Vikram Vij left his native Mumbai at 21 to start a career in Vancouver’s booming hospitality business. Trading on his lifelong passion for cooking, he put on an apron and worked his way into some of the city’s top kitchens. He apprenticed himself to masters like John Bishop and seemed destined for a place in Vancouver’s Pacific Northwestern-style fine-dining establishment. Then he bought a faltering Arabic restaurant and started serving his mom’s lamb curry.

The eponymous Vij’s is now one of Canada’s top restaurants, but its unlikely story starts in India. For enRoute’s food issue, Vij returned to Mumbai with Chris Johns to explore the flavours of Mumbai’s best eateries and back alleys. After his trip, we sat down with him to talk about how Vij’s embodies the culinary culture he brought with him from India in 1984, and what he discovered when he returned there.