Dhruv Mittal is the founder of DUM Biryani House, a thriving Indian restaurant in the heart of Soho. After quitting his job in the city, Dhruv decided to retrain as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in French Cuisine and Patisserie, before interning at Sat Bains in Nottingham and The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal in Bray. On realising his passion lay in Indian cuisine, Dhruv moved to Mumbai in South west India for six months undertaking training at the prestigious Indian Institute of Hotel Management and working for The Oberoi Hotels in Agra and Mumbai. Dhruv’s story of opening DUM at 25 years old is truly amazing and is the epitome of ‘self-starter’. For those looking for mentorship in this area, we think we’ve found your man!
Name: Dhruv Mittal
Age at time of interview: 27
Where’s home? London
Company Name: DUM Biryani House
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
Not really. I did Economics and it was a good avenue to explore lots of different opportunities in the business world. It gave me a good grounding in finance, accounting, and general management theory which was useful for most job interviews.
What is DUM and when did you launch?
DUM Biryani House, is a first restaurant of its kind, serving Biryani (a layered meat and rice dish), snacks and cocktails from Hyderabad and Telangana in Southern India. I launched the restaurant in October 2016 when I was 25.
You put yourself through a lot of cooking schools and training in order to prepare for setting up DUM. Tell us about that…
After I quit my job in the city as a project manager, I decided to retrain as a chef (a lifelong dream) at Le Cordon Bleu in French Cuisine and Patisserie. Following an incredible 9 month journey at LCB, I went on to undertake internships (also known as Stages) in the best michelin starred kitchens around the UK, including but not limited to Sat Bains in Nottingham and The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal in Bray.
Once I had realised that my passion was definitely in Indian cuisine, I moved to Mumbai in South west India for six months undertaking training at the prestigious Indian Institute of Hotel Management and working for The Oberoi Hotels in Agra and Mumbai.
When I returned it was time for me to do my own thing, so thats when I started focusing on my own cooking.
How did you finally decide on the cuisine for your restaurant?
I have grown up with Indian food, and I’m constantly fascinated by the rich heritage, culture and traditions that surround the food. One of my greatest motivations is to change the way Indian food is perceived in the UK, and in order to educate others, I would have to get my hands in the industry first.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for DUM?
Firstly funding was a long, arduous and difficult process as there was little or no guidance available for me to follow to find ways to raise money for the business. Secondly, as I was only 25, it was tough to be taken seriously about my intentions to start my own restaurant. Many people would openly sit in disbelief that I had what it took to do it properly. Earning the respect of chefs and skilled professionals from highly trained backgrounds also took a lot of time and dedication from my behalf.
Tell us about your mentor journey and how you went about seeking one out?
After reading an article on Big Hospitality of the most successful Indian restaurateurs in London, I chose to approach Karam Sethi on Linkedin messages. After exchanging messages, we set up a meeting around 6 months later. We bonded really well and he agreed to mentor me and be a sounding board for my ideas. He mentored me until I opened DUM Biryani House and since then we have grown to become really good friends.
Before you launched DUM, what important skills did you go about getting in order to be ‘restaurant ready’?
I trained at The Cordon Bleu with a Grande Diplome, a fine dining diploma in French cuisine and patisserie. I then seeked out opportunities to gain experiences in all areas of restaurants. This included working for many Michelin Star restaurants in the kitchen as an intern, as well as moving to Cophenhagen to work for an Indian restaurant, learning front of house service and managing a team. I also did a series of successful supperclubs in order to gain confidence around my food and the style of service that I would love to give in a future restaurant.
How did you go about finding and securing your restaurant space?
I liaised with property agents from CDG and Restaurant Property and viewed sites across London. Before starting DUM, I had undertaken deals at five sites across Fitzrovia, Mayfair and Marylebone, which unfortunately did not work out.
Who do you seek out for support and advice (if not a mentor)?
I have a close network of friends from different industries as well as my parents. I tend to reach out to them and my friends
How are you marketing DUM?
We market DUM via social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook. We have a wide network of social media infuencers and we are also constantly supported by our PR team at Fraser Communications
How do you think DUM differs from the competition out there?
We are London’s first Biryani House, specialising in Hyderabadi cuisine which has not been done in central London before. We are very fair with our price points in comparison with our competition. The restaurant is also designed to connect with young people through the unique design and hip hop music.
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now ?
That enjoying food and working in the food industry is not the same thing
What’s a typical day for you working on DUM?
I usually wake up at 6.30am and spend my mornings organising my emails and sorting out my calendar. The day is mostly in and out of meetings in order to grow and develop the business. I tend to finish my day with a couple of hours of admin, marketing, finance and mentoring colleagues.
What is the most difficult thing about running DUM?
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I have developed more patience and am very calm in stressful situations. I have also grown to love the mentoring and teaching that comes with part of the job.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up DUM?
Hearing people talk about DUM when I am out and about walking in London. Seeing the restaurant packed on a Friday night!
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the restaurant industry?
Make sure you get experiences in different types of restaurants and food business before opening your own place. Make sure you are always reading and constantly in the loop of what is happening in the industry. FInally, know your numbers.
What do you think is next for DUM in the next year?
We will be launching a catering business which will be running alongside the restaurant. Possibly also looking to venture into New York for a pop up.
What’s the dream?
To create a group which revolutionises neighbourhood Indian restaurants.
Head to DUM’s website here
Follow them on Instagram @dumlondon