I was born and raised in Montreal. I studied to be a computer engineer but then I had this really bad injury which changed my mind about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I decided to train as a chef instead and came to India on an internship. That was supposed to last for three or four months and I meant to go back, but I had absolutely no will to go back. It’s nothing I can explain, but something in me wanted to stay, you know? And then I modeled for a bit but as you can probably tell, I hate having my picture taken. (Laughs)
I opened Chez Nini on March 16th 2012, but I’d been working on it for almost two years. It’s always something I wanted to do – I didn’t necessarily want my own restaurant because the logistics used to scare me. I thought I’d do a gourmet takeaway at first – I don’t think there are many in Delhi, except maybe the Oberoi who will do something for you if you want.
I wanted to do food that could literally be opened, heated and eaten, like roasts and things. That would have been a very difficult task though because my food is very à la minute, it’s made and served. I did a lot of research, which ended up helping me with the processes in my restaurant. Planning stock for your restaurant, how much to make, how much to keep. As I started to look at locations I thought maybe I could have a small place like a café, but then it grew into something much bigger and as I was doing it I felt more and more prepared.
I just felt like it should grow organically as opposed to making these big plans you can’t live up to. My voice – my lack of voice – is a consequence of the last few months. (Laughs) But it’s been good so far, we had 7,000 customers in the first three months. It’s insane. There’s so much to do all the time and everything goes wrong and right and wrong again on a daily basis, but living here, in Delhi, it’s been great. Of course there’s a lot of adjusting and people are different here but I’ve gotten used to it.
When it comes to beauty, to be honest, it’s embarrassing because I get more excited about the aesthetics of all the beautiful products but actually using them and having a routine – I barely do what I should.
I have to say though, the best thing that’s happened to my skin is working in a kitchen all day, it’s done something really nice to it. With the Delhi heat and the greasy kitchen, I find my skin gets really, really soft. I mean you’re always sweating and it sounds disgusting but you’re detoxing all the time. (Laughs)
It feels good, like you’re constantly in a sauna and my skin’s really benefitted from that.
My skincare regime depends on how tired I am at the beginning and end of the day. I wash my face with a cleanser from Yukon, which is this great Japanese brand and then sometimes I’ll use this really nice spray cream, also by Yukon.
Sometimes it’s just too hot and I don’t want to put anything on my face but I get the sauna so it’s fine! I like Nars a lot. I really like their lipsticks; they’re the only ones I use. Sometimes I’ll wear the Nars tinted moisturiser, which I think works really well with Indian skin. It’s the only one that doesn’t make you look cakey or ridiculously bronze.
I also love Smashbox, and I wear their sheer, rose-tinted powder sometimes. It just makes your skin look great. I have loads of makeup but I just don’t feel the need to wear it here. Trust me, if you lived in Delhi you wouldn’t want anything on your face either! What’s most important to me is the idea of having your skin clean and well rested.
I wish I drank more water, because I can really see the difference in my skin when I don’t. And I wash my face with cold water always, something I got from my mom. She has the most amazing skin and she doesn’t do anything, it’s so fantastic and so unfair. (Laughs) She thinks I should fuss much less than I already do. We’re a family of minimalists.
As told to Komal Basith. Nira Kehar photographed by Komal Basith at Chez Nini.