Our Chefs: Ritu Dalmia

ritu dalmia Chef Ritu Dalmia needs little introduction. With her insatiable appetite for constant innovation in the kitchen and the finest collection of wines in her cellar, she has warmed many a hungry soul.

Ritu Dalmia, the owner of Diva - one of Delhi's finest Italian restaurants, has interestingly not undergone any professional training to become a Chef. She cooked her first meal at the tender age of nine and till date trusts her instincts when it comes to cooking. Ritu believes cooking is an art, guided by a natural sense of taste and talent.

Born in Kolkata to a Marwari business family, Ritu joined her father's marble business at the age of sixteen. She often travelled to Italy for work and it was then she fell in love with its cuisine.

At the age of twenty-one she started her first restaurant Mezzaluna, in Delhi, offering Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian accent. Established in 1993, it was the first chef-run restaurant in the country. The cuisine, however, was way ahead of its time. It was in her words a wonderful disaster and so after three years she closed shop and moved to London, where she opened the acclaimed Indian restaurant Vama with a partner, Andy Verma. Vama, a roaring success, taught her all about running a restaurant professionally and gave her the confidence she needed. Frequent customers at Vama included the likes of Bryan Adams, Maggie Smith, Bryan Ferry, amongst others. Her heart, however, longed to return to India.

She came back to Delhi in 2000. The food scene in Delhi had changed drastically since Mezzaluna; ingredients were easily available and the audience had been exposed to international cuisines. It was then that in partnership with her friend Gita Bhalla, Diva opened a few months later, and there has been no looking back since.

She also runs the highly successful Café at the Italian Culture Centre.Host of two immensely popular cookery shows on national television - Italian Khana and Travelling Diva on NDTV Good Times, Ritu is also the author of the two cookbooks by the same name - Italian Khana and Travelling Diva - Recipes from around the world. Her most important tip - use the freshest of ingredients, and you cannot go wrong.