A Year in the Life
Ajna Jai, General Manager and Creative Director
In January, two months before COVID-19 forced restaurants and bars across the country to close, Ajna Jai closed her family’s restaurant, Pondicheri, in New York City. The restaurant, which opened in 2016, was the second location of her mother, Anita Jaisinghani’s, popular restaurant in Houston. “I believe some restaurants are meant to have a short lifetime,” she says. “This realization came to me months before we closed the doors of Pondicheri NYC.”
When the pandemic struck in March, Jai was working remotely from New York City, helping run things for the Houston location from afar but, like many, she eventually decided it was time to move back home to Houston in June after living in New York for the past nine years.
Once she got back to Houston, she went straight back to work. She took her experiences of running Pondicheri in New York City, and brought them with her. “I’m living near family, enjoying the space of Texas, finally getting to push Pondicheri into things like takeaway orders for holidays, and working on getting Pondishop to a better place. It’s awesome, because I can take a great product and this restaurant and push them even further.”
Looking ahead, Jai has big plans for Pondicheri, like doing more takeout, expanding its online presence, offering more cookings classes and videos, and maybe even doing a mini web series about the restaurant industry (when she’s not running restaurants, she’s also an actor).
“After our run-ins with COVID-19, natural disasters, and other unforeseen circumstances, we’ve all become exponentially grateful,” she says. “Our patrons make us who we are and we wouldn’t be able to deliver our ideas to the restaurant without them. Thank you to everyone who has chosen us over the years.”
Her story of the last 12 months follows.