Margaret is the co-owner and executive chef of Thattu restaurant, which focuses on Indian street food from the state of Kerala. She wasn’t always in the restaurant industry. For more than 12 years, she worked in financial services, pharmaceutical and marketing. She was let go of at her last job and it hit her very hard, but it also inspired her to change things up. After saving up a lot from those 12 years in the corporate world, she took a year off and traveled. She and Vinod went to Chile, Japan, Korea, Germany, France, India and Argentina and fell in love with experiencing international cuisine.
Margaret knew she wanted to work in food, but didn’t know how or in what capacity. She became an independent Food Sales Consultant for Ketch on Fire. One day while attending a coursed beer cocktail dinner at Whole Foods, she met Won Kim. Some time passed and Margaret started helping out at Kimski in 2017. This was her first experience working in a kitchen and restaurant setting.
As her confidence grew, she started cooking Indian food at work. Egg curry is something she would always make at home, so whenever there were too many eggs at work, she would cook some for staff meal. It was comforting, homey and made her happy to make it. Won asked her to her first popup and she happily agreed. Five popups later, the opportunity arose to open her own spot within Politan Row.
Seeing how far Margaret has come makes me so happy. She is the very blueprint for anyone that might be working the standard 9 to 5, but pursued her dreams to make it into reality. Often times, it’s easy to get stuck into the same routine unless a chance of luck pushes you into the start of a new beginning. Thattu has been featured by Chicago Tribune, Reader and TimeOut. They have also been nominated for the Best Counter Service by the Jean Banchet Awards.
- How did you decide that you wanted to focus on cooking food from Kerala?: Over 15 years ago, I experienced eating Kerala cuisine thanks to Vinod and instantly fell in love. It was unlike the Indian dishes I experienced prior and wanted to try more! Beef, fried seafood, parottas, jackfruit, goat stew, goat biriyani – there were so many ingredients that were new to me. I’ve been fortunate to visit Kerala over numerous visits for the past 14 years and learn some tricks from my mother-in-law. Kerala cuisine has always been comforting and fun to cook (and eat!). The decision to focus on this cuisine was mostly selfish – we can’t get Kerala cuisine anywhere within Chicago! You can drive to the suburbs for some grocery stores or catering, but ultimately feel that Chicago deserves and needs to experience the flavors and textures of Keralan cuisine.
- What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in being your own boss? Would you do it all over again?: Learning how to delegate and letting go. I’m approaching the 6 month mark of being my own boss and i’m finally learning to allow myself to leave (mentally and physically) work at work. And yes – I’d do it all over again. I still pinch myself sometimes!
- Advice to other people that are trying to find their passion or they already have their passion and how to pursue it?: It’s hard work but keep trying new things and just go for it!! Just keep trying different things until you find what makes you happy. Not every job/passion/project will be perfect but you need to put in the time, and be consistent. I found that when I was most flexible and allowed things to organically grow, that’s when things happened. If you asked me a couple years ago if i’d be owning my own food stall, I would think you were crazy!