After pop up markets and street food stalls, it is the home chefs who have been conquering the foodies’ world with pop-up home kitchens. Amita Ghose writes on the trend
Inviting friends over dinner or lunch was replaced by the eating out culture majorly, but a new trend is catching up these days. The pop-up kitchen conducted by the very talented home chefs. More than 10 such popular kitchen pop-ups are happening all across the country. Now you must be curious to know who these home chefs are? Well, some of them are established professionals in different fields (journalists, doctors, lawyers, and teachers). Some are retired couples, a few are wannabe entrepreneurs and some are avid travellers and explorers. But they all are attached to one string – that is their love for food and cooking.
Cooking, my love; kitchen, my love nest
They say cooking is an art and without your full dedication and love towards this art, no accomplishment is possible. This seems like this is the core mantra to run a successful pop up at home. Ayandrali Dutta, a resident of Noida, a blogger-journalist, relocated to NCR several years ago. Though in no time she fell in love with the bindas city Delhi, her yearning for home cooked Bengali food, its warmth, originality, and authentic taste, was getting out of control with each passing day. “I used to crave for my biulir daal and aloo posto. The comfort food was missing from my life and that very fact led me to the kitchen. I started learning how to cook authentic Bengali dishes. Over several years, I developed a deep connection to cooking and never realised when it became my passion.”
Today Ayandrali is the proud initiator of AD’s Cook House. She has conducted more than 17 very successful food pop-ups at her Noida flat and the most commendable part is she is the one-woman-army, who does the shopping, chopping, cooking, hosting and cleaning, all alone.
To beat that Saas-bahu daily soap
Nafisa Kapadia, a homemaker from Mumbai, has always proved her superb skills whenever it came to cooking the traditional Bohri food. Little did she know that the thankless job she had been doing for such a long time will soon be changing her life. The Kapadias run one of the most successful home food pop-up in Mumbai named The Bohri Kitchen.
“It was a Sunday afternoon, I was watching cartoon on TV and my mom obviously wanted to watch a saas-bahu. The argument that cropped up that very moment changed our lives, literally. My long-hidden desire to start something around Bohri cuisine and catering took a real twist and we decided to start small kitchen pop-ups where my mom will be showcasing her cooking talents. It fetched her honour, appreciation and yes, recognition. We could not have asked for more,” says Munaf Kapadia, Nafisa’s son and the main initiator of The Bohri Kitchen. Munaf quit his Google job and now they own a separate catering and take away service as well.
Better late than never
Dara and Meher Hansotia’s love affair with cooking kicked off as they reached Kolkata three-and-a-half years ago. The couple in their 60s, who are originally from Ahmedabad, set off for Kolkata as the Parsi dharamshala there needed a catering department head and overall manager for the ‘only for Parsis’ guest house.
“I always wanted to become a chef but ended up becoming a banking professional. Who knew that my newest stint after retirement will change my life like this!” exclaims Dara.
The Hansotias are the host to the very famous and one and only Parsi food pop-up in Kolkata at the Parsi guest house. Dara’s dream came true as he could persuade his childhood desire here in Kolkata. The Hansotias have also recently started off catering services.
Says Meher, “When you love something wholeheartedly, much of hard work even leaves you with a smile of satisfaction. I wake up at 5am in the morning and finish veggie and raw chicken and fish shopping by 8 am and then the food is ready before noon. We have two helping hands with us.” “You know what, we four together have cooked for even 500 people at one go, can you imagine?” she adds.
Try the authentic and fresh
Anchal Dhingra, a restaurant owner from Malad West says, “The idea is to provide fresh and authentic food. It is often seen that the eateries that claim to serve authentic Hyderabadi biryani ends up selling a very North Indian taste of biryani. You know, that happens because the cooks and their helpers come from different part of the country and you can never vouch for the authenticity, also hygiene. For the home food pop-ups, you are assured of getting quality food with the right test because here the chefs are the moms, bhabhis and other family members. They, after all, swear by the culture and tradition. No wonder why the foodies are opting for pop-ups more and more these days.”
Speaking on the freshness and hygiene of the food, Ayandrali adds, “I always make sure if the pop-up is happening on Saturday, I go to the sabzi mandi or fish market on Friday evening. I assure the quality of the food, the taste and of course the hygiene.”
Value for money
The pop-ups are also said to be the place where you get the right kind of food for the best value possible. Most of these pop-ups serve minimum a 7-course meal and offer unlimited food. The price ranges from Rs700-2,500, depending on what is on the menu. It is always suggested to visit the Facebook or other social media pages for the menus of the upcoming pop-ups.
Wanna conduct a food pop up at home? Here are some tips shared by pop experts!
“If you’re a newbie don’t just go for money initially. Cook, invite your friends and family for food tasting and ask for feedback. You know this thing will build up your confidence. Then gradually proceed by setting a nominal rate for the platter, see how the strangers are responding and then you may increase the prices. But always remember your offerings and price rates should justify each other. Also, I would highly recommend word of mouth strategy for home food pop ups and then would suggest you to go for social media advertising”, suggests Munaf.
“The day I hosted my first ever 10 stranger guests, I know what the hospitality meant to the whole activity. Meet and greet each of your guests and make them feel comfortable. You should also know what your strengths are and give in the best efforts. Remember these men and women are here for the authentic and best food. Keeping a welcome drink, or a surprise throw in meetha dish is always a great idea,” recommends Ayandrali.