Over a year ago, someone named AD called Munaf Kapadia of The Bohri Kitchen (TBK) and asked if he would be willing to cater to a small house party in Bandra. Just two years into business, despite enthusiastic reviews and a loyal customer base, TBK was still a fledgling. Catering to a party meant carrying the special masalas, utensils and other paraphernalia all the way to Bandra, a feat logistically difficult for Kapadia’s small operation to pull off. He declined. Minutes later, a friend called telling Kapadia to expect a call from film producer Aditya Chopra. “That’s when I realised who I had been speaking to. I called back to say we could definitely serve Bohri food at his party,” says Kapadia.
Of course, a food business should be judged on the basis of how toothsome its food is, not how famous its customers are. TBK has delivered from the day it opened in late 2014. Driven partly by an entrepreneurial itch and partly by the filial urge to fruitfully employ his mother Nafisa’s tremendous culinary skills, Kapadia, 29, who was then working at Google, emailed his friends asking if anyone would pay for a traditional Bohri meal at his house in Colaba. The email got circulated and soon he had his first customer who brought her friends for a meal at his place.
Nafisa, 60, had no objection in dishing up her lip-smacking mutton kheema samosas, Russian kebabs and biryanis for a large group. “We lived in a joint family. I was used to cooking for a large number of people anyway. We would always have people come over, stay back and eat with us, or I would send meals to friends and co-workers,” she says. She, however, didn’t approve of the idea of charging money for the food. After that first lunch, when a guest got up and hugged her, Nafisa was finally convinced. “She realised how much her food is appreciated,” says Kapadia.
Soon, the whole Kapadia family was involved, including patriarch Turab. Weekend lunches would involve the thaal — comprising kharaas (savoury), jaman (main course) and dessert, all served on a plate from which eight can eat. The dishes, like mutton khichda, bheja cutlets and kaju chicken are traditional Bohri fare. “You won’t get this food anywhere, except in a Bohri home or weddings. TBK filled a gap in the market,” he says.
While the home-dining experience will remain the keystone of the business for the foreseeable future, TBK now delivers at home through its kitchen in Worli and also has a stall at Lower Parel’s Flea Bazaar Café. Following Chopra’s request, the catering concept, Travelling Thaal, began as well.
Four years ago, Kapadia would joke, “I want Shah Rukh Khan to eat my food”. Today, he’s more clear. “I want to saturate Mumbai with the Bohri Kitchen biryani. Wherever you want us to come, we’ll be there,” he says.