The average 25 year old is generally one job old and still in the process of figuring out their purpose in life. That’s not the case for hospitality entrepreneur Shraddha Bhansali though.
The Boston University graduate set up Candy & Green in Breach Candy, Mumbai, in 2017 after a brief stint with a five-star hotel. The cuisine is all vegetarian, reflecting Bhansali’s own food preferences. It also draws from her exhaustive travels in China and Iceland.
What sets the restaurant and bar apart is that they grow their own herbs on the roof, enabling them to offer a seasonal menu. It counts many known names among its regular clientele.
Neither of her parents are associated with the food industry but Shraddha was always interested n the field. Recently, she also made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 list. But she doesn’t think she has already achieved it at all. Over to the young restaurateur.
What inspires you to stay vegetarian, despite being exposed to varied non-vegetarian cuisines?
I get asked this a lot, but the honest truth is that I have never felt the urge to try non-vegetarian food. My mother is an excellent cook and growing up she introduced my brother and me to many types of cuisines, exotic fruits and vegetables.
A major reason is also because I am a huge animal lover. Growing up at different points I had three parrots, a tortoise, a turtle, a foster cat and now a dog.
I also started and ran an animal rights club in my high school where we worked with a lot of the more established organisations like PETA and WSD India.
What is the concept behind Candy & Green?
I see Candy & Green as more than a restaurant or brand - it’s the extension of a lifestyle. Our goal is simple - to redefine what it means to live well.
We are passionate about feeding our guests hearty meals made from wholesome ingredients that nourish the mind, body and soul. We strive to create a menu and environment that supports the happiness and wellness of both our guests and our community.
Is it difficult growing all your own ingredients? How do you do it?
With urban farming there are a few challenges when you are initially trying to set up but once you get the hang of it the process becomes much simpler. Due to the space restriction we have at the restaurant, we have limited growing capacity which means seasonality is really important to us.
We only grow greens which are in season and have short grow cycles since we get the highest yield from them. In summer, we grow greens like Thai/Italian/lemon basil, lemongrass, celery, chilli, kafir lime leaves, peppermint, garlic chives, edible flowers and microgreens.
In winter, we increase the production of herbs and green leafy vegetables like oregano, thyme, rosemary, fenugreek and spinach. As we are set up in the outdoors, the heavy monsoon rains make it very challenging to grow anything.
Depending on the climate we only grow our microgreens indoors and thick leaves like Ceylon spinach and carom which require limited sunshine in the greenhouse. We change our menu every season to highlight the ingredients that we grow in-house.
Although we grow organically and in controlled environments to ensure a pest and weed-free greenhouse we have a contract with an urban farmer, Priyanka Shah from iKheti, who checks the health of the produce every week.
Since we do not use coconut peat as our natural growing medium, the chances of infestation are rare, but we follow this practice as a preventative measure.
Would you ever turn vegan?
I'm a huge cheese lover, so probably not. Although we have been experimenting with some delicious vegan cheeses and nut mylks due to which I haven't been consuming as much dairy.
What are your thoughts on being featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 list? You are so young - do you feel like you've already achieved it all?
Being featured in the Forbes list is a huge honour and it's also so humbling to be included in a list with such great talent. As an entrepreneur, no matter how well you're doing you always question the direction that you are taking, so this is good validation.
This is definitely something off my bucket list and something I will always cherish, but in no way do I think I have made it I have such a long way to go.
What are your favourite vegetarian dishes in world cuisine?
I love Lebanese food! A good Lebanese meal with hummus, fattoush, labeneh, falafel, muhammara and fresh hot pita bread is my ideal lunch.
What is your advice to vegetarian travellers who find it tough to eat in places like China and Iceland (two places you've travelled extensively in)?
Iceland was easy because everyone speaks the language and veganism and raw food is a huge trend there. Everyone there is really friendly too so when I'd go to a good cafe I would try to talk so some of the locals and get their opinions on the best food in the area for vegetarians.
I also use the app Foursquare when I travel, they usually have great tips when it comes to restaurants.
For China, a lot of people forget that they have a huge population of Buddhists so you can find some great Buddhist vegetarian restaurants. Also since language is a problem I would have the guide call the restaurant beforehand to explain our dietary restrictions and I recommend going during off peak hours so that they have more time to understand and customise if possible.
What are some great and unique cocktails you serve?
All the cocktails at Candy & Green are made with fresh fruits, vegetables and house-grown herbs. We also have some very exciting drink options like our loaded cocktails which is a 400ml drink with appetizers paired and we also have a watermelon keg which is fresh watermelon juice with a bottle of vodka of your choice.
My favourite cocktail is the Mango & Bird's Eye Chili Margarita! Also we recently also launched our house wines which are really fun and well-priced we have a Shiraz Rose called I'm Flirty, a Cabernet Sauvignon called I'm Sensuous and a Chenin Blanc called I'm Classy.
What should one definitely order at Candy & Green (in food)?
You already know my favourite cocktails. I love the Favourite Kale Salad. For food, the Zucchini Parcels and Quinoa Tabbouleh Falafel! And the Coconut Pudding for dessert.