Anand Perseveres Amid Hardships

Deepak Anand’s journey in life was not an easy one, yet despite the hardships endured, he came out a winner.
30 Jul 2022 18:56
Anand Perseveres Amid Hardships
One of chef Deepak’s signature dishes.

Deepak Anand’s journey in life was not an easy one, yet despite the hardships endured, he came out a winner.

Losing his father, Anand Babla, at the age of 14 was not easy for his family to accept, but he knew that giving up was not an option.

Originally from Yaladro in Tavua, he said there were tough decisions to make.

“Dad was everything to us and when he passed away, things were challenging, especially for my mum who now had to nurture three children. We knew that life was going to be dif­ficult and that we must work extra hard to make something out of our lives,” Mr Anand said.

In the hope of a better life, Mr Anand moved to Auckland, New Zealand. He was only 17 and still trying to figure out what to do with his life.

To save money for his studies, he took up odd jobs and start­ed working in a stair-making company.

“Anything at that time for the sake of my education. I woke up early and I was on my feet all day, lifting timber and help­ing to assemble stairs. The pay was good, but I knew it wasn’t for me long term,” he said.

One day while driving home from the gym, he heard an ad­vertisement on the radio about a culinary school.

“At this point in my life, I had little knowledge of food out­side of Fijian and Fiji-Indian cuisines and was still confused about my career path but something about the advert in­trigued me, so I called them to find out more.”

Chef Deepak Babla at his cafe ‘Fika With Me’ in Birkenhead, Auckland..

Chef Deepak Babla at his cafe ‘Fika With Me’ in Birkenhead, Auckland..

He started doing his Level four (4) certificate studies in Ad­vanced Professional Cookery.

“I would go to school in the day and work in a pub in the evenings.”

After he finished his studies in 2016, his efforts were recog­nised by his school, named the ‘Most Outstanding Student’ and receiving the ‘100 per cent Attendance’ award.

In the same year, he took part in the NZ chef’s National Sa­lon in the Salmon category where he received a gold medal for his dish.

After finishing his studies, he started working full-time as a chef in Auckland.

He later took a break to return to Fiji where he worked at Governor’s Cafe for a short time.

Mr Anand knew that he wanted to open his restaurant one day and he has made that dream come true.

He saved for several years and at the age of 27, his dream to open his own cafe finally came true. In April this year, he bought a café in Birkenhead, Auckland named ‘Fika with Me’ or better known as just ‘Fika’.

“My recipes represent a small piece of my Fijian heritage. Through them, I want to showcase unique Fijian flavors and blend it with modern cooking techniques that I have learnt over the years working as a chef. If people were to associate a dish with Fiji, they might think of a ‘lovo’, which I love, but Fijian food is so much more than that,” he said.

When asked about his future plans, Mr Anand said that he hoped to someday open a restaurant in Fiji as well.

“COVID-19 made things hard for tourism and hospitality, not only in Fiji and New Zealand, but globally as a whole. However, things are improving slowly. I am now wait­ing for the right opportunity to make my next move. I still have a lot to learn, and I am always up for a new challenge.”


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