Romy Gill MBE is a distinguished chef who owns and runs her own restaurant named Romy’s Kitchen in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire. Romy grew up in India and when she moved to England, she only brought with her a suitcase, a wealth of cooking knowledge and an ambitious dream.
Tell us about your business?
Welcome to Romy’s Kitchen! My business has grown from my love to feed. The name comes from the fact that I started my business from my home, in my little kitchen. I wanted a name that people would associate with that and would associate with my style. I didn’t want a typically Indian label on it because I’m very much British; my daughters were born here. Having the Indian heritage is my main influence and I combine this with British produce and the Indian spices that I grew up with. I just really love feeding people!
What did you do before you came into this business?
I worked in Information Technology but because I have lived half of my life in India and half here, I really craved the food that I grew up with and I missed my family and friends. So I think at the back of my mind I always had the idea that I would want to open my own restaurant someday.
How did you become so passionate about food?
Where I grew up in India was a very multicultural community and people came from all over India to work in a steel plant, where my Dad worked. It wasn’t one standard cuisine, I was born and brought up in a Punjabi family but in Bengal. India is a big country, they speak different languages and the ways of cooking is different. So, for me it was more about eating than cooking at that time in my life! My passion was eating!
What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why?
It’s obviously spices, you can experiment with them and literally create anything!
What did you dream of doing when you were a child?
Do you know what, I always wanted to be in the Fashion Industry, but that changed whilst I was growing up, because I loved food so much! I was always kind of inclined to be in that industry but my Dad wasn’t sure, because it is such a male dominated industry, whether I would survive in it. So then when I got a little bit older, I actually wanted to be a spy, I’m not sure why!
“We love Romy’s Kitchen. To have such an original place in such a small community as Thornbury really is a privilege! The spices of her food really combine together and create something you would have never tasted before!” – Carole Carnew
What do you do to relax, away from your business?
I love running, I love running! I was injured for the last year so I couldn’t run but that was really stressful for me because I love it!
Tell us about one of your scariest business moments?
I have lots. Because no matter how much we talk about how far women have come in the 21st Century, opening a small business in a small town, when you come from a diverse background and are a woman, is still very risky! I’ve not had a business like this before so it was daunting when we opened Romy’s Kitchen! We’ve learnt a lot from our mistakes and we are in fact still learning!
If you can pinpoint one, tell us about your greatest success and failure on your journey so far?
I think that it is literally opening Romy’s Kitchen! Some people have a dream and that dream comes true! What more could you want!
“People are always talking about how amazing Romy is, she’s made a real impact in this country and changed the way that we think about food, especially Indian food!” – Matthew Fox
Obviously, you’re a big name locally and a big part of the community, how do you feel about this?
I grew up in a very small town, very similar to this, so for me, Thornbury feels like home! People love me around here and I really enjoy living where I am. When people really appreciate what you do that makes it all the more worthwhile. Of course there will be criticism and there will be people who act like sour lemons but as someone told me recently, drink them as a lemonade! So, I love it here, I enjoy living here in Thornbury!“No matter how much we talk about how far women have come in the 21st Century, opening a small business in a small town, when you come from a diverse background and are a woman, is still very risky!” Tweet This!
Can you talk us through the various award that you have received / been nominated for?
I have been nominated for lots of different awards such as the Asian Women Award and Bristol Women Award. Then suddenly one day, it came through as an MBE and never in a million years would I even think about this, let alone dream of having that award! To me, receiving that letter was strange to me…when my Daughter opened the letter for me, I rang the Cabinet Office so I could confirm that the award was for me and I thought why me?! So that was a huge experience and I will never forget that moment.
What are your dreams for the future of your business?
I am currently in the process of writing my book and of course it’s a cook book, but it’s going to be more about me and my journey. I think people will see that it is more like a personal story for me, moving to a different country with just a suitcase then setting up this restaurant. Also I’m just working hard with my staff to keep the restaurant, because this is a very competitive market after all!
Romy’s Kitchen, Bristol
Written & Photographed by Olivia Fox
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