Saturday, July 25, 2015

The rise of the home chef

Remember the movie Chef and how driven by the need to follow his food dream and being snubbed by the restaurant reviewer and controlled by the restaurant owner, he quits and starts his own food truck?
Well while the food truck revolution is yet to take India by storm, there is a slow growing revolution ready to upturn the original eating out idea of restaurants- the Home chef.

Here are to me two types of home chefs, one who is a trained chef and has decided to not go the conventional hospitality business route and the other is a person passionate about cooking and has taken to becoming more savvy with their marketing skills (think sridevi in English vinglish).

As a restaurant reviewer myself, I was keenly aware of how much responsible reviewing is key to writing about the food. My favourite restaurants are invariably the ‘chef owned ‘ restaurants, these tend to concentrate on the food rather than the other trappings. But unlike in other countries where the Chef is the star of the restaurant , in India we have the ‘owners’ who have no food background except “we wanted to bring a different dining experience to the city” standard answer or even worse the ‘manager’ where the actual owner of the restaurant is not even a hands on worker in the establishment but has paid for the establishment and the me to run it, and is actually into the mining/garment business and the restaurant is just diversified money.

Where then in this scheme of things does the food and the person cooking it essentially stand?
Restaurant owners crib about the their ‘north eastern ‘ cook going on leave, some even openly discuss the rising wages of the ‘kitchen staff’. The ‘chef’ so to say is still just a cog in the wheel of Indian eating out. Maybe that is why we are not making waves on the “50 best restaurants” or the “Michelin star”lists even though our cuisine and culinary heritage compares to the best in the west. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Slowly the people who love their food, and are passionate about it, started to cook for friends and family. Setting up a restaurant needs licences of all kinds and often times need greasing of palms whether it is the electricity dept, housing or the local MLA/corporater. Cutting out the middle man so to say, and delivering straight to the customer is the HOME CHEF.

In the last two weeks we tried three of Pune’s Home chefs: Chef Zubin who serves up authentic parsi cuisine on weekends, Parikshit Vilekar whose biryani has taken on cult status amongst the cities foodies, and chef Jyoti Jain who after a sabbatical has taken to baking.

Chef Zubin has a fixed weekend menu which goes up on his FB page (search chef zubin rupa) and the weekend we ordered we got a parsi bhonu comprising Mutton dhansak, salli chicken, tatreli kolmi, brown onion rice, lagan nu custard and the complementary baked yogurt.

Just because there is a prefix of home to these chefs, it does not entail they are any less professional when it comes to packing and delivery. We received all the food in neat little packages, no spillage, and sharp at 1 pm as promised.

We ordered Parikshit’s mutton biryani and vegetarian biryani for a house party. Two and a half Kilos of biryani was delivered from waked to Viman nagar. Parikshit has a professional delivery company help deliver the biryani in foil packagings across town, but since it seemed easier (for me) to serve the Biryani straight from the Dum handi, he personally delivered it on the day of Eid no less.

Home chefs allow a personalised relationship with the client and the chef, thus allowing for more flexible timings as well as personalised taste preferences. Want less spice or more salad? Let your chef know.
We had a a chocolate and orange mousse cake and a baby shower cake ordered from Chef Jyoti and both delivered on taste and visual appeal.

To have the unique combination of ingredients and bespoke cakes for special occasions without scoring the city for the right bakery is a treat. Many of the bakeries insist on making these cakes in no less than 2 kilo and more as it doesn’t seem economically viable for them, that’s where the home chef steps in, willing to make you a pretty personalised creation for even 1 kg or lesser.

With home chefs. The focus is back on food. These home chefs can now take their creations to more people through food delivery portals, or pop up food stalls at malls, or through food festival across the city. It’s no more about catering for weddings and parties, but even a Sunday lunch or a weekday dinner can be made special by bringing home food made for the love of food itself.

contacts : 
Chef Zubin: face book page
Parikshit Vilekar : 9890993980/ 9822007315
Chef Jyoti Jain: 9860013010 

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