Gauri Devidayal and husband Jay Yousuf, partners in Food Matters India Pvt Ltd, are the brains behind well known restaurants The Table and Magazine St Kitchen and the famous bakery, Mag St Bread Co. The Table farm in Alibaug and Dining Table too are their famous signatures in the food world. In this quick interview Gauri tells Vidyottama Sharma that a good food platform can be used to create awareness for social causes too.
You have begun an initiative to create awareness about social issues using your restaurant as a platform. What prompted you to begin these awareness campaigns?
Since the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry has been on an expansion mode and the interest in it, particularly in the chefs and restaurants, has been on the rise too, we decided to create a strong platform of restaurants, chefs and restaurateurs. This platform is typically used to promote the brand itself, but I felt that it is equally important to use it to raise awareness on pressing issues.
Three years ago, we started a Sunday bake sale of freshly baked products from Mag St Bread Co. at our restaurant, The Table. I thought it was a great opportunity to do a charity bake sale one Sunday a month by picking a different charity to raise awareness and funds for.
Food wastage is a glaring challenge facing the world. How do you use your forum to create awareness about it and also, about sharing of food?
As a restaurant, it is important to ensure freshness of food. In order to do that, we have to prepare adequate but not excessive quantities of everything every day to minimise wastage. We have always taken the stand that if a particular dish runs out in the course of the evening, that’s a small price to pay for ensuring freshness, yet minimising wastage.
At your restaurants, what measures do you take to manage food wastage and distribute the leftover food to those who can benefit from it?
We have a staff of 185 to feed between our various establishments. So we try to be smart about the staff meal menu and incorporate the leftover ingredients that may spoil if not utilised in time, into the staff meal.
You and your associates are inspiring many to use a good platform to effectively create awareness about various issues to help people. Which other issues have you taken up?
Over the last nine years we have been part of many different initiatives. We have used our experimental kitchen venue, Magazine St Kitchen, to host a fundraising initiative called ‘Food with Benefits’, where multiple chefs have got together to create fabulous multi course meals to serve donors. At the Bake Sale, as I mentioned earlier, we have supported many different initiatives over the years. Some of the organisations we have supported include Srujna, Ahura, Ummeed Child Development, Happy Feet Home Foundation, Saturday Art Class, Aangan, Bal Asha Trust, Yoda, Antarang and Ogaan Cancer Foundation.
What message would you want to give to individuals, corporate houses and associations to reduce food wastage and share excess food with those who often go to bed hungry?
Think beyond CSR and look within your operations to see where food wastage can be minimised. Manage portion sizes - find a balance between portion sizes and think you are giving value for money versus minimising wastage.