When there’s food for thought of any sort, Ravinder Bhogal likes to get it down on paper. The columnist and chef patron of Marylebone's Jikoni loves exploring the human stories behind food in her writing. Pen and paper are her utensils of choice.
Having grown up in Kenya with parents of Punjabi heritage and moving to London as a seven-year-old, Ravinder’s own story is one worth noting: “In many ways I think opening my restaurant was a subconscious decision to claim a place to which I could really belong. By virtue of being from another place, I had felt like “the other” – muted and powerless, whether it was at school or later in the workplace. I wanted to be able to accurately reflect my experience and who I was in the food I cooked.”
We spoke to Ravinder about the beauty to be found in a blank page, transformative life moments and her hopes for the future.
On pen & paper
For me a notebook is more than just a practical tool. It’s a source of joy: a covetable piece of stationery that turns an ordinary, everyday task – notetaking, journaling, list making, brainstorming, or doodling – into a sublime experience.
I use my notebooks in bed first thing in the morning to clearly write what I feel grateful for, and to set out my intentions for the day. Sounds schmaltzy but it works for me. It’s a conduit for my inspiration and innermost thoughts to kiss the page with my pen.
You are creating a strong and purposeful intention by writing things down. A blank page makes me feel inspired and full of wonder. Like a child wanting to run across a landscape of unblemished snowfall.
On turning over new leaves
Opening the doors to my restaurant Jikoni in 2016 was an incredibly emotional moment. I'd struggled for so long with the constraints of being put in a box – being commissioned to cook or write exclusively Indian recipes that apparently reflected my personal experience. No one would dream of asking a chef of French heritage to cook only cassoulet or a British chef to stick to making classics like toad in the hole, so to ask someone with such tangled roots to cook just one cuisine is reductive. Having the restaurant finally gave me a chance to express myself, to find a language of my own and develop a voice with which I could finally answer back.
I am a glass half full person so I would say that the pandemic forced us to be more agile as a business. It was an education. It also moved because it proved that despite Government-mandated closures, our hospitality to our communities didn’t stop. So many of US opened our restaurants and continued to cook for the NHS and the vulnerable in our neighbourhoods. That is hospitality in a truly altruistic sense of the word.
We'll continue our purpose as a restaurant to restore. In fact the word restaurant comes from the French word to restore. This means our purpose is to restore our guests, our team, our suppliers and our neighbourhood and wider community and the works around us. Part of this is looking at our environmental impact and, as such, we started a journey to becoming a carbon neutral business. We became the first independent restaurant in the U.K. to become carbon neutral in July – something our whole team are very proud of.
I am excited about the future. We have just begun an exclusive relationship with a biodynamic farm which is just 45 minutes away from the restaurant, so I am looking forward to the new season of produce which will change the menu from summer to autumn.
We have an incredible season of our “Civilised Sundays” series beginning in September which will celebrate a trio of phenomenal women: Anita Rani, Claudia Roden & Anoushka Shankar, so I am really looking forward to those. I have also started writing another book, and I'm working on new recipes for my FT Weekend Magazine column, so it’s going to be a busy rest of the year.
The stationery Q&A
Your most treasured piece of stationery?
An old Parker pen that was always in my late father’s jacket pocket.
Complete this sentence: ‘Stationery is…’
..My fetish. Buying it always thrills me. The best thing about starting a new year at school was always buying new stationery, everything from highlighters and geometry sets to exercise books!
Old journals and notebooks: keep or recycle?
Notebook covers: always get the same or mix it up?
Mix it up.
What item of stationery could you not live without?
My notebooks and of course a pen to write in them.
Are you a doodler or a neat notetaker?
Definitely a daydreaming doodler.
Lined, plain or dotted notebooks?
Plain with a beautiful quality of paper. I love the smell of notebooks.
Pen or pencil?
Pen, with midnight black ink.
Plans in your diary or reflections in your journal?
List ticking or creative thinking?
Both are essential for me.
Do you send notecards and letters?
In an age of texts and WhatsApps, a handwritten note on beautiful paper has a special permanence. I love old fashioned manners too and nothing gladdens my heart more than receiving or giving handwritten notes.
Hungry for some new notebooks? Explore our collection here and see what takes your fancy.