Published Verve Magazine April 2015
Photograph by Ryan Martis
“It is life in a bottle and that to me is magic.”
The third-generation hotelier with The Leela Group, Aishwarya Nair is the head of corporate food and wine merchandising, responsible for drafting the master wine list for all the units in the chain of hotels. When you factor in variables including location, climate, cuisine and clientele, it becomes quite a task. A vino culture educator and writer, she pushes the envelope for the food and wine experience and knowledge in India. The only woman in India to have been felicitated with an honorary diploma by the region of Champagne, Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne, Aishwarya has received the ‘Businesswoman of the year 2014’ title from the Indian Leadership Conclave and has also published a coffee-table cookbook, The Fine Art of Food, with her sister, Amruda and photographer, Rohit Chawla.
“The subject itself keeps me going: there is always something new to learn. Every vintage has a different personality, which is the beauty of the wine world!” With a culinary degree to back her up — she obtained an Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degree in hotel and restaurant management at the Culinary Institute of America — Aishwarya ends up delving into the creative aspects of food as well. On a regular workday, her key functions involve product development, menu engineering, research about wine and food, creating menus and reworking existing lists based on her basic algorithm. “I looked at myself as competition and that enabled me to work creatively and build something sustainable in terms of branding for the Leela hotels’ repertoire in wine or my own artisanal brand AMAI.” After the success of her luxury pastry brand, Dolce, she went on to create AMAI influenced by the principles of Japanese macrobiotics. It is artisanal — all crafted by hand — using no refined flour, dairy or eggs. “It is what I predict will be the future for India – the idea of conscious eating.”
She’s fond of electronic music, world cuisine, all things retro, and foreign or classic films. “Eclectic, minimal, edgy yet sophisticated” is her style quotient, while dressing up for an occasion means “coordinating the design of your outfit to match (or mismatch) your accessories, make-up and hair, immaculately.” She believes her curiosity for all things and openness to new experiences is a personality trait that serves her well.
Thirty-year-old Aishwarya Nair, who would like to reach a point where her wants are lesser than her needs, sees herself investing creative resources in a fashion-related business, and cherishes her grandfather’s crocodile leather black suspenders, which he once let her borrow.
She remains inspired by “design, travel, Wes Anderson, powerful women, astrology and metaphysics,” and believes that success is all about being a pioneer in her field. “I would like to live a life where every whim is achievable, by my own right, independently.”