“I am Indian and growing up in London, there are a lot of people that would open restaurants that had East African Indian Food. I thought you know let me combine my traditional Gujarati background with that East African Indian food and make all the things that I like.
I had previously worked for the CEO of Chipotle, so I thought that this would work as an ideal format – in the chipotle format. I would go to Indian restaurants and I would find that, I would want naan, some curry, some rice, some chutneys, and yet everything I wanted they would want me to buy a whole bowl of which I couldn't eat as a single person. They would nickel and dime me. So it'd be $4 for the yogurt, $3 for the chutney, and by the time I'm done, it was like $25 just to eat a basic meal. I thought, you know I can make the food better than they make it, and I don't want to nickel and dime people. I want them to have the opportunity to have what they want, how they want it.
We are so used to in our culture being told, “no that's extra” or being charged for it in a ridiculous way and so we kind of came up with the tag that this is a place where “extra is not extra”. They could come in and think, “oh how un-indian this is”.
The tastes of everything, which are my family's recipes, would leave them thinking, “Wow I really do love this food”. People that come here and spend their ten dollars and leave thinking, “Oh my god I just got a cacophony of flavors in my mouth”.
I’ve had a varied career; I was a bond trader in my very first career for JP Morgan making a very high living and loving life. Then I married a gal from Monterey, California and she wanted to move back to California. That restricted the career that I was already in, but she loved a company called the Body Shop which sells skin and hair products. I knew the owners so they let us open franchises in the California market before they bought us out to use our infrastructure for the growth of the market.
In getting to this point, my father was a doctor but his passion was cooking. My mother was a teacher and her passion was cooking. So there was a lot of passion for cooking in the family, and when I was thinking about what I would like to do after we sold the Body Shop, I thought I'll learn the food business.
I became a franchisee at McDonald's, and they referred me to Chipotle and I worked for the CEO of Chipotle in helping open the European market. After I did that, I felt that let's put this into play. I opened the successful expansion plans for Ike’s, which had one store at that stage and I took it to 60 stores in 8 years. At that point I thought, now it's at a size that is not really exciting for me being an entrepreneur. I was wanting to build things, and I had thought about doing this for 10 years, but that other stuff had taken up time, and so I thought here's a perfect opportunity.
My name is Sam from Sam & Curry and I'd like to invite any of you to come and eat in our store and I can guarantee you that it'll be one of the best meals that you've had.”