After occupying its location in the Cornerstone building for just over a decade, the Himalayan Peak Indian Cuisine restaurant has served its very last “mountain cream butter chicken” and “seven chakra channa masala.”
From February 2005 to May 2015, the Himalayan Peak served thousands of ethnic dishes to the SFU community and employed over 150 students.
At the time the restaurant was established, three of the four business owners — Aman Bhangu, Vikas Kumar, and Aarti Kumar — were SFU students.
While both Vikas and Aarti Kumar were pursuing their undergraduate degrees, Bhangu was completing an MBA and working full-time for SFU as an analyst in institutional research and planning. The fourth partner, Sunny Kumar, doubled as Himalayan Peak’s executive chef.
The Peak spoke to Bhangu on the vision behind the restaurant’s inception, the decision to sell the business, and the legacy it leaves behind.
Himalayan Peak was the first independent sit-down restaurant in the history of SFU. “We are proud of that fact,” said Bhangu. “We like to think that [Himalayan Peak] carved out a small space in the university’s history books.
”There are about 50 per cent more dining services on campus than I believe there should be.”
Aman Bhangu, former owner of Himalayan Peak Indian Cuisine and SFU Alumni
“Before the opening of the Cornerstone building,” Bhangu explained, “the dining options on campus were limited and generally considered to be poor quality by students and staff alike. We wanted to open something on campus that was unique, [served] high quality food, and [had] a nice atmosphere that was welcoming to students, faculty, staff, and the UniverCity residents.
“Sunny Kumar was a seasoned chef, experienced, and specializing in Indian cuisine, therefore, an Indian restaurant was the natural choice. The name Himalayan Peak was chosen to be consistent [with] SFU’s biggest feature — Burnaby Mountain!”
The 70-seat restaurant was equipped with an authentic tandoor, or clay oven, for baking tandoori dishes and Indian naan bread.
According to Bhangu, the most rewarding part of running the restaurant was the connections they made within the SFU community. “SFU is filled with so many interesting people and Himalayan Peak provided the opportunity to form long term relationships with them. So many SFU faculty, staff, students, alumni would come through the doors on a regular basis.
“There was even a group of international students that would refer to [the manager] Onika, as ‘mom,’” Bhangu explained. “One of the best moments was when the mother of an international student came in during convocation and thanked Onika and Sunny for taking care of their son while he was away from home.”
The biggest challenge, and ultimate reason for selling the business, was the increase in food vendors on campus.
During his time as an SFU employee, Bhangu was responsible for analyzing the space on campus. Last year he applied that experience to find out how much of the campus space was occupied by food services.
“I found that from 2004 to 2014 there was a 93 per cent increase in the square footage allocated to food services across a combined SFU and UniverCity. Meanwhile, I found the population on campus grew at a much more conservative clip.”
Based on his calculations, Bhangu concluded, “There are about 50 per cent more dining services on campus than I believe there should be. [. . .] The underlying issue is simply too much food and too few stomachs.”
The decision to sell the restaurant was made with the facts in mind, and noting the trend towards “more chains, less ‘mom-and-pop’” restaurants, they hoped to make space for the “new concept.”
Students can expect the Cornerstone spot will be filled with another food vendor in the near future.
Although unable to release details, Bhangu confirmed that, “[Himalayan Peak] was purchased by what we believe will be a successful eastern Canadian restaurant chain, which fortunately is also owned by SFU alumni.”