He was a practising doctor brought up in a strictly vegetarian Maharashtrian family, she was prawn-loving Saraswat Brahmin from Goa working in Customs Intelligence — it was an unlikely recipe for a love story, but only did it take off, it changed the course of their lives. Dr Suhas and Deepa Awchat’s first labour of love was a little restaurant they opened in place of the polyclinic they had in Mahim — the now iconic Goa Portugesa which has hosted a galaxy of celebrities, including half a dozen Goan chief ministers and umpteen Bollywood stars, is celebrating its silver anniversary tomorrow and the couple have pulled out all stops to make it a special affair. While they have accumulated many memories along the way, but what still makes Suhas smile is the unexpected grief he got from his own family friends. “We used to live just above the restaurant and so many of our friends and neighbours — even my own mother — seemed upset that we were opening a non-vegetarian joint.
It took some time for people to understand that Goan fare was not just pork preparations but also had so many vegetarian specialities which were the staple fare of Goan Hindus,” says Awchat.
His “myth busting” spiel isn’t new, as friends, celebrities and strangers who’ve met him will vouch, but the fact that even 25 years down the line he’s still delivering it with unflagging passion does deserve acknowledgement. He’s now ready to pass the baton to his elder son Sudeep, a hotel management graduate and MBA, who hopes to turn it into a chain of franchisee units with a presence across India, but perhaps the shy young man could learn a trick or two in more earthy brand building from the original crusader for vegetarian vindaloo and coconut kaju sukhi bhaji.