Mowgli founder Nisha Katona on her obsession with Indian street food - and on the Westgate's spiciest new addition

I opened my first Mowgli on Bold Street Liverpool in 2014 when I was still working as a full time as a barrister. We expanded quickly to Manchester a year later and have opened our fifth site in Oxford this month.

Having no experience and only a spice-based dream, I began by looking in the hinterlands, the bohemian districts of Liverpool, and found a site and a landlord that would take a risk. The rest is history and we are pursuing our dream to become a national voice for good, home-style, fresh, clean Indian food.

Oxford really excites us because the city is full of the people to whom we want to appeal; food intelligentsia, people who think about what they eat and how it is made.

I had been teaching Indian cooking, writing cook books and running a YouTube channel for many years. There came a point when I made a very commercial decision. I was becoming known as a voice for Indian food and yet had never dared to put my head above the parapet and sell my wares. There were a handful of dishes to which I know I was physiologically addicted. I thought if those are an addiction for me, they might just too, prove an addiction for the nation.

Mowgli flew in a way that was beyond any expectations. I am constantly humbled by this and the weight of knowing we are only as good as our last curry. The dishes at Mowgli are the dishes I eat at home and have done all my life. They are my desert island dishes. As Mowgli’s executive chef and development chef, I, on principle and rather unusually, take curry virgins, local talent, and train each one myself to ensure quality and consistency. I train them in Hindu ayruvedic principles. We never cook with ghee, cream, food colourings or any artificial ingredients in the Mowgli kitchen. Sauces are not blended; there is no mother gravy. These things appal me. I needed to define the home way of doing things; to train local talent to understand curry in the way me and my ancestors did.

We have opened our doors in Westgate Oxford to a 110 cover Indian Street Food restaurant. This was a bold move for me. Some would counsel against the inevitable risks that come with growth and ambition and many urge caution against a move south, but I feel passionately about taking Mowgli to the cities that would have her. We have many followers in Oxford who are calling for the smash and grab of the Mowgli home kitchen.

We are not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is what it is like to come and eat in the home of my ancestors and we go where our consumers and followers want us. Mowgli Oxford is a special site for me, my first step away from the north that I know and into real risk.

It is marvellous to know that it is never too late to catch a tide to fortune but by far, the better lesson for me is that there is no such thing as a life half lived.