Talk of Italian food in India and her name is the first one that pops in our head. Chef Ritu Dalmias journey has been one to marvel at exciting, unique, challenging but an inspiring one. Talking about her biggest achievement yet, she said, I would think that is yet to come. However in the journey so far it has been to get Italians to use us for their Italian caterings in Italy over local Italian chefs, it is a big feather in our cap and makes me tickle with joy.Image source: @ritudal/instagramBorn in Kolkata, Dalmias family ran an Italian marble business. At the age of 16 when she was just out of school, she decided to join her dad in the business. When asked about her educational background, Dalmia bluntly said that she doesnt have any. While she is an accomplished cook, with several restaurants, shows and books to her credit, she was never trained as a cook.She started an Italian restaurant in Delhi, Mezza Luna in 1993 when she was just 21. It was a failure. People would ask for macaroni with baked beans, she joked talking about a time when the taste for Italian cuisine wasnt a thing in India.Image source: @ritudal/instagramRunning businesses across time zones, today, the 49-year-old is one of Indias most coveted chefs and restaurateurs, who owns award-winning restaurants in India, London and Milan. Dalmias entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to the hospitality industry has been recognized by many institutions, including Forbes which put her on its W Power Trailblazers List and the Indian Federation for Culinary Association, which recognised her as one of Indias 25 biggest Chefs. She was also awarded the Ordine della Stella d'Italia, the highest civilian honour of Italy.The only time Dalmia suffered sexism was when she had just started her first restaurant, When my own chefs had a huge problem with me being a woman. I have some of the very same chefs still with me who have been sensitised over the years and if I may say so respect me for what I bring on the table rather than what sex I am.She truly believes that running a successful venture requires a solid team, a few key people that stay along with you throughout your journey. They are the backbone. Ramesh Pandey our manager in diva has been with us from day one of diva, head chef of latitude again has been with us for nearly 20 year, chef Naval, number two in our catering has been with us since my first ever venture Mezza Luna. Dinesh, our senior catering manager, came as a young kid straight out of college as junior commis in front of house. Actually, there are way too many to list.Image source: @ritudal/instagramDalmia shared that she has no space for ego in her life so power in a literal sense has no meaning in her life. However if I have the possibility to make a change that is power for me. Freedom means being able to express ourselves without any judgement whether it is via cooking, via our sexuality or how we decide to live our lives. If you cannot be free you have no power. An iconic member of the Indian LGBTQIA+ community she was one of the six people from the LGBTQIA+ community to file a petition with the Supreme Court challenging Section 377. Her contribution to the landmark 2018 repeal of the oppressive section remains her biggest triumph, When we won the 377 case in 2018, I received one of the most heartfelt message from a 43-year-old woman, who had been struggling with her sexuality for over 27 years, and she told me that finally she had the courage to come out and embrace who she was. It doesnt matter what happens in my life, whether I lose my restaurants or anything else; because I think I have done what I was meant to do and why I was put on this planet for. So my bit is done.Image source: @ritudal/instagramWe quizzed her over what age and experience has left her with and she chuckled, What do you mean by that?? I am still young hip and happening! Ok on a serious note, I am a mellower person than I was 20 years ago. If I may admit quite shamefully I thought I knew it all, and taking criticism was impossible for me. Finally, with age, I realise that majority of the people who mean well, will criticize you, others who dont care will let you carry on with your mistakes.