Many Chennaites would know of the Hot Breads bakery chain or fine-dining restaurants like Copper Chimney, Ente Keralam, The Marina, Writers Cafe, Bombay Brasserie, etc.........but little less known is the architect of this 'world on a plate' M. Mahadevan.
Mahadevan 'is the change' he wished for in the culinary scene in Chennai. He eschewed the familiar, cookie-cutter mentality of fast-food chains and chose to open several brands of specialty restaurants. These themed standalone outlets are slickly designed, with authentic and hygienic cuisine. Today, he has 212 partners across 16 countries and has a finger in the pie of 380 eateries across the globe. His own company, Oriental Cuisines Pvt. Ltd., itself will have 200 restaurants by 2017.
It started in 1981, while still teaching in a college, he opened China Garden, a Chinese-food takeaway (in the premises of another restaurant called TicTac) with an investment of Rs 60000. Chinese food was becoming a craze in the city. In 1986 he started Cascade, a standalone restaurant serving gourmet Chinese, Thai and Malay fare. And in the span of 20 years he has opened, in partnership with like-minded businessmen, 130 bakeries in 16 countries, among them USA (New York and San Francisco), the U.K. (London), France (Paris), UAE (Dubai), Kuwait, Muscat, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia (Sydney).
His advice to budding entrepreneurs is: "Innovate and think differently. Don't follow anyone's footsteps; leave you own footprints for others to follow.