Name: Manjit Gujral
Job: Restaurateur, Manjits restaurants
Arrived from India, 1984
I am the owner of Manjits indian restaurants in Sydney. Our restaurants in Balmain, Darling Harbour and Corrimal serve contemporary and authentic Indian food in beautiful settings. We also cater for large corporate events and weddings. My restaurants stand for a high quality dining experience. We don’t, and never have compromised on quality when it comes to food – an important lesson I learnt from my parents.
I was born in Jalgaon, India in 1952. Before moving to Australia, I worked as a salesperson for Bluestar, one of India’s largest companies at the time. I managed a team of 55 people, had a well-paid job and all the comforts we could ask for.
My wife and I moved to Australia for sentimental reasons in 1984. Almost 10 years earlier, my two brothers had moved to Sydney and were running their own restaurant with my parents’ help. My father, who was also my mentor, wanted all of us to be together. He asked us to consider migrating to Australia and so we did.
I still remember my first day in Sydney. My brother had hired a food stall at the Easter Show. He asked me to take charge of heating and selling samosas. In one day, I went from being a salaried professional in India to sweeping and mopping floors in Sydney. I felt I had taken a huge step backwards that day.
My wife, who’s always provided tremendous support, encouraged me to stick it out when my spirits ran low. After a few months of working in my brother’s restaurant, I decided to apply for professional jobs and went for interviews. But that didn’t work out as I didn’t like the companies’ attitudes.
So I made up my mind to start my own business. One thing I liked in Australia was the dignity of labour - I began working in the kitchen with mum, learning how to cook. Exactly 6 months after we arrived, I felt confident when someone approached me to buy a restaurant in Potts Point. We took a leap of faith and bought it. My wife and I would work until 1 am seven days a week – me as the chef and she, as the manager. Our hard work eventually paid off. The food was well received by the public and the restaurant started doing really well, with even celebrities coming in to eat at Manjits.
In 1987, we opened another restaurant in Balmain and that took off too. During this time, at a wedding I attended, I saw an opportunity to offer catering services to the Indian community. Once Manjits became well known in the community, requests to cater their various events – from engagements to weddings started pouring in. The rest, as they say, is history.
My family’s happiness is what drives me personally. Professionally, it’s the love for the business and the fact that both my sons, working in the business, are doing really well. What I love most about Australia is the dignity of labour and the people’s authentic nature. I’ve travelled to many places and there’s no place like Australia, its food, weather and air. When I first arrived, I didn’t want to live in Australia, now I don’t want to leave it.