It was in the area surrounding Dimna Lake near Jamshedpur where Rajat Mendhi, 39, recalls going on picnics with his family as a 10-year-old. Those were the days when families would venture into the outdoors on weekends, packing their baskets with delicious food and stuffing their vehicles with bedsheets. “Puri aloo, chutney sandwiches, and peeled oranges were some of my favorites. My cousins, uncles, aunts, mother, and grandparents would head out together in my uncle’s Matador van on weekends. My mother and aunt would cook on portable gas stoves,” recalls the advertising professional-turned-chef.
Memories of such outings inspired Mendhi to revive the concept of picnics. He has given a contemporary touch to popular picnic food after experimenting with them.
Always fond of food and cooking, Mendhi, 39, cleared the entrance examination at Mumbai’s Dadar Catering College in 1997 only to drop the idea and take up advertising instead. He was 18 then. He chose to do his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and an MBA in advertising before joining Lowe Lintas and later BBDO. In 2015, Mendhi took a sabbatical and joined Le Cordon Bleu in London. Three years later, he quit his job to pursue a full-time career in food.
Mendhi’s initial year was a journey of exploration. He regularly posted pictures of his cooking on Instagram and launched his first food pop-up called ‘The Tight Slap’ where he showcased his love of cooking eggs and breakfast. “The idea of such picnics came about in March this year and I have organised three since then,” he says. The first was at a rented bungalow called Lifafa, which Mendhi’s close friends and family attended. “The picnic was such a hit that I rebooked the space for my second picnic before having my third one at my residence,” says Mendhi.
These picnics usually get going with a couple of starters followed by the main course and desserts. The beverages include sangrias, tea and coffee. The first couple of picnics had food such as citrus frozen salad. The third picnic had items such as cheddar crackers filled with plum jam, eggs, mayo and sesame, a lemon semi-freddo (semi-frozen dessert) with virgin olive oil, topped with crackling candy and chilli-lime crumble. “I wanted to play with my food a bit for this picnic,” says Mendhi.
Those interested to join in have to register on the ‘Bombay Picnics’ Instagram page, after which Mendhi sends out personal invitations.