Dhinesh runs three popular shops in New Jersey, modeled after the 'Amma Unavagams' pioneered by Jayalalithaa.

In New Jersey man behind Ammas Kitchens is too heartbroken to get back to work
news Jayalalithaa Wednesday, December 07, 2016 - 10:42

It has been a very long two days for New Jersey hotelier Dhinesh Kumar, whose heartbreak over Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death may never heal.

As his iconic leader is laid to rest in faraway Chennai, the 29-year-old entrepreneur feels “orphaned” by the passing away of the leader, whose legacy has informed his successful immigration journey.

Dhinesh runs three hugely popular Amma’s Kitchens in New Jersey, USA, modeled after the iconic low cost Amma Unavagams pioneered by Jayalalithaa, back in homeland Chennai. Ever since news of her death broke, the NJ eateries have remained closed.

He has not had the heart to be back at his business.

Opened in 2015, the three restaurants, located at Cherry Hill, Somerset and Edison, New Jersey respectively, all mirror the price structure of the original Amma Unavagams and are a huge hit locally.  And, these too do not compromise on quality, despite the $1 menu that also includes a sumptuous $1 South Indian thali.

“I wanted to replicate the exact concept (of the original Unavagams) in New Jersey, since I felt it to be a brilliant idea to bring affordable food to those that really need it. My clientele is mostly students, minimum wage workers and newer immigrants for whom the menu is a life saver,” says the Orathanadu native whose childhood is filled with memories of his father’s fierce devotion to Jayalalithaa. 

“My father was born the same year (as her) and so he feels a kinship. Though he has never met Madam, she has always been a part of our family. This loss is very personal, and I am not sure I will ever recover,” he says.

Back in Orathanadu, his father has been inconsolable, but he has also managed to extract a promise from his son to open more Amma’s Kitchens across the US: “These will be my memorial to Amma, from across the seas.”