Michelin-trained chef Krishna Parekh is proud of his new venture in Deepdale
Krishna Parekh has served up culinary delights all over the globe but he has chosen Preston as the centre of his world.
The 41-year-old Michelin-trained chef, of Deepdale, has travelled as far as Dubai to develop a chain of restaurants, has trained with Lancashire chef Paul Heathcote and has even cooked for high profile footballers such as David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.
And now he has set up his own bakery and restaurant, Neela’s Surti Sweets & Savouries, in Deepdale Road, Preston, with his brother, Sham.
Krishna, who was born in India, came to Preston in 1986, when he was 10 years old to be with extended members of his family.
He attended William Temple High School and electing for a practical career, he qualified as an electronics engineer from Preston’s College.
But searching deep into his soul, he went back to his original passion, which has led to an exciting career.
Krishna says: “I did my work experience at Preston’s College and qualified as an engineer in electronics.
“But my passion had always been cooking.
“I had watched my mum cooking growing up and I had all these ideas.
“But there was some sort of correlation between engineering and cooking.
“I could engineer recipes as I could taste something and figure out what was in it and then I could come home to cook it.
“So I went back to Preston’s College when I was 22 and retrained.
“I asked Paul Heathcote if there were any jobs at his site in Winckley Square.
“He said no, but there was a job at Preston North End.
“Outside catering is different to cooking in a restaurant. I learnt the trade in that environment, looking after high profile footballers in their own homes.
“I cooked for a lot of players from PNE, Manchester United and Liverpool FC, such as Steven Gerrard, Harry Hewell, David Beckham and manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We travelled to their houses as they held dinner parties.
“I can’t discuss too much because it is confidential but what I can say is that the footballers were the nicest set of people I could meet.
“I didn’t know too much about football so I didn’t talk about that and ask for an autograph.
“But I did build a relationship by talking about other things, such as gardening and food.
“I admit I do miss the outside catering and going to people’s houses.
“But it was hard work because there is a lot of expectation.
“The longest I have ever worked was 22 hours. I was so client focused and wanted the final product to be the best it could have been.”
The father-of-one then moved down to London to work as a chef at Fuller’s Brewery and then took a job in Dubai, developing a chain of restaurants, in 2015.
He adds: “I designed a concept for what a client can do with an empty space. I looked at the demographics in terms of marketing, food and then created a brand and concept.
“I had a few different ideas, such as fish bars and burger places.
“I rarely put my chefs whites on as I managed the back of house, with managers being front of house and I had 30 chefs under me.
“I did miss the cooking and so every now and then I put on my whites and went into the kitchen.
“There were branches in Oman, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and they are still going strong.
“I am still involved in the projects from over here, with my firm Sainila Consulting, even though I am not physically there.
“I work from home, delivering a tailored bespoke service, developing restaurants brands and concepts.
“I use my knowledge and experience to find gaps in the market and explore new trends. I provide services to businesses looking to rejuvenate existing establishments in the hospitality industry, I help develop and create new brands, recipe profile and carried out kitchen management.
“I returned to Preston in January last year as it just didn’t work out for me due to family ties.
“It was such a wonderful experience but my wife and daughter were back here.
“I didn’t want to pull my daughter out of school to live over there.”
On returning to Preston, Krishna worked for Paul Heathcotes again, looking after high court judges, before launching his own dream in September.
He adds: “I had trained from nothing and now I have this great opportunity.
“I have gone around the world but I have come back to the same place to set up my own business.
“I am passionate about local produce.
“This is a family-run business and is named Neela’s after my mum.
“We are a Surti Gujarati family, which means our daily life is usually structured around family, friends and great food.
“We host weekend dinner parties, with plenty of exciting food bursting with flavours, coupled with laughter, late nights and stories.
“All this was held together by a strong group of mums that have recipes to please, including ours.
“I have gone full circle as I watched my mum cook and now I have created this business for my mum.
“She now watches me cook and puts me in my place as she tells me what to do.
“I am preparing the finest vegetarian Indian dishes from street food, chaat and curries with Preston’s finest pure khoya sweets.
“The food we create is from Gujarat, and is vegetarian and vegan. Our recipes have been handed down for generations.
“I specialise in handcrafted sweets and I use my own recipes for savoury goods. I am trying to develop healthy recipes, which also taste very good.
“I always offer the same level of service, as it is about the customers’ needs and wants.
“I keep the menu blank so I can cater for my clients. I ask them what they would like. I say to people ‘you tell me what you want to spend and I will let you know what is possible.’
“I always like to sit down with the client and give a personal, bespoke service.”
Krishna is settling into his new role and is revelling in the excitement.
The restaurant has received glowing reviews so far and Krishna is keen to build up his reputation.
He adds: “I want to develop what I have got here and make this into a good cafe for the community.
“We cater for vegans. Preston Vegan Society came here for a meal and they told me what they had been missing.
“They told me it was hard to find desserts, but I have been able to give them what they want. I created cheesecake without the cheese, but with all the flavour. I also offered them a range of vegan chocolate truffles.”
The Michelin-trained chef loves nothing more than to cook and test out new creations.
He says: “Cooking calms me down. I get all fired up and ready to go.
“The best part is when you get a thank you from someone for the food you have cooked and you know you have done your job for the day.
“Love is a big thing in cooking. There has to be a real passion behind it.
“When a person eats a meal and enjoys it, I believe it is because it is being made with love.
“I really enjoy seeing the smile on a person’s face when they like what they are eating.”