my culinary training helps me pair the right spice and flavors with a certain type of meat.
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EOW: You mentioned you first learned how to cook from your mother as a girl. What is one of the dishes that she made that has had the biggest influence on you?
SP: It is actually a very simple dish of rice and lentils called Kitchuri. We would eat it every Sunday and it is a very comforting meal for me. It reminds me of my family, whom I love very much.
Come back for seconds in tomorrow's segment with Shiva Patel of the Queen Vic Pub and Restaurant.