Paresh Thakkar is all about originality.
He’s proud to say there isn’t an item on the menu at his restaurant that he didn’t create.
Thakkar, 34, opened Personal Touch Eatery & Catering in the fall of 2011 with a degree in economics and accounting, a diploma in culinary management and the credential of a Red Seal chef.
It’s his ability to combine flavours from countries around the world that makes him successful in the kitchen, he says.
“My cooking is not based on any particular kind of cuisine. It’s very eclectic. I use spices to incorporate unique flavours, not necessarily make them hot.”
Thakkar grew up in Sarnia and remembers his first restaurant job was as a teen at McDonalds. He’s come a long way since then, but says the fast food chain taught him fundamentals and discipline.
While attending college in London, he took a job with Bellamere Winery and learned about catering. Now, 40% of his business at Personal Touch is catering weddings, business luncheons, special events and private home dinners.
Before establishing his own restaurant, he worked locally for Paddy Flaherty’s and Lola’s Lounge, at several London spots and briefly for an Alberta restaurant.
“Family brought me back to Sarnia,” he said. “But I wanted to come back anyway. I love Sarnia’s small town style. If you do a good job, it translates into positive word-of-mouth for your business.”
Personal Touch specializes in soups, sandwiches and wraps, focusing on lunch and open until 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
The menu features six sandwiches such as the La Bomb-a, which is chipotle roasted chicken with an avocado spread, sautéed peppers and onions and jalapeno Havarti.
Every day, Thakkar creates a special, such as lobster mac and cheese or a Cuban quesadilla served with dill pickles and a citrus jalapeno Dijon.
“There’s a growing number of people in Sarnia who have experienced different flavours elsewhere and want to have them here as well.
“I see that people want to try different things.”
RECIPE: Paresh Thakkar’s Roasted Beet Hummus (6-7 cups)
2 cups roasted beets. To roast, bake in foil at 375 F for about 45 minutes. Peel.
3 cups chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
6 cloves roasted garlic
2 tbsp beet juice (reserved from cooking)
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
Water if necessary to adjust consistency
Mix all ingredients in a food processor, adding ¼ cup olive oil as it blends.
Curious about a local restaurant and its recipes? Contact Cathy Dobson at 226-932-0985 or [email protected] with future column suggestions.
– Cathy Dobson