If you have yet to meet Taranbir Chowdhury, now may be the time to get acquainted with him; in fact, many of his customers say that he is one of the most genuine and heartfelt people you will ever meet.
Chowdhury and his family are the owners of Raja’s Tandoor in Downtown Davis, which has been a local fixture for the past nine years.
It’s not only the prime location that makes the restaurant successful. After all, before Raja’s Tandoor, there was a restaurant called Rajas that served Indian cuisine at the same location.
For the first three years under the Chowdhury family ownership, the restaurant redeveloped everything from food to design and of course, customer service.
Chowdhury’s philosophy is to connect with each and every person that walks into the restaurant.
“My motto is to provide every person with kindness as soon as they step in,” Chowdhury said. “I was raised in India and I wanted to bring that culture of warmth and love for food and hospitality to this restaurant.”
Chowdhury, 64, works at the restaurant every day for 10 hours a day, serving the restaurant’s customers who for the most part eventually become some of his close friends, he said.
“This all comes from my heart and I really enjoy seeing my customers happy,” Chowdhury said.
Upon entering Raja’s Tandoor on a Tuesday afternoon, it was noticeably less crowded then it would be if it were a Friday or Saturday night. But Chowdhury was still keeping busy, going to each table, patting the customers on the back and offering them generous servings of tandoor-baked, complimentary naan.
Chowdhury said that his connection with the community is just as important as the restaurant’s income.
“Everything he does is so heartfelt,” said one frequent customer. “I was here with a co-worker one time and we accidentally didn’t pay. She thought I paid and I thought she paid. I called him and he said ‘That’s okay dear, it’s no problem. When you are free later, you can come back then.’”
It’s seems that roughly one out of every three people that go to Raja’s Tandoor are regulars and close friends of Chowdhury.
“Over the past year and a half I have become one of Chowdhury’s many close friends and was even invited to a Chowdhury family gathering,” said Boz Johnson, a fifth-year sociology major.
Chowdhury also has a clear understanding of the life of a college student.
“When students from the university are tired or stressed, I like to make them happy,” Chowdhury said. “They tell me about their tests and assignments and I always tell them that they did their best, encouraging them. This is not just an eat-and-go, this is a special home.”
Chowdhury and his family exemplify the spirit of family-run restaurants.
His wife of 34 years, Harmeet, works during the day as a teacher in the Davis School District, but on Wednesdays and throughout the weekend, she helps run the restaurant.
Chowdhury’s daughter, Avita, is a UC Davis alum, now working for the California Health and Human Services Agency, studying for her law degree and helping the restaurant by serving food at the Davis Farmers Market.
Chowdhury’s son makes sure that all of the food is delivered to the restaurant and runs the Farmers Market stand.
Raja’s Tandoor is consistently at the Davis Farmers Market and was also at this year’s Whole Earth Festival.
“We make nan-wiches using a variety of clay oven-baked naan, such as garlic, rosemary and spinach,” Chowdhury said.
Raja’s Tandoor is open every day and Chowdhury will most likely be there with a heartfelt welcome.
“I enjoy my work all the time. There is always so much to do — but being a host of my restaurant is not so much work, but my passion,” Chowdhury said.
DOMINICK COSTABILE can be reached at email@example.com.