Delhi Wala Food: Chef behind award-winning restaurant says people of Leeds 'want to try something different'

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An Indian chef opened his dream restaurant in Leeds last year - and it’s now award-winning.

Nitin Sharma, 44, has been working as a chef since 2001. His career began in his home country, India, where he attended culinary school.

Now, 23 years later, the chef is serving delicious Indian food at his restaurant Delhi Wala Food in the heart of Leeds.

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The restaurant has just won Street Food Restaurant of the Year at the Nation's Curry Awards.

Delhi Wala Food has won at the Nation's Curry Awards 2024.Delhi Wala Food has won at the Nation's Curry Awards 2024.
Delhi Wala Food has won at the Nation's Curry Awards 2024. | Delhi Wala Food

Nitin said: "Being a chef in India and being a chef in the UK is completely different. In India, it's long hours but it is a comfort zone. There is no pressure. You have got lots of chefs with you.

“In the UK, you have to do everything by yourself. But at the same time, it makes you more perfect, because you do everything from scratch. 

“You have to tweak the food according to the English palette. You need to maintain authenticity [for Indian people] as well."

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His restaurant prides itself on being able to adapt the spice levels of any dishes to make it more palatable for anyone that walks through its doors.

But becoming a chef was entirely accidental, Nitin said. He was determined to become a geography teacher in his youth and only really considered a career in the food industry after attending classes with his friend.

It wasn't long before his passion for food led him to work at five-star hotels and restaurants, including one in Dubai where he served courses for the Crown Prince of Dubai a number of times over the four years he worked there.

Nitin Sharma, head chef of Delhi Wala Food, Leeds city centre. Nitin Sharma, head chef of Delhi Wala Food, Leeds city centre.
Nitin Sharma, head chef of Delhi Wala Food, Leeds city centre. | Nitin Sharma

The Indian chef recalled: "They have to close the hotel and 70 people come with him. You have to serve everything within certain a time - he only has one hour. The security guards stay in my kitchen and try everything before we serve them."

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Nitin worked alongside Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor at his restaurant The Yellow Chilli in Wembley, and later at the now closed Marco Pierre White New York Italian.

Opening a restaurant was not a goal for Nitin at this stage. It was only in 2016 when a friend of his asked to cater for his son's birthday as a personal favour that he saw a demand for his Indian food.

Through word-of-mouth, the chef began catering on the weekends, considering it a "part-time" endeavour. This was until he held a stall at a food festival which sold out in two hours and the search for the perfect venue to open a restaurant in the city began.

Nitin said: “I couldn't find any place in Leeds. It was too expensive. We found a place in Halifax - it was a small shop, cafe-style. So we opened in October 2019, just before the pandemic happened. We had to close so we were just doing takeaways but we were appreciated very well."

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Many challenges beyond the pandemic came with this venue, including the distance he would have to travel everyday from his home here in Leeds to open the restaurant.

Nitin and his wife began the hunt for a new place in Leeds again and found a spot near the train station in September 2022. The restaurant was refurbished and reopened in January 2023.

And it's been a wonderful experience ever since, Nitin said.

He added: “Leeds is a bigger market and people’s acceptance here is very different. It is a vibrant city, it's a multicultural city and it’s a young city - people want to try something different.”

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And Nitin said he will be expanding his offering to bring new things to the city, including more signature dishes which will bridge all his previous experiences in different restaurants and different cuisines into one space.

Find out more about Delhi Wala Food via its social media channels.

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