ISKCON’S best cook Yamuna mataji’s comment on the standards of Govinda’s
I thank you for your dedicated devotional service which is deeply appreciated by everyone . Recently Yamuna Devi Mataji was here; she is the most famous cook in the history of ISKCON. Srila Prabhupad personally taught her to cook, and sent her to the best places in India to learn. She has written a book called ‘Lord Krishna’s Cuisine’. It won the most distinguished award of ‘The International Best Cookbook of the Year’. And she has traveled a lot. She told me at least 3-4 times that Govinda’s Restaurant is the best restaurant in all of ISKCON. She said the food is excellent; but good food doesn’t taste good to the heart unless it is served with very much devotion and attention. She was very impressed by the cleanliness, by the hospitality, by the affection and concern with which everything is served, and by the quality of the prasad. I took this to be a very great blessing and encouragement from Sri Sri Radha Gopinath and Prabhupad coming from her mouth and her heart. But she did have some suggestions, which we will discuss another time.
So just to balance my talk, yesterday one devotee named Darshan from Hong Kong came with his wife and two children. I spoke to them in my room. Afterwards Sridhama Prabhu took them to Govinda’s restaurant. Now people have been praising our pizza very much. Yamuna said the sauce is too wet; it needs to be cooked down more so it’s drier. And she said that the crust is very nice, but when you pick it up, the crust goes, falls down; it’s because the sauce is too wet. If u cook it down more and make it drier and make the artichokes on top lighter and not so big in size then it will not fall down. She said the sauce tastes very nice, but too wet. So, so many people have been praising the pizza that you make. I was thinking Yamuna is very perfectionist, so she wants us to make it absolutely perfect. She said I want to talk to whoever teaches them pizza. They must learn this properly. So I was thinking, first time I ever heard anything like this. Then Mr. Darshan’s family was leaving and I saw them at the gate. I said, “Did you like the restaurant?” And the mother said, “Very nice, very very nice.” I said to the children, “What did you have?” They said pizza. I said, “Do you like the pizza better in Govinda’s or in Hong Kong?” And they both said Hong Kong. So I considered Krishna wanted us to take Yamuna’s instruction very seriously. Children are honest. They do not know diplomacy so much. Govinda’s restaurant is a success beyond my imagination, but there is still much room for improvement.
Desire to have a Govinda’s restaurant.
You see that the world is like a river, and we are always swimming upstream against the current of time. If you are not seriously struggling to do better, then you are pushed down to do worst. We cannot stay in the same place in the river of material nature. So we should always be striving for better cleanliness, for better service to all guests. We must be always striving to improve and perfect every preparation more and more. Therefore the quality and impression on people’s heart will always be increasing. I remember, not long ago this was Archie’s gift store. And I remember that one day in front of the deities I was thinking that it would be a perfect place for a restaurant. And I just prayed to Radharani and Gopinath, “If you want this to be a restaurant, then we are ready to serve you.” But that Archie’s was very attached to this place; they wouldn’t even discuss, but somehow or other Srinathji… the deities empowered Srinathji the devotee to convince them to sell this place. As you know, in Nathdwara Srinathji temple is very famous for prasad distribution. Even in Caitanya Caritamrita, when Prabhupad talks about how Madhvendra Puri’s deity Srinathji is now being worshiped in Nathdwara by the Vallabhacharya Sampradaya, Prabhupada gives one special glorification of the temple of Srinathji that they distribute very first class prasad to guests. So Srinathji wanted this restaurant, and Srinathji prabhu, his servant, who is our master, somehow acquired this property.
Then I went to America and I was wondering. I was getting no reports of what’s happening, and I was asking what is going on with the restaurant? And I was getting very vague answers. And finally when I pressed, then they said, “Well, we don’t think we should have our restaurant here. We are not trained for that. We don’t have enough devotees. It would be too much trouble.” We were thinking of having a classroom here or a gift shop. What were some of the other ideas? Health food stores, Food for Life Kitchen, so many things. Everyone was resistant: we will lose money, and we will never make money. I remember. I said, “It doesn’t matter if we make money or lose money. The idea is that we give prasad to people and they associate with devotees, and then gradually their hearts change.” So the finance committee thought this is going to be a loss; it doesn’t make sense. But we’ll do it, because we have been told to do it. Is it correct? And now it’s making nice profit, and it’s become very, very popular. Not only in Bombay, but all over the world. Now when people talk about Radha Gopinath temple all over the world, one of the most enthusiastic items is Govinda’s restaurant. It’s famous internationally, and Yamuna mataji told me. When she was in Bhuleshwar buying something I don’t know, she said that the shopkeeper there he said, “Oh! Do you know the Chowpatty temple?” She said, “Yes, yes that’s where I go.” He said, “I go to Govinda’s three times every week.”
I am very happy, very happy with all of you. It’s beyond all of our expectations. It is not simply something that’s just happening. It is Krishna empowering all of you, because of your sincerity and devotion. It’s one of the only restaurant I know of its nature where everyone is a devotee. It’s wonderful. Somehow or other Damodar Dulal prabhu is very resistant to give me prasad from Govinda’s restaurant. Now that I’m here with you today I am going to fight him, if necessary. And he always thinks I need special prasad, but everything in Govinda’s restaurant is special prasad. You have really advanced greatly in the art.
The Sprit and Vision of Govinda’s restaurant.
But please know that we should always be striving to improve, especially the servers. That is really going to give them an impression of how bhakti is, (based on) how they are served. Each guest, whoever they are, we should speak to them, receive them, serve them, like they are the most important in the world. We should make them feel so important. And we should make them feel they are so happy you are here; and because you are here we are celebrating. And we should serve them with so much happiness and enthusiasm that they just want to come back again and again and bring their friends their relatives and everyone. And they will think, if this is what devotees of Krishna are, I want to be one of them. Every guest who comes here should feel loved. He should feel Krishna’s love through you. That is the way the cook should be cooking. That is the way the cleaners should be cleaning, and that is the way the receptionist should be receiving. And that is the way the waiters be waiting and serving. Doesn’t matter if they are rich or they are poor, they are famous or not, or they are just ordinary people. They are Krishna’s guests. This is Govinda’s restaurant, it is not your restaurant or my restaurant, this is Govinda’s restaurant and we are Govinda’s servants. And every single person, whether he is a man, women or children, who comes in is Govinda’s special guest. On behalf of Govinda’s we show them so much love and so much cooked prasad that they must feel very happy. And our goal should be that everyone, by the time they walk out of this door, they love Govinda. “Govinda’s devotees are so nice, I love Govinda.” Sri Radha Govinda ki jay! If that is your meditation, Krishna will empower you to fulfill his desire. Because this is not a money making purpose. Purpose of Govinda’s restaurant is one thing – to transform people’s heart. That’s very important. If we make money that is very nice. And engaging different devotees in some occupation is very nice, but the whole purpose of all of these things is to transform people’s heart. If devotees are serving very nicely and really being instruments of Krishna’s love and cooking out of love for Krishna and cleaning out of love for Krishna, then people’s heart will be transformed, and already many people’s heart has been transformed. And we want to be always striving for more excellence. My hope is that some day in this new year of 2009 even demigods will come to take the nice prasad at Govinda’s. The devetas will disguise as the citizens of Bombay just to eat and serve Govinda’s restaurant. Brahma will hide three of his heads just because he wants the nice prasad of this place. And Indra will bring Sachi out for dinner. And Lord Shiva will come down from Babulnath temple with Parvati; and when rest of Bombay is celebrating Ganesh Chaturti, Babulnath will bring his whole family to Govinda’s to celebrate Ganesh’s birthday. This is all possible. Bhakti is very powerful. I want to thank you all very very much; you are really doing wonderful service. I’m very pleased with all of you. I’m very grateful to all of you. And one of the most important things for all of this to be achieved is the unity in how you all get along each other. Because people can feel, they can feel the atmosphere. If there is affection and unity in how you all work together in the front and in the back, people can feel it. It also comes out on how you speak to them. They should feel unity, they should feel you love to be together to serve them. And you are very happy to be together to serve them. Not that they are getting nice prasad in the front, but they hear screaming and pots being thrown in the back. That was one thing Yamuna mataji said. She said the special feature of Govinda’s is, the atmosphere in the front, where people are being served, and the atmosphere in the back are both very devotional, and very much the same. Just to balance and keep you humble the pizza in Hong Kong is better, the children said. And Hong Kong is not so famous for pizza, it’s a Chinese place. So that was a good blow to our false ego. And also, everyone who comes in here should feel Krishna’s love through us. And all of our guests, they shouldn’t feel like guests, they should feel they are in a family. Thank you very much.
Thanking devotees for making Govinda’s what it is.
And my special gratitude to Gauranga prabhu as he has taken so seriously and so personally the success of this place. He is spontaneously, he is very, very much focused in making sure this restaurant is the best it could be. And he got in Damodar Dulal prabhu to help train systems and service. He got in the illustrious IIT graduate Radha Vallabha prabhu to give guidance, and sent him all over the world to learn preparations. And got in Kirti Govinda prabhu to give his heart and soul to dedicate his life. And also, Gauranga prabhu knowing that the foundation of this restaurant is to transform peoples heart, he has given such inspirations through his kathas and kirtans within this Govinda’s restaurant. Thank you very much. And I want to thank each and everyone of you very personally. Please take these words of mine very seriously. You may be getting paid something for your work, but that should just be a detail. We should put our heart into it so much, to give people the feeling of Krishna’s love, that your work here is pure devotional service.
Srila Prabhupad ki Jay. Sri Radha Gopinath ki Jay.