When Ben Mukherjee was in 3rd grade he knew he wanted to be a chef. Originally from Varanasi, India, Ben went to high school in Delhi, where he graduated with a specialization in Hotel Management.
In 1994, at the age of 18, Ben moved to the United States to further his culinary education. “I definitely experienced culture shock – at that time, people in the US where not that open-minded,” said Ben. Ben shared with us one of his first memories, “I was asked by a teacher to stand up and introduce myself in front of a room of 2000 students. I said my first legal and traditional name… there was 13 seconds of silence afterwards. I think people had a hard time digesting it. It was quite embarrassing,” said Ben. Ben’s legal and traditional name is Shoubendou, pronounced, Shou-ben-dou. After that experience, Ben decided to keep the name Ben and drop the rest to make it easier for others. “I believe in not getting caught up in the small details of pronouncing my name”.
With over 25 years of experience in the hotel and restaurant industry, and having lived in numerous cities across the United States, Ben has many stories to tell. He was a regional manager for various corporations in the United States and Canada including India's Best "Taj" Group of Hotels, Hyatt hotels, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Yum! Brands and many more elite institutions including the White House in Washington, DC.
In 2013, Ben moved from Virginia to Kingston when he took a new job. “The first 3 months I absolutely hated it – it was the snow! People told me that Kingston had one of the worst winters that year,” said Ben. When asked what he had heard about Canadians before moving to Kingston, Ben responded, “I had heard that Canadians were a lot more reasonable, and that their level of tolerance was much higher. For example, in Kingston you never hear a honk – in NYC there is no tolerance towards traffic or people. That is a strength of Canadians, they have tolerance towards everything – traffic, humans, and even ignorant people. Life can wait for three seconds to let someone cross the street.”
Not long after he started his new position in Kingston, he was asked by his employer to transfer to Alberta. After declining this relocation opportunity, Ben left the firm and decided to go out on his own. In 2014, Ben established himself in Gananoque when he opened his own take out and catering business specializing in fine Indian cuisine, called 1000 Island Take-Out & Catering.
Today Ben lives in Kingston with his wife and daughter, but continues to operate his business in Gananoque 6 days a week. Ben currently acts as a mentor to a Syrian refugee who would like to start his own catering business. “The language barrier is quite challenging, but I do my best by communicating through sign language and drawing sketches. My wife and I try to give them rides whenever we can,” said Ben.
Ben’s advice to an immigrant moving to a new country? “If you live in the moment you’ll be a happy person. If you live in the past you will never be happy.”