My biggest mistake: My chairman saw my potential when I didn't

Adi Modi, 49, trained as a hotelier in Bombay, and founded the Bombay Brasserie restaurant in London in 1982 after several years as a general manager. He is now director of Taj International Hotels' restaurants division
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The Independent Online

My biggest mistake was to have a lack of confidence in my chairman and in myself. I was running a five-star deluxe hotel in North Yemen in March 1982 when I got a phone call in the middle of the night asking me to come to London. The call came through at about 2.30am from my chairman, Ajit Kerkar. He said: "I want you immediately. Leave for London. I need you here."

My biggest mistake was to have a lack of confidence in my chairman and in myself. I was running a five-star deluxe hotel in North Yemen in March 1982 when I got a phone call in the middle of the night asking me to come to London. The call came through at about 2.30am from my chairman, Ajit Kerkar. He said: "I want you immediately. Leave for London. I need you here."

Four hours later I was on an Air France flight. When I got to London I went straight to the place where my chairman wanted to start a restaurant, which was formerly Baileys Hotel in Gloucester Road, west London. In those days it was an absolutely ramshackle place. I said: "What the hell have I got myself into?" They had a room booked for me: I still remember the number, 410. The room was chocolate-coloured and it was like a huge playground. The bathroom was pint-sized and dark green. I said: "Where have I come to?" It shook me to my bones.

Then I got a call asking me to come down to the lobby. My chairman was there and said: "Thank you for coming, please follow me." I followed him to a large space and he said: "I want you to do an Indian restaurant here. I don't know how you are going to do it but from today, it's your problem. There's £500,000 in the bank and you have an executive engineer to help. By 30 September, I want the restaurant to be ready."

The place he showed me had all broken equipment stretching up to the ceiling, 15ft or 18ft high. I said to myself: "Have I been demoted? Did I do such a bad job before?" I had always worked in five-star hotels. I went back up to my room with tears in my eyes. Can you imagine being an assistant general manager of a 250-room brand-spanking new hotel and then going to this?

But slowly it got done. We took on contractors and got the restaurant started. I began to gain confidence and once it was ready and my chefs came in and we started producing food, I knew it hadn't been a mistake to come and it was going to be a hit. When we opened in December, it was a total success. And it has been such a success ever since that we have expanded from a 90-seat restaurant to having room for 265 diners.

I began to see that my chairman was right, and that he had seen the potential in the restaurant and in me. Now I realise that it was my mistake to doubt that.

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