Dubai, 21 June 2010: If any one from the coastal Karnataka in Dubai wants to enjoy a thorough Mangalorean fish dish, the destination is the Canara Restaurant at Karama managed by Leo D’Souza from Moodubelle who has made a mark in providing typical Mangalorean cuisine in Dubai. A number of people, including politicians from Udupi and Mangalore who visit Dubai make it a point to have their favourite Mangalorean dishes from the Canrara Restaurant.
The proprietor of the Canara Restaurant, Leo D’Souza is a self made man. Born on 4th March 1962 at Mallibettu as the fifth child of six children (four sons and two daughters) of late Ignatius and Coses D’Souza, Leo had to face difficult days in his childhood and as he grew up as many other self made men of his time. He had his primary education in the Shri Mahabhaleshwara Hindu Anudhanita Higher Primary School, Edmeru till 5th standard and moved to Church Aided Higher Primary School, Moodubelle for 6th and 7th standards and thereafter completed his high school education in St. Lawrence High School passing the SSLC examination in 1979. While acquiring education in Moodubelle, Leo had to walk nearly 10 miles a day. Besides studies, as his elder brothers had already left for earning their livelihood in Mumbai, Leo also had to help his parents in agricultural pursuits.
Among Leo’s brothers, eldest, William has settled down at Edmeru after working in Abu Dhabi and second brother, Vincent works in Abu Dhabi and has a house at Gokal, Moodubelle, and last brother, Ronald is with mother at Mallibettu and is a building contractor. Among his two sisters, Alice lives in Shankerpura and Celine is in Mumbai.
While Leo was in 8th standard, his father became seriously ill and Leo had to take the responsibility of managing agriculture along with his mother and also attending the school. Soon after completing SSLC, Leo’s mother advised him to give up agriculture and proceed to Mumbai like his elder brothers so that he could earn his livelihood.
In 1979, Leo landed in Mumbai in search of employment. While staying in the Pangalites’ Club at Kalina, Leo managed to get his first job in Mumbai in the Savera Restaurant at Juhu Tara. After a year he joined the staff of Grand Hotel at Ballard Pier where he worked for two years.
That was a period when those working in the hotel industry were eyeing for an opening in the Gulf countries where opportunities in hospitality industry were available. Thus, with great hope and enthusiasm, Leo came to Dubai in 1982 on a free visa sent by his brother Vincent. As he was on a free visa, Leo tried his luck in as many as twelve restaurants and hotels during a period of two years in different places such as Sharjah, Ajman, Korffakan, Fujairah and Dubai.
In 1986, Leo had a great break when he joined the Rashid School, run by the Royal family of Dubai where he worked till December 2008 as a Chef providing quality food for around 650 students and 330 staff. During these twenty-two years besides gaining a lot of experience in preparing different types of cuisines, Leo also rose in position becoming the Catering Supervisor.
While working in the Rashid School, Leo who had by that time developed confidence and expertise decided to open a restaurant providing exclusive Coastal Karnataka food through an outlet and established the Canara Restaurant in 2004 at Karama Though he wanted to leave the job at the Rashid School and devote time to run his newly established restaurant, he had to wait for another four years. However, Leo managed his time well between his job and restaurant by doing the necessary purchases for the restaurant before going to work in the Rashid School while his wife, Jacintha managed the restaurant. After returning from work, Leo would take over from his wife and run the restaurant.
Since he left his service from the Rashid School, Leo has been concentrating fully in managing the Canara Restaurant and providing best Mangalorean food which has been appreciated by one and all for its genuine taste at reasonable cost. Those who visit the Canra Restaurant make it a point that they return next time to try other Mangalorean dishes.
Though a workaholic, Leo had been quite active in St. Mary’s Church for nearly twelve years assisting the priests in various ways during and after the Mass such as conducting the Catechism classes. He was also a regular supporter of the activities of the Konkani Catholic Community of the parish.
Though originally he belonged to the Kanajar parish, after building a new house at Nalkubeedhi in 1995, Leo technically became a parishioner of St. Lawrence Church, Moodubelle. There have been a large number of Belleans in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but hardly they had any interaction with each other. Realising the need of bringing the Belleans together and being advised by Fr. Cyprian, Leo worked towards establishing an association of the Belleans. Though he did not know many of the Belleans living in UAE, his was a close friends, Edward Aranhha and Alfred Britto provided him with telephone numbers of many of the Belleans.
With the determination of fostering unity among the people from Belle, Leo tried to contact as many of them as possible for nearly three months and the first meeting of 30 Bellenas was held at his residence in October 2000. The first meeting of the proposed St. Lawrence Association of Belle (UAE) was conducted by Elias D’Souza, under whose suggestion later this association was rechristened as ‘Bellevision’. During the first meeting Ronald Aranha was selected as the founder president of the association.
Leo, along with other dedicated members was an active member of Bellevision from 2000 to 2004, till he started his own restaurant. Under the auspices of this association, for the first time in UAE, the parish feast of Moodubelle was celebrated on 25th January 2001. Leo also worked hard in bringing out the UAE edition of the parish magazine ‘Suvaadh’ during the Christmas season in 2001 collecting advertisements and articles. Though Leo does not find enough time to devote for Bellevision as an active member, he has been a strong supporter of its activities and every year he makes it a point to sponsor food for one of the two major programmes of the Belleans arranged under the Bellevision banner.
Leo feels that he has been fortunate that besides the Mangalorean community his Canara Restaurant has been popular among people from different nationalities. Some of the politicians from Karnataka who frequented his restaurant include Vinay Kumar Sorake, the former MP, K. Raghupati Bhat, MLA from Udupi and Krishna J Palemar, minister in the Karnataka Government. Leo’s Canara Restaurant provides catering service to various functions in three churches-Jabel Ali, Sharjah and Dubai.
Leo married Jacintha from Kanajar in 1986. They have two children, son Jayson and daughter Lisa. Jayson, 20 years old doing Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) course from the Ulongon University whose centre is situated in the Academic City in Dubai. Lisa, who is 15 years old has completed SSLC from Sharada Residential School in Manipal and is presently studying for PUC in St. Aloysius College, Mangalore.
Leo’s wife Jacintha had been a teacher in the elitist Latifa School for ten years from 1987 to 1997. Later, she gave up the job to manage the household and after the establishment of the Canara Restaurant in 2004, she helped in managing it while Leo had to continue his job in the Rashid School till 2008.
When I met Leo in Dubai, I found him to be down to earth and quite simple and amiable. He has a fine residence which is just opposite to the Canara Restaurant. Though he has a dedicated and committed restaurant staff, Leo makes it a point to do all purchases required for the restaurant and looks after the quality of the food that is served to the customers. The restaurant has an outside enclosure, rarely found in Dubai, which has a huge grinding stone, a reminder of the bygone days of manual grinding. Leo asked me take lunch in his restaurant an offer I could not resist. The dry fish chutney, the fish curry, fried fish and the boiled rice lunch and the other people savouring their meals temporarily made me to forget that I was in Dubai.
Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene D’Souza
Bellevision Media Network