You'd have to be mad not to admire Gulu Anand – the proprietor of Brilliant Restaurant in Southall. Anand is the Alex Ferguson of the restaurant scene – winning relentlessly in a brutal, ever changing league. In a borough and era where restaurants open and close with the speed of a camera shutter, Brilliant - whose high profile past guests include Prince Charles (1980) and the Duchess of Cornwall (2007) – has been in business for a milestone 37 years.
The Royals aren't the only famous faces to have trodden a path to the Western Road restaurant's door: irascible celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, included Brilliant in his Best Restaurant 2007 series.
Anand caught the cooking bug early. Growing up in Kenya, Nairobi, Gulu used to watch his Father, Bishen Dass Anand – himself a top chef – in the kitchen. “Every single grain or rice would be separated. He was an expert, ” recalls Anand.
In 1972, the family moved permanently to St Mary's Avenue in Norwood Green and Gulu started a science technicians diploma course at Southall College. However after four months, Gulu quit to chase his restaurant dream.
Gulu started off by cooking “meals at home in our shed and charged people £1.50 or £2 per person.” When orders reached the hundreds, he set up an address at 72 Western Road in what was an old fishmonger’s shop.
It's this determination and drive that explains why Brilliant has risen with meteoric velocity to become an award winning restaurant that has won plaudits from the press and public alike. Of the latter, he says: “It's great to see repeat customers, who first came when they one or two years old, now bringing their own children to eat.”
Family is something that Gulu is passionate about. His son Shankar, 28, and daughter Dipna, 30, are both involved in the running of the restaurant which serves traditional Punjabi dishes. But it's not all about tradition: Brilliant has been canny enough to respond to changing consumer sentiment. Under Gulu's guidance, the restaurant has introduced healthier menu options, started selling its authentic dips and sauces on-site and online and launched a range of cookery courses - designed to help chefs of all abilities.
Anand is acutely aware that the secret to his success is “hard work, a stance that Dipna – who now teaches Indian food at three universities – supports.
“My Father is the first one in to open up and the last to leave. If we're short staffed, he will get involved in the cooking. He's very hands on yet still finds time to give back to the community – he is a governor at two local schools – and be a devoted Dad. He's my inspiration. My role model.”