Rahul Akerkar: The Man Behind Mumbai’s World Acclaimed Tote Bar

Rahul Akerkar began his culinary journey as a dishwasher in a small French bistro, while in college in the United States. Finishing his Master’s in biochemical engineering at Columbia University, his latently discovered flair for cooking took Rahul out of the lab and into many of New York’s finest kitchens. Realizing that his true passion lay in food, Rahul over a ten-year period during the 1980’s, expanded his culinary repertoire under the tutelage of several celebrated chefs, before moving back to India in 1989.

Responding to a void in the food and restaurant industry in Mumbai, he started The Moveable Feast, a gourmet catering business and a world-cuisine bistro called Under the Over that was listed in the Best of the Best of Asia, Time publication’s restaurant guide spanning 134 premier eateries across Asia. He sold the business in 1996, set up a new company – deGustibus Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. – and moved to Bangalore to develop and manage Kuteeram Retreat, a unique, sprawling, ten-acre, boutique hotel that espoused the very essence of “Cultural Tourism.”

Rahul returned to Mumbai, and in 1999 opened Indigo, a fine-dining restaurant, that serves up his eclectic European-Asian cuisine. It quickly made Condé Nast Traveller’s “World’s Hottest 60 Tables” list in 2000, and in 2003 was Travel & Leisure Magazine’s, “Top Reasons to Visit Mumbai.”  In January 2006, Indigo was named one of India’s best restaurants by Time Magazine and in 2007 was ranked 75 in the San Pellegrino “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” awards in London, recognized around the world as the most credible indicator of the best places to eat.

The Indigo Delicatessen and the Indigo Café, both firsts for Mumbai, were set up in 2005 and 2008, as extensions of Indigo. These chic, New York style deli-restaurants, continuously draw throngs of people who savor their unique offering of cheeses, charcuterie, patisserie, and café menu set in an ambience of social conviviality.

Next came ‘Tote on the Turf’ in 2009, an impressive 25,000 square feet in area, sumptuous banquets, and a new restaurant Neel – the first ever Indian grill cuisine restaurant from Degustibus Hospitality ‘Neel’ at Tote On The Turf serves Hyderabadi, Awadhi and Kashmiri fare, or what Rahul Akerkar sums up as “Nawabi Muslim cuisine”.

Known for setting industry trends and in recognition of his uncompromising, passionate approach to his craft, Rahul was featured in Asiaweek’s Survey of “Kitchen Gods” in 2001, putting him onto an elite top-5 pedestal in Asia. He is often called upon to speak to the food and hospitality industry. He has been guest chef in kitchens around the world, has authored several articles, and is currently writing his first cookbook.