Following the lockdown, some restaurants were inspired to run festivals in association with home chefs identified by FEA.
Ankita Sharma and Anil Mulchandani interviewed these entrepreneurs on their experience.
Bhavya Bhagat, Turquoise Villa
Utsav is a concept that was developed by us with Anil Mulchandani. The idea is to have a series of food festivals by home chefs and hobby cooks that bring to Ahmedabad the festive foods of various communities. The festivals are organized in association with FEA.
Utsav was launched on Sindhi Cultural Day, 6th December 2020, with home-style Sindhi food by Kamiya Dalwani, a hobby cook, served to invitees
The first commercial event of the Utsav Series, the Christmas Carnival Food Festival, 20th to 26th December 2020 was led by Darshan Rawal, a pizza chef and FEA admin. The Festival menu covered dishes from Goan curries and Kerala stews to American Fun Fair Favourites like Funnel Cake, Buffalo Wings and Turkey Sandwiches.
In January, home chef Mridu Parikh was the guest chef for the Lohri and Uttarayana Food Festival, with dishes ranging from Punjabi staples to Surti Undhiyu.
On Saraswati Puja day, we launched a festival of flavours of Bengal where this is an important festival. From a temple thali to fish and prawn dishes, an array of offerings from Bengal were on the menu. Kolkata-theme décor was put up by Distinkt Happennings for the festival.
As we all know, food is an eternal part of what we are as Amdavadis, in a way that is what defines the culture of this city and for many good reasons too. One being the wide array of traditional dishes inspired by the diversity of Amdavadi culture, and the other reason being the very people of Ahmedabad – their vibrant spirit and the zeal to explore and experiment with regional and global cuisines. Therefore, it is not surprising that the trend of home chefs started with a bang.
I am seeing that the trend of home chefs is evolving the culinary scene in Ahmedabad rather than merely influencing it. The home chefs contribute to the world of traditional Indian cuisine with authentic dishes that are prepared with recipes passed down from generation to generation, making their dishes and cuisine culture more accessible. They are bringing more recipes in the front. What sets them apart is that their dishes bring not only diversity and authenticity but also a bit of innocence.
The synergy between restaurants and home-based chefs is undoubtedly beneficial for both. Their shared passion for food eliminates any reason to not to be mutually beneficial for the advancements in the culinary industry. It is a step towards more sustainable ecosystem by making it more inclusive. We should learn to coexist. By being more inclusive and collaborating with them further strengthens the culinary ecosystem. it also supports community interdependence. They make restaurants more integral part of them. With this association, the home chefs make the restaurants and the people a part of their community. They start including them in their region. Thus, we can say the lines are getting blurred positively.
As a restauranteur, the onus is on us to premiumize and standardize these concepts and eventually continue to offer the finest culinary experiences.
Through this business experience, home chefs get access to food industry expertise and management and can become acquainted with concepts such as the supply chain, standard operating procedures, and marketing concepts. They get a plug and play platform. In addition, the partnership allows them to get access to the market while working with skilled personnel in a professional environment.
Utsav is an apt example of such a collaboration that is now turning into a lucrative practice for the culinary industry. When Anil Mulchandani and I were discussing the concept of ‘Utsav’, we felt that home chefs and restaurants which are being seen in isolation or as separate entities need more inclusive approach: we can complement each other rather than compete. As the saying goes – the mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it. With our shared passion to extend the exquisite food experiences with diverse delicacies in an uplifting ambiance, we started ‘Utsav’ which is a celebration of culture and cuisines with our home chefs.
The Utsav experience, indeed, could not have been better and I am extremely proud and happy with how ‘Utsav’ has panned out.
I would not have it any other way, but I must admit, it didn’t start as easy as one would imagine it to be now. Home chefs have their own unique approach and that too changes with each individual, while preparing the dishes which did not always align with our practices at Turquoise Villa. There were times when our Chef Sunil and the home chefs had differences in terms of style of cooking, implementing culinary skills and likewise but their basic motives, warm approach, cooking know how and having knack of identifying regional and global taste were the same, which eventually enabled them to enrich working relationships.
With the initiation of ‘Utsav’, we are exploring traditions followed in various cultures, and home chefs are getting access to a professional setup where they can reach the mass and learn various aspects of the professional culinary system. We are thankful to Mr. Anil Mulchandani, who helped us in having such talented home chefs on board like Kamiya Dalwani, Darshan Rawal, Mridu Parikh and Monali Mehta at Turquoise Villa, who brought their enthusiasm and energy along with their love for food to Utsav.
I strongly believe in a sustainable ecosystem that benefits both the parties, restaurants and home chefs, all the while strengthening the culinary industry with innovation and advancements.
Modern consumerism and the positive shift toward healthy living and wellbeing from all over the globe take the route of healthy living and going local, collaborations such as Utsav add value to these megatrends, bring people together and enhance the community feels.
FEA is a great initiative and I would like to contribute to sharing knowledge in order to further help and initiate such practices. As we have witnessed during the pandemic, it is not easy to carry out meaningful partnerships, however, I believe that new problems have new solutions.
Initiatives like ‘Utsav’ bring in meaningful experiences, one of the main reasons I enjoyed working with FEA to make Turquoise Villa home for passionate home chefs.
ABHAY MANGALDAS, THE GREEN HOUSE
The Weekend with a Home Chefs, a series of food festivals by a different home chef on each weekend, at House of MG was curated by Anil Mulchandani. He was responsible for deciding the sequence of the popups and designing the menu to offer a cross-section of the home chef’s dishes
This series of festivals at Green House popularised regional cuisines using the home chefs. We had several home chefs at The Green House, offering different cuisines – Marwari, Mewari, Maharashtrian, Bengali, Odia, Malwa, Tamil, Punjabi, Sindhi, Surti, Kutchi, etc.
Most of the home chefs at our weekend festivals were working for the first time in a commercial kitchen.Both our team and the home chefs have much to learn from each other.
I am keen to invest further in the collaboration with home chefs by taking the festival to another venue and also inviting home chefs from other cities to come to Ahmedabad for such festivals.
TAKSHASHILA AND HIMANSHU DESAI, SANDWICHWORKZ
We had enjoyed Sindhi food at the house of Jyoti and Anil Mulchandani. We also enjoyed the Sindhi walk by FEA that was led by Nikita Dudani and Kamiya Dalwani.
We decided to start a series called Ghar-ka-Khana. We started with the Sindhi food festival, designed in consultation with Jyoti Mulchandani, who blogs about Sindhi cuisine and culture on her website www.sindhikhazana.com . She invited us home to learn Sindhi dishes at her kitchen before planning the festival.
Unlike other festivals that were led by home chefs, we hired the services of traditional cooks from Wadaj area of Ahmedabad who cater Sindhi events. The women prepared mutton and vegetarian dishes characteristic of Sindhi cuisine.
Inspired by this festival, we will continue the Ghar-ka-Khana series with different cuisines in the near future.