‘I want people to think about where cities get their food from’
Reposted from: CN Traveller
These bunch of folks are pushing the India brand all the way, with a focus on indie ingredients, resources and design
Kumud Dadlani, provenance manager, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality
“I want people to think about where cities get their food from, and to understand why we eat what we eat.” For Impresario’s 41 restaurants across India, she sources ingredients directly from farmers in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, West Bengal and Assam. Look out for a fantastic moringa-infused ice cream on the Healthy menu at Smoke House Deli in the future. Kumud knows all about the nutritive power of the moringa plant and how it can give the Japanese matcha powder a run for its money—and she sources it from Gaytri Bhatia, who grows it organically on a farm in Maharashtra. The 30-year old also champions the Slow Food Movement in India, via workshops and lectures.
Narayana Peesapatty, founder, Bakey’s
By creating the world’s first line of edible cutlery (made of a blend of jowar, wheat and rice), the Hyderabad-based former agricultural scientist is creating an alternative to plastic cutlery, and simultaneously tackling groundwater management. He is passionate about promoting resource-efficient, dry-land crops. “Millets [such as jowar] are so much more nutritionally rich than rice, and don’t cost half as much to produce. The economic and ecological cost of producing rice is monstrous, yet it is incentivised. How can we be so wasteful of our resources?” After a video of Narayana and his product went viral last year, orders have been pouring in from across India and from Singapore, Australia, Bulgaria and Malaysia. Salad bowls, chopsticks and other items are in the offing.
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, food writer & journalist
A chef trained in French cuisine (and a food fanatic), the Mumbai-based journalist has been writing about the Indian food scene with a perspective that goes beyond new restaurant openings to helping urban India understand and access the history and changing ecosystem of food. Did you know that our Indian waters are home to fresh oysters, soft-shell crab, yellowfin-tuna and grouper? Or that Indian farmers are growing world-class veggies such as tatsoi from China and roselle from West Africa? Documenting the changing food trends in India, Roshni writes for publications like Scroll.in and Condé Nast Traveller.
Ayaz & Zameer Basrai, co-founders, The Busride Design Studio
“Restaurants and bars are turning into our new places of congregation. They’re the most visible faces of culture. Food is not consumed just orally, but also visually,” says Ayaz. The design genius behind over 100 restaurants in the country including India’s most innovative eating spaces—Smoke House Room, BlueFrog, Café Zoe, Masala Bar and most recently, Puducherry’s The Storytellers’ Bar—Busride is cracking the blueprint of our eating rituals. From hand-drawn trompe l’oeil doodles on the wall at Smoke House Deli to recreating an old Mumbai bungalow for The Bombay Canteen, it creates contemporary spaces that are still distinctly Indian in personality and casual in vibe—reflecting today’s young consumer.
Matt Chithranjan & Namrata Asthana, co-founders, Blue Tokai Coffee
From a partnership with a small-scale grower in Karnataka in 2012, Matt and his wife, Namrata’s business of freshly ground, world-class coffee now spans 14 estates in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and three cafés in Delhi and Mumbai. “Good coffee was so limited when we started out that we quickly gained a following among regular coffee drinkers who already appreciated quality beans and brews. Café Coffee Day popularised going to a café and Starbucks took the experience to another level—but neither really focuses on the coffee itself,” says Matt. Having captured a sizeable market share for a niche product, the focus for Blue Tokai is now on education.
Vijaya Pastala, founder & CEO, Under The Mango Tree
This social enterprise kills two birds with one stone. First, it supports rural farmers by training them in indigenous beekeeping, which enables them to maximise the use of their land. Then, it sells this 100 percent natural, organic-certified single-flora honey (made largely from the nectar of one plant species) to the urban market. Varieties include eucalyptus, litchi, tulsi and Himalayan flora. The only brand in India to have this dual focus, it now has a presence in eight states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Using her academic background in rural development, Vijaya has changed the way these farmers earn—85 percent of their income comes from the niche market for indigenous honey. But creating mass awareness about the advantages of local, organic honey is not easy. “Most consumers don’t know the difference between organic and organic-certified. Many players in the market, too, casually throw around the term ‘organic’ without knowing what it means.”
Rebecca Vaz, MD, Bhuira Jams
Nestled in a tiny corner of the Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh that’s known as the peach bowl of Asia is Bhuira village. Local farmers here earned little profits due to the huge costs of transportation to larger markets in Solan and Chandigarh. Started in 1999 by Linnet Mushran (in the attic of a family home), Bhuira Jams was intended as a small-scale production to help employ local women. Under the supervision of her daughter-in-law Rebecca, it has grown to be the manufacturer of preservative free, excellent quality jams (strawberry, plum, peach and more), preserves, chutneys and jellies for retail giant Fabindia. It also supplies products to several hospitality groups in the country such as Oberoi, Taj and Hyatt. With a focus on local, indigenous ingredients—oranges from Nagpur, strawberries from Haryana, black grapes from Nasik, peaches from Himachal—Bhuira is looking to push its products across select retail stores and cafés, and is increasing production capacity to 300 tonnes a year by 2018—19.
Jane & Fabien Mason, co-founders, Mason & Co
India’s first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, Mason & Co began in 2014 as a home business in Auroville “When we started, people said we were crazy for trying to sell dark chocolate in a country like India,” recall Jane and Fabien; their first batch weighed in at just 60kg. They’ve since expanded to a team of nine and two production units in Auroville that process 15 tonnes of chocolate a year. Producing a range of organic, vegan chocolate bars, powders, and tisanes in flavours such as peanut butter, chilli and cinnamon, coconut milk and espresso, the brand works with farmers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu for its supply of raw cocoa beans. Jane and Fabien have also been conducting tastings and workshops to grow interest in the market for their product.
Munaf Kapadia, chief eating officer, & Nafisa Kapadia mom chef; The Bohri Kitchen
Started in 2014 out of a sprawling apartment in Mumbai, The Bohri Kitchen is possibly India’s most renowned home kitchen business. Run by the business-savvy 28-year-old Munaf, with his mother Nafisa as the talent in the kitchen, TBK has taken the underrepresented cuisine of a small Muslim community—previously inaccessible to most—and popularised it via an authentic home dining experience. The business has since grown to a service with a central kitchen that delivers about 700 orders a month across Mumbai, as well as a private catering model. Most recently, TBK collaborated with Magazine Street Kitchen to create an elaborate pop-up dinner for Ramzan.“For me, our biggest success is familiarising people with Bohri food.” With those mutton kheema samosas, we aren’t surprised.
Neeraj Kakkar CEO, & Neeraj Biyani, COO; Paper Boat
The Bengaluru based Indian beverage company has capitalised on the goldmine of traditional, regional flavours and recipes in the country to create a convenient alternative to carbonated drinks. “We are not only about packaging drinks; Paper Boatis also our humble attempt at packing in all those memories,” says Neeraj Kakkar. With a total of 15 drinks in its portfolio, including flavours such as jamun kala khatta, aamras, aam panna and anaar, Paper Boat has also introduced seasonal products such as thandai, serbet-e-khaas, rose tamarind and panakam to the market. “Who doesn’t remember the aam panna our grandmothers used to store for us in the fridge? The relief we felt when we glugged down a glassful of jaljeera? We like to believe we’re the protectors of these traditional recipes and we ensure we make them widely available for people to consume.” (Plus, those cool pouches add to the charm)
The article was first published in CN Traveller