Pervin Todiwala – the First Lady of Britain’s Indian food scene

Pervin Todiwala

This post was penned with Mothers’ Day in mind. Growing up motherless, I never had to concern myself with leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn to design the perfect breakfast in bed, or agonise over which heady scent would take Mum back to her carefree childless days. Instead, the occasion has always offered me the opportunity to reflect upon other mothers I admire.

One woman I’ve always regarded with wonder is Pervin Todiwala, or, to afford her the full title she so fully affords, ‘Pervin Todiwala: Marketing Whiz, Charity Champion, Honorary Dame d’ Escoffier and TIAW 100 World of Difference Award-Winner’. Someone so humble would never introduce themselves with such fanfare; her lack of trumpet-blowing making it all the more imperative you understand that this lady is a legend.

Aside from the aforementioned accolades, Pervin can add ‘mother’, ‘wife’, ‘warm wit’, ‘faithful friend, ‘businesswoman’ and ‘bon viveur’ to her achievements. All those parts of her personality are afforded equal importance, and they add up to an all-round good egg – the metaphor especially apt for a person of Parsi heritage, since that culture holds those awesome ovoids in such esteem.

Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala young

Since way, way back in the day, Pervin’s partner in love, life, leisure and absolutely everything else has been the esteemed chef Cyrus Todiwala. The pair prop each other up, two equal halves of a whole that everyone wants a little piece of. So much so that the duo don’t get much peace; roving the globe, opening restaurants, writing cookbooks, championing charities…

And, of course, trying desperately to hang out with the myriad mates they’re accrued since landing up in London over twenty years back. Dinner invites come thick and fast, but the couple’s crazy schedule means they run no risk of resembling the ‘jaro pudero’ (fat beetles) of Parsi proverb*. Although, with their ever-expanding empire, the Todi two do have a lot under their metaphorical belts.

For someone of her standing, Pervin is delightfully down-to-earth; decidedly devoid of the delusions of grandeur that the Parsis pronounce as ‘motai na musa’. No; this woman is certainly not afflicted with those unpleasant ‘haemorroids of greatness’* – the rather rude saying excellently expressing the fact that Pervin is in rather rude health when it comes to staying grounded.


Pervin’s feet may be firmly planted, but her butterfly mind flits from project to project, and her eyes remain trained on whichever ball she’s watching. She helps people get into a right pickle at home with Mr. Todiwala’s Splendidly Spicy Pickles & Chutneys, invites gourmets to greedily feed their piggy proclivities at Cafe Spice Namaste’s monthly Khadraas Club dinners, and now also entices spice fans to expand both horizons and waistlines still further at Assado and The Park Cafe.

When your husband can cook like Cyrus and your eldest son is quite the master mixologist, you need never lift a finger in the kitchen. But trained chef Pervin gets stuck in with the best of them; often assisting at Cyrus’ many masterclasses. Her genial demeanour curries favour even with the greenest cooks – the type about whom Parsis might proclaim, ‘gaan neh soodhlo nathi’ (their arse is clueless).

No such statement could be made about Pervin’s own posterior. In 1991, she suggested the Todiwala clan made the move all the way to the UK from Bombay – that superbly successful strategy bringing the additional benefit for us Brits of allowing us to adopt one of the finest families to step on our shores as our very own.

Cyrus and Pervin cooking

Merely having the Todis here feeding us so well should surely be sufficient, but this family is pure Parsi – and that means philanthropy. Myriad causes in Pervin’s adopted country have her fighting their corner; including the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Action Against Hunger, Learning for Life, the Asian Restaurant Skills Board, and Find Your Feet – the tiny charity where she’s a Trustee. In addition, Pervin promotes protection of the environment and speaks out on sustainability.

So she’s no stranger to playing poster girl for a cause, and, in 2011, her face graced Caterer & Hotelkeeper’s cover alongside her husband’s; their front-page feature a first for the Asian restaurant industry. Pervin’s both a stigma-smasher and a smashing supporter of her peers; not least fellow female hospitality professionals whose hard work she’s quick to praise loudly and lavishly.

It’s blindingly obvious I’m biased. You couldn’t possibly accuse me of that Parsi equivalent of fence-sitting: being a ‘gaan vugur no loto’ – a ‘pot without a bum’. Nope – I’d proudly park my rear alongside Pervin in Camp Todiwala any day of the week and any time of day. One of the most wonderful things about this woman is that she always has the time of day for absolutely anybody – and it’s high time everyone gave her due recognition.

Now let’s hear you loud and clear…

“Three cheers for Mrs. T!”

Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala

Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala and Zoe Perrett The Spice Scribe

  • *Thanks to Mumbai Boss for the newly-learned lexicon; my gyaan gained from the site’s splendid post on ‘Parsi Bol’, a new book of old sayings. To read the original article, click here.



25 responses to “Pervin Todiwala – the First Lady of Britain’s Indian food scene

  1. zoe! what a read, what a read its awesome. You forgot one thing madam and that is to say that she is also a great wife and an absolute soul mate and my best friend!
    Parsee proverbs bring vomited by a young Brit leave me clutching my sides with laughter. Well dome Zoe, You are a genius
    Have fun

    Liked by 1 person

    • I DID call her “‘mother’, ‘wife’, ‘warm wit’, ‘faithful friend, ‘businesswoman’ and ‘bon viveur”, but with your additions we’ve definitely covered all the bases. 😉

      Glad you had a good chuckle and hope you liked Queen P’s cartoon crown!


    • And I didn’t work in the Parsi phrase “Oont nee gaan ma jeera no vughar”, but there’s definitely no danger of you ever serving only so little food it would be dismissed as a mere ‘sprinkle of cumin in a camel’s rear end’! 🙂


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  3. Zoe – this was a brilliant piece. I love all the Parsi sayings peppered through the article – they really made me chuckle 🙂 I cant wait to meet you in person missy!


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  5. I can certainly vouch for Pervin’s talent and dedication. Having being a classmate of her’s at the Cadell Road, Catering College she was always at the top of her class. Extremely focused and always a great coach/friend to rely on, as her knowledge on food was immense.

    Needless to say the article made me laugh my side’s off with the relevance of the quote’s and totally confirm with the author the qualities of PT.

    Well done Pervin and Cyrus for what you have brought to the industry and the community. Sheer Pride!

    Neville Kapadia
    Sydney, Australia


    • What a lovely comment Neville – thanks for that! I’m glad to have made your sides split and am sure Pervin will seize your praise for her next resume update! 😉


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