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Saturday, August 08, 2020

Kitchen to Table: From exotic breads to classics like biryani, home cooks in Delhi are delivering delicious meals

There’s no stopping enterprising foodies as they offer multi-cuisine choices to their neighbours, from mutton korma to home-made gelatos

Written by Surbhi Gupta | New Delhi | Published: July 7, 2020 7:10:10 pm
home cook, home cooks in delhi, home cook delivery, lockdown, indian express lifestyle The first few days were a struggle, says Mrinali Haryal, as sourcing packaging material was tough and she wasn’t used to being in the kitchen for such long hours.

For graphic designer and workaholic Mrinali Haryal, the nationwide lockdown meant a reduced workload; and since the family was home, the focus shifted to food. “Everyone in my family is a foodie, so every day we were experimenting with different cuisines and dishes. It was then my husband suggested that I can start delivering food in the neighbourhood, and when I floated the idea on a residents’ WhatsApp group, I was flooded with orders,” she says.

The first few days were a struggle, says Haryal, a resident of Delhi’s Panchsheel Park, as sourcing packaging material was tough and she wasn’t used to being in the kitchen for such long hours. “I didn’t cook as much before, but I’m loving it now, and it has especially taken my mother by surprise,” she says. Her menu ranges from Indian snacks to Chinese and Mughlai dishes, and she calls her brand Home Gourmet. “What has encouraged me is that there have been repeat orders,” she adds. It is either her driver who does the deliveries, or she uses delivery service apps like Dunzo. “There were more weekday deliveries during the lockdown, now people order more during weekends,” she said.

Apart from dimsums, which sell for about Rs 150 to 200, her range of home made achars have also been a top seller. Haryal makes it a point to take orders a day in advance to plan the cooking for the next day. “If people don’t pre-order, they ask me what I am cooking that day and then place their orders of the same dishes,” she says. Daily family meals at her home are also planned accordingly.

With restaurants shut, it has made room for home cooks to venture into the home delivery business. People tend to trust them more than restaurants as they are familiar with those in the neighbourhood and it is home-cooked food. “We assure people that we have no movement of staff in our house, and it’s just us cooking. It raises the trust factor, and they choose us over restaurants,” says Akriti Sehgal, a policy researcher, who has started a similar venture with her mother and grandmother. She lives a stone’s throw away from the Haryals in Panchsheel Park.

“I was in talks for a job just five days before the lockdown, and it couldn’t materialise, so I thought why not deliver home-cooked food. It would also be a source of income,” she says. “My nani is a spectacular cook, and we’ve inherited that from her. So I thought of going back to my family recipes,” she says. Under the brand Mom’s Kitchen Fable, Sehgal along with her mother and nani prepare food in their home, which they deliver in Panchsheel Park, Greater Kailash and East of Kailash areas of New Delhi. “We deliver the food ourselves, otherwise what difference would it make,” she says. Managing affairs haven’t been tough as Delhites have common favourites, which includes butter chicken, mutton, biryani, and dal makhani, says Sehgal. The price of the dishes ranges from Rs 200 to 400. While many who are living alone prefer ordering in, these cooks are getting a lot of orders from families too.

home cook, home cooks in delhi, home cook delivery, lockdown, indian express lifestyle Shalini Sharma’s menu includes bakes like spiced pumpkin bread, classic zucchini bread, apart from cakes and cheesecakes.

It is Shalini Sharma’s dream to open a cafe in the hills. “But one day, during the lockdown, I thought why should I wait for that to happen, I can start right away at home,” says Sharma, who is a resident of Sainik Farms. She called it Shasha’s Cafe and asked her friends and family if they were interested in ordering. “Meals were always an important part when I was growing up, and my house was full of my mother’s cook books. And later, I collected a lot of them from my travels across the world. I decided to go back to them and started curating exotic menus,” says Sharma, who is a lawyer by profession. Her menu includes bakes like spiced pumpkin bread, classic zucchini bread, apart from cakes and cheesecakes. She has a salad box menu, a pasta menu, and a Mediterranean special too. Dishes cost about Rs 500 to 900. Once the pandemic wanes, she plans to open a book cafe in Delhi.

Similarly, in D-6, Vasant Kunj, when the RWA decided not to allow any delivery riders in the colony, a group of women decided to pitch in and make delicacies that were up for order. “We floated the idea that if someone is good at making a dish or a cuisine, they can start delivering that – like momos, pindi chole, idli sambhar, burgers. The plan was a hit, we got a good response,” says Snehlata Rathi, RWA President.

Meanwhile, home bakers, who have been in business for years, have also ventured out and started offering other dishes. “While people have been ordering cakes and bakes during the lockdown, I decided to also cook Indian and Mughlai dishes like mutton korma and kebabs as there was a demand,” says Aditya Verma, based in Lajpat Nagar. Whereas Tanvi Gupta, who runs a home bakery in Vasant Kunj, says that the business was shut during the lockdown. “But the creative person that I am, I started working on picking up other skills,” she said. Since then, she has started delivering hand-rolled pasta, pizza bases, pot stickers, home-made gelatos, among others.

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