By Tim Cerullo, '08
With an ever-expanding roster of hospitality and entertainment ventures, entrepreneur and Broad College of Business alumnus Rohit Khattar is still hungry for more.
Rohit Khattar will tell you he’s not a collector. “Barring film posters and film photographs,” he said, “I don’t really have a hobby of collecting anything.” But looking at his body of work, it’s clear the 1985 Broad College of Business graduate and founder and chairman of Old World Hospitality, India’s premier hospitality and entertainment company, has a fondness for “more.”
The business got its start in 1990, when Khattar opened his first restaurant in New Delhi’s Broadway hotel, which he inherited from his grandfather. While searching for the restaurant’s theme, he drew inspiration from some familiar American eateries popular during his college years—TGI Fridays, Bennigan’s and Houlihan’s.
Filled with local bric-a-brac, Chor Bizarre is a charming oasis of knickknacks, mismatched silverware and antique furniture. It’s an eat-in version of India’s thieves markets, for which it’s named.
But it’s the food that’s kept folks flocking to Chor Bizarre for over two decades. The menu, a collection of traditional home-style dishes, is true to the old world and has garnered acclaim from locals, tourists and critics alike.
Khattar’s early success made him hungrier. He soon turned his attention to more modern and innovative takes on Indian cuisine with a fine dining restaurant, Indian Accent, in New Delhi.
With its fusion of traditional flavors and inventive techniques, Indian Accent quickly exploded and has been India’s top restaurant. It’s the only restaurant from India on the “World’s 100 Best Restaurants List,” ranking No. 17 in Asia. Last year, it also landed on “Time Magazine’s 100 Great Destinations in the World.” Khattar soon took the sensation worldwide, opening Accent restaurants in London and New York City— to rave reviews.
Today, Khattar’s amassed a collection that includes more than 30 restaurants, two hotels, a convention and performing arts center, and a full catering outfit. But you’d never know it. He’s a behind-the-scenes type of CEO.
“It is the cuisine that takes center stage,” he said. “I prefer to let my chefs take center stage too.”
He said his wife Rashmi is his number one adviser. “She has an incredible eye for detail and an uncanny knack for knowing what will work.”
Together, they continue to build Old World Hospitality. Meanwhile, Khattar is also pursuing another passion: film.
He’s the founder and chairman of Cinestaan Film Co. The boutique studio is a new vehicle for producing and distributing films. “Creatively this almost gives me as much satisfaction as being a restaurateur,” he said. Further bolstering independent Indian talent is Mumbai Mantra, another company on Khattar’s eclectic roster. As chairman of the business, he’s exploring entertainment infrastructure as part of the $20.7 billion Mahindra Group. So while Khattar doesn’t call himself a collector, he has accumulated an impressive consortium over the course of his career. He’s a risk taker and film buff. A true jack of all trades. There’s no telling where he’ll show up next, or what ideas he’ll bring. But one thing is certain—it’s going to be good.
Originally printed in the Spartan Alumni Magazine — Fall 2019