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Worker Bee: meet Devang Gohil, owner of Ziya and Bhaji Pala

‘I wouldn’t change a thing about Manchester. It has given me so much,’ says Devang about the city he loves

Devang Gohil, owner of much-loved local restaurants Ziya and Bhaji Pala, came to the UK from India in 2003, to the Isle of Man to study for a higher diploma in hotel and tourism management. From there, he started his first job as a pot washer in a small restaurant in Port Erin. 

He became a waiter, and after a few months, once his course finished, he moved to Manchester. He worked his way up at the Marriott as a shift leader and to become a manager. Then he started working for restaurants and events companies. 

In 2014, Devang got the keys to Ziya, the award-winning restaurant on Wilmslow Road.

Together with his business partner Pradip, he is currently working hard to open a Bhaji Pala vegan restaurant in Pune in India this summer.

What got you started in your field of work?

It just naturally came to me. Sometimes you don’t choose the work, the work chooses you. This was just one of those things that came to me very naturally. If I was to open a book I’d go to sleep straight away, so that kind of education wasn’t for me. But this, where you have to work and be a people person, that was me.

Who have been the biggest influences on your work?

One is my dad. He’s probably the hardest working person I have seen in my life. He inspired me to work hard. My friends say I’m very good with marketing and PR, and that comes from him. Now he’s retired, but I’ve learnt so much from him. The others have probably been my managers who I worked with when I started in this industry, who helped me grow.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

I never thought I’d be opening a restaurant in India so early. So at the moment, having a couple of restaurants in Manchester and now taking one of our vegan brands all the way to India, back to my homeland where I came from, that’s the biggest achievement for both me and Pradip; to go back to our roots and let people enjoy what we do over here, over there as well. That is very big for us and I feel very emotional about it.

What does your typical day involve?

My typical day can involve anything and everything. Sometimes it can start very early, because we also do catering. At the moment it’s wedding season, so we might have to start at 4am and take all our vans and food and chefs and go somewhere in, say, Newcastle or Birmingham. We’d be catering all day long for an amazing 400 or 500 person wedding. Or it could be a typical day where I have to go to one of the restaurants. I might get a call saying they’re really busy, so I’ll jump in and work with the team. Or it could be one of those days where there’s a lot of paperwork or phone calls, and I could be tied up with that. 

And how do you relax on your days off?

I like to meet all my friends. We might go to somebody’s house and cook a pot of curry to enjoy together. Or sometimes I might want to just be in bed all day watching telly. But I’m also a biker, so I love to go on a ride, too. 

What is the best advice you have been given or can give?

My business partner and I have been very adventurous; we’ve not been shy about taking risks. We opened our vegan brand in Manchester and now we’re taking it to India. So for me, taking risks has been one of the best things I have ever done. And another thing for me, as much as we say don’t work hard, work smart, I think you have to start by going through the hard work. There are no shortcuts to success. Hard work is needed first, and then smart work comes later in life when you achieve it. Both are a good mixture, together.

If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?

Probably an actor. I’d have loved to have been in Bollywood or Hollywood. 

Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear…

I’ve got a single on YouTube which has got 50,000 views. During Covid there wasn’t much to do, so me and my friends got together and made it. I’ll probably make another one about my journey from Manchester to Pune; I’d be excited about that as well.

Red or Blue?

Being from Mumbai, I’m not a football guy at all. I do love going to see games, and the atmosphere of it all. So blue, not for football but for the cricket team in India. I completely love cricket.

If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything about Manchester. It has given me so much. I just love the vibe. I don’t want to change a thing. Manchester has been so good for me.

And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?

I love the way Manchester just accepted me. I’ve done so much hard work in Manchester, and Manchester gave it back to me. Mumbai is my birthplace, but Manchester is my workplace. Manchester embraced me so hard, and just didn’t let me leave. I completely love that about Manchester. I love the people. Our restaurant Ziya is on the curry mile, which is the most buzzing place. And I think Manchester is one of those places where I can choose a lifestyle. London is busy everywhere, but in Manchester you can go into the town centre and it’s busy but you can go out of the centre and it’s more chilled. There’s no other city for me; I love Mumbai and I love Manchester, and I completely love living in Manchester.

Ziya is at 65-67 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, M14 5TB; Bhaji Pala is at 2 Old Hall Road, Gatley, Cheadle SK8 4BE.

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