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The Sam of all things

Sam Paul at Jonah’s goes to Japan. Photo: M. Karunakaran

Sam Paul at Jonah’s goes to Japan. Photo: M. Karunakaran

There are two men, employed by Sam Paul, who look after newspaper clippings. 

Every morning, Sam wakes up at 7, fits in an hour of exercise and then, sits down to scan the local papers. Since 2004, from the first mention of the launch of Casa Piccola in Chennai, he’s collected about 500 news clippings of himself. He often makes it to the papers for something or the other; news about the latest Toni & Guy store launch, party pictures, involvement in charity activities and social, news about his acting venture in the upcoming movie Patra … even the smallest mention, he clips, files, indexes and laminates. “We need some cheap thrills, no?” laughs Sam.

The reason he values these clippings and takes such care in making sure they are preserved is because, he says, he treasures the recognition and appreciation that comes his way. “This is achievement! I am well-heeled — I own a house, I drive a Porsche. I have good people working for me. What else do I need?”

Sam, who has been the reason for the arrival of many big brands in the city, schooled here. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Engineering and followed it up with a doctorate from College of Engineering, Guindy. He started working with his father, helping manage educational institutions owned by the family, had many grand business ideas which his father disagreed to and eventually, was asked to leave home for being too rebellious. 

Relentless, Sam worked to prove himself, sleeping on the floor of his friend’s place in the meantime. Using the money he earned, and then some, he opened Casa Piccola in 2004, which was all the rage those days. “I just wanted to show my father that I was capable of earning my own money. But from there to where I am right now, it’s all God’s grace. Nothing else.”

Over a decade later, he has chiselled an identity for himself as a restaurateur in Chennai. He manages Crimson Chakra, Haagen-Dazs and Jonah’s Bistro. His latest, Jonah’s goes to Japan, in collaboration with Momoyama, introduces an Asian twist to the existing European menu designed by ‘MADChef’ Kaushik. “Right now, I’m tripping on Japanese,” grins Sam.

At the launch of the restaurant, Sam bustles about, greeting old friends and making new ones. He’s a people’s person; no doubt about it. He says he has the knack to identify the right ones too. “My greatest asset is that my staff have remained with me… it’s important to have the right people,” says Sam, adding that the same men who worked at Casa Piccola are cooking up a storm in Jonah’s kitchen too. 

As the dishes stream out, Sam talks about the peasant origins of the beef goulash, fusses over the amount of fish in the seafood broth and insists that the chicken parmigiana would pair better with mashed potato, as opposed to spaghetti. “I’ve been doing this since 2004, you start to know a little by now,” chuckles the foodie. 

This, however, is not all that he knows. In 2010, sometime in between opening new restaurants, managing educational institutions and being responsible for the mushrooming of Toni & Guy outlets in the city, he got bored of all that he was doing and bounded off to study law at the Government Law College. “I was 32 years old at that time, and I sat with these boys who were 18-19 years old and studied for three years. In fact, I got debarred for six months for not having enough attendance,” laughs Sam. He now practises law at the High Court and works with N. Chandrasekaran, Special Public Prosecutor for CBI cases. 

That hardly confines him from juggling other things though: Sam just acted in a film and is producing another. He’s looking to do some celebrity DJing born out of a love for music and the request of a few friends. Keeping in line with body building titles that Sam won when he was in University, he launched a new project last month — Slam, the fitness studio. He is further looking to expand the Jonah’s brand and working to bring Doner Kebab to India, because, he says, “I am very particular about my kebabs.”

“That’s the greatest thing in life: to be able to do what you want. If I want to do something, I just have to think of the way to do it professionally… it’s all about God’s grace and having the right people by your side.” smiles the 37-year-old.


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Printable version | Sep 21, 2022 12:29:32 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-sam-of-all-things/article6955232.ece