Radhika Sule on rocking out Restaurant Ownership
Radhika Sule didn’t start out wanting to be a restaurant owner, rather she wanted to be an architect. Meeting her husband at Morgan State University and having children set her on a path to provide some of the city’s most delicious Indian Street Food at her restaurant The Verandah in Hampden. The bright, enthusiastic and passionate chef has had an interesting journey becoming a business and restaurant owner. In between courses we caught up with her and asked her to share #HERstory.
How did you go from architect to restaurant owner, how did you get started?
When I would go to farmer’s markets, I saw no Indian food. Unfortunately the concept of Indian food in the west is limited to Chicken Tikka Masala. I wanted to bring to the front the variety in Indian cuisine, especially street foods. The only way to do this was to take initiative myself and start the “movement”.
When you started, what did you find the most challenging aspects to be?
My most challenging role was that to be a boss. I had never before worked as one. The trick was to appear to know what I was doing, while learning on the job.
How did you choose your location?
The location chose me. We were doing several farmer’s markets and needed a commercial kitchen. I knew the owner of the cafe in place of ours through common contacts. She wanted to get out of the place and the timing worked out perfectly well.
What were some of the resources and assistance you found most helpful in bringing your dream to reality?
Mostly, it was gut instinct. Not having any prior experience in the food business worked to my advantage. The recipes came from memory and with the help.of my mother. Also, Greg, the owner of Greg’s Bagels was a great mentor and resource who encouraged me.
You’re a working Mom, how do you balance the two responsibilities?
During the first couple of years, I spent most of my time building the business while my mother helped with our children and home.
Today, home is my priority. I have set up work to be on auto pilot. If it is steady, I am happy because right now is the time my children need my undivided attention. I know I can always jump on the work wagon when they are more on their own.
What is the most popular dish at your restaurant?
Tikki Chaat. Chaat in Hindi means “to lick”. It is a simple dish with very complex flavors. Essentially it is a carefully spiced chickpea stew with potato patties dunked in it, laced with a medley of chutneys: cilantro, spicy garlic and sweet cranberry. Topped with fresh cilantro and potato crunchies, it is addictive and very healthy.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given and why?
I don’t think I have ever actively sought out any advice, related to business specifically. Each one has a different vision for their work and life. So I honestly believe one has to figure it out for oneself.
What do you find are some of the most challenging aspects facing women in business today?
For the most part, I haven’t experienced challenges differently because of my gender.
When you’re not working how do you like to spend your time?
I love hanging out with my growing children. They are full of intelligent conversations and even business ideas.
When I’m not working, I am a painter and writer as well and love spending my time honing the skills. My current passion and obsession is fitness.
What is YOUR favorite thing to eat and why?
I love Indian food because of the complex layering of flavors. A favorite dish is Biryani.
Sushi is a favorite too.
What is a cause you’re passionate about why?
Reduce and reuse is my favorite motto. I am very saddened by the current disposable culture and strongly advocate reducing wastage to protect our environment for future generations.
What is your definition of success?
Making parents proud and being a role model for my children.
And following ones dream and vision.
About Radhika Sule
Radhika Sule, is a mother and business owner who is based in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in Mumbai, India and came to the US in 2000 for graduate studies in architecture at Morgan State University. While here, she met her future husband, an architect himself who is also from Mumbai. After marriage, they decided to stay on and build a life locally.
After 7 years of architectural practice Radhika took a sabbatical to raise her young children. While doing so, she found herself craving the Indian street food of her country. By a turn of events she started her food business by selling healthy and prepared Indian street foods in local farmers markets. As the business grew, so did the need to move to an actual location. In in 2011 the right opportunity presented itself in Hampden. Since then, you can find Radhika and her restaurant, the Verandah on 36th Street. To find out more about her business, please click here, or find it on Facebook.