Curry, without the hurry

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At Jai Ho, Saurabh Abbott and family pay extra attention to ensure that traditional recipes are not tampered with – and that means even grinding their own spices 

Some of the recipes are really difficult to prepare and people really appreciate that we put in that extra effort to cook them in the original methods” saurabh abbott

The recipes are designed entirely by my mother, who’s been cooking Indian food taught by my grandmother for years… Saurabh Abbott

In Melbourne’s hyper competitive restaurant scene, one Indian family venture has concocted a winning recipe. Serving authentic flavours with end-to-end quality has won Jai Ho a loyal following, and powered its growth from a single restaurant to a chain in just five years. The Indian Sun spoke to one of the men at the helm, Saurabh Abbott, to get the lowdown on his family’s success secrets.

Standing apart

From day one, the family knew the first restaurant they opened in Richmond had to stand out. “We were surrounded by about 35 Indian restaurants in our location,” explained Abbott. “We had to do something unique, so that’s why we went for quality.”

To make the Jai Ho brand synonymous with quality, special attention was paid to ensure recipes were traditionally prepared – right down to the grinding of spices. “We grind them ourselves – it does take extra time but it produces better flavour,” said Abbott.

In today’s warp-speed culture, Melbournians flocking to Jai Ho appear to have found relief in an Indian diner that has rejected fast-food style mass production. As Abbott said, “we don’t take shortcuts”. “Some of the recipes are really difficult to prepare and people really appreciate that we put in that extra effort to cook them in the original methods,” he said.

Jai Ho’s team also took time to build relationships with suppliers. “It took us a long time to finalise and stick to our suppliers. I spend a lot of time checking quality, and I have rejected things and sent them back in the past,” said Abbott. His stickling for quality paid off. “In the last three years we haven’t had any issues with supplies. Everything arrives on time and in the best condition… we have really good relationships with all our suppliers” Abbott said.

The payback of all this attention to detail in the quest for quality is powerful word-of-mouth marketing. This is how the Jai Ho brand has seen success in, as Abbott puts it,a “middle of nowhere” location in Hoppers Crossing. The family opened Jai Ho’s second branch in the nondescript shopping strip along Old Geelong road because it had a large car park that could easily accommodate parties and other group bookings. They were also well aware it was surrounded by some of Melbourne’s fastest growing Indian communities. “If we give them good stuff they spread the word so quickly,” said Abbott.“It was very easy to become popular in that area.”

The success in Hoppers Crossing recently led the family to open another branch in Berwick in March. “Already we’re seeing good results there, getting good comments and feedback,” said Abbott.

Family ties

Powering Jai Ho is a family affair. “We work on a principle of teamwork so our entire family is involved in this restaurant business,” Abbott said. “I run the Richmond branch along with my mum Sunita and dad Sunil. And my Hoppers Crossing branch is run by my brother-in-law Gautam Thapar and sister Shraddha.” The Berwick restaurant is being run by a close family friend.

The family packs a unique mix of talent and training. Abbott and his brother-in-law are both qualified commercial chefs – Thapar has worked at some of Melbourne’s best-known 5-star hotels. “He’s very experienced with continental dishes,” said Abbott.

Meanwhile, Abbott’s mother is the master and commander of Jai Ho’s authenticity. “All the traditional Indian methods I learned from my mother,” Abbott said. Spices are ground according to generations old recipes “entirely designed by my mother, who’s been cooking Indian food taught by my grandmother for years,” he said. “Mixing mum’s traditional recipes, and Thapar’s experience in how to run commercial kitchens, we get the best of both worlds.”

Care is taken in training staff to ensure these qualities are imbued across all the restaurants. “We spend a lot of time training the staff, treating them well, treating them like family,” said Abbott. “All our chefs get trained at one given branch by our experienced family members and chefs… they come from other restaurants, where often they work in a faster environment and quality is not the priority, so we need to be very precise in training.”

Wish Jai Ho’s authentic Indian was available in your neighbourhood?

It could well be soon – the family is now on the look out for their next location in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. “We know there’s a lot of potential in that area,” said Abbott. “Anyone who is interested to join our team, in terms of running a branch, they’re more than welcome to send enquires!”