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Deeply upset, hope I can be forgiven: Chef Atul Kochhar

Anjana Sankar/ Web Report/Dubai
Filed on June 13, 2018 | Last updated on June 13, 2018 at 11.45 pm
Deeply upset, hope I can be forgiven: Chef Atul Kochhar

(Picture retrieved from chefatulkochhar/Instagram)

Atul Kochhar received flak after taking a dig at Priyanka Chopra for her tweet over an episode in 'Quantico'.

Celebrity chef Atul Kochhar, who was fired by Dubai's JW Marriott Hotel, said the hotel's decision is 'deeply upsetting' but hoped residents will be able to forgive him.

"The decision by JW Marriott Maquis is deeply upsetting, however I fully accept the great pain I have caused and the difficult position the hotel has been put in. I have great respect for JW Marriott, and in particular, their staff in Dubai, and wish the hotel well for the future," Atul said in a statement issued to Khaleej Times.

"I hope my friends and well-wishers in Dubai will forgive me and continue to support me in future," read the statement. Marriott on Wednesday announced that it has cut ties with celebrity chef Atul Kochhar following his anti-Islamic tweet. Kochhar operated the Rang Mahal Indian restaurant in Dubai.

"Following the recent comments made by Chef Atul Kochhar, we have taken the decision to end our agreement with him for Rang Mahal. With the termination of our agreement, Chef Atul will no longer be associated with the restaurant," JW Marriott Marquis Hotel said in a statement.

"At the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai we pride ourselves on creating a culture of diversity and inclusion for our guests and associates across the hotel and our restaurants. We also remain committed to delivering the traditional culinary experience and high service standards that Rang Mahal is renowned for," it added.

Kochhar received flak after taking a dig at Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra for her tweet over an episode in American television series 'Quantico' that purportedly portrayed Hindu nationalists as terrorists. Kochhar on Tuesday issued an apology for his remarks.

"There is no justification for my tweet, a major error made in the heat of the moment on Sunday. I fully recognise my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologise. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many," Kochhar said.

"I would like to apologise unreservedly to my Muslim friends, the Islamic community and everyone I have offended with my recent tweets. They were insensitive and wrong. My work and my restaurants are defined by a passion to unite cultures through food, love and understanding. I have let myself and my colleagues down. I am upset and sorry for the pain I have caused and ask for your forgiveness," Kochhar tweeted on Tuesday with another unconditional apology.

But the apology came too late as his inflammatory tweet had already sparked an outrage on social media with people in the UAE demanding the chef be sacked.
Some residents said they would boycott the restaurant.

Calls for sacking

With the hotel confirming the sacking of the celebrity chef by Wednesday morning, the social media has got into a tizzy with people from all backgrounds including politicians and academics from different parts of the world, condemning the disgraced chef.

"Bigotry is non-negotiable," tweeted Indian journalist Rana Ayyub who had been on the receiving end of social media attacks in the past.

"There are minorities in India dying because they have meat in their fridge. Voices like Kochhar encourage the bigots, feed the hysteria," TedSpeaker Masarat Daud tweeted.

Leading Asian media commentator Sunny Hundal, who is based in London, tweeted to his 75,000 followers: "What are you sorry about? Your views on Muslims? You blame Muslims for victimising Hindus for 2000 years (apparently!). But you're happy to make money off them in Dubai."

UK-based Kochhar is also facing backlash at home, with people calling for his boycott. Halal Gems, a halal restaurant finder app in the UK, delisted Kochhar's London-based restaurant Benares from the app and issued a statement:

"We are disappointed to see Chef Atul Kochhar's message judging Islam to be "terrorising", especially since his restaurants benefit from Muslim clientele and the Muslim pound. Halal Gems believes we deserve better. To this end, we have removed Benares from our Restaurant Finder, and from four guides where we had listed Benares as a recommendation. We will not be promoting any restaurants associated with Atul Kochhar."

While most people are slamming the chef for his anti-Islamic tweet, the right-wing lobby in India is advocating for Kochhar and his freedom of speech turning the issue into a political mud-slinging.

anjana@khaleejtimes.com





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