From rose-seller to restaurant owner - 10 years Rasas in Berlin-Westend

A retrospective after almost 20 years in Germany

Abdul Hamid Shaikh, born in India (Nashik, 200 km near Mumbay), came to Berlin 20 years ago. At the beginning it was a culture shock and not easy. Without language skills and start-up capital he came through invitation from his uncle in Kreuzberg. With English, he made his way and survived living until he went in a Gym, where he gradually made German and Turkish friends with whom he learned German. At times as a rose seller he recalls: "Of course I was also sometimes kicked and annoyed, it used to be very cold -20 C and I had no right jacket or warm shoes to wear." But he was his own boss with flexible hours, and learned to know the city and also some of its people.

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Later for some years he worked as an assistant in a film company in Cologne, Prague, Nice, Ireland, Rome and came back to Berlin in 2004. A trained accountant initially, he always had a dream to own a restaurant hence he started as a bartender in an Indian restaurant, later was trained as a waiter and finally got an offer to open a new restaurant which was about to make the dream come true. He wanted to accomplish the dream of owning a restaurant and found a location in Westend through an acquaintance. He had the vision to create a new dining experience that should be simple and elegant, without kitsch and Bollywood. The food should be of authentic quality, Slow Food without prefabricated sauces or flavor enhancers. The main theme is the harmonious combination of taste essences of the so called Rasas, from sweet, sour, spicy, bitter, acerbic and salty, which then gave the restaurant’s name.

Without a bank loan he borrowed money from friends, acquaintances and supporters, and kept on working as a waiter in the construction phase. One problem in mind for him was being a Muslim the sale and serving of alcohol. The solution for him came up through discussions with the Imam in the mosque, which he regularly visited.

The opening of Rasas in 2005 was exciting: "I did not know how to pay the salaries, if not enough sales would have got in," says Abdul Hamid Shaikh.

He is married to a German. Their two-year-old daughter is raised bilingually. "It is important to show my daughter Muslim culture too, the connection of both worlds. We celebrate Christmas here and also go for EID for fast-breaking to India," says the restaurateur. His parents visit Berlin every year for two months. The mother is responsible for the handcrafted production of the spice mixture of the masalas. The recipe includes up to 30 ingredients and it is handed down. Mama’s Masala, manufactured in Nashik, coming to Berlin for use is one of the secrets of taste.

In August 2015, the restaurant’s 10th anniversary was celebrated in style. In addition to the restaurant business Abdul Hamid Shaikh is working on a small cookbook which will be available with Mama’s Masala in nearer future.