Scene from Gitika Saikia's pop-up. Photo: Gitika's Pakghor
2015 was a welcome change when it came to food and dining. While hip cafes and restaurants left us spoilt for choice, it was the home chef movement in Mumbai that got everybody talking. Experiential dining, regional cuisine and homemade recipes became the new thing with the city’s food lovers and we are not complaining. Let’s take a quick look at some of the key food trends of the year gone by.
The rise of the home chef: It was around late 2014 that Mumbaikars got to taste some rare regional Indian food, all thanks to home chefs. By early this year, the city witnessed a movement of sorts when a bunch of them started hosting almost strangers to their houses for home-cooked meals. Parsi, Bengali, Malayali, Bihari, Assamese and Bohri are some of the most popular cuisines, however, only a select few gave it a shot. These folks were not only adventurous, but also curious about what they ate.
Gitika Saikia, who is known for serving red ants and silkworm pupae to her guests says, “I think home chefs got the courage to offer rare dishes because people were more open to new tastes. It also worked because they had some unique stories of food culture and traditions to share.”
Saikia changes her menu often and tries to bring in seasonal dishes to make it exciting each time. The USP is about being unique and to be able to convince the guests that they are in for an ‘experience’ rather than just a meal. Definitely not a mass concept, whether they are here to stay or not, only time will tell.
Social's Vada Pao Bao is a hot seller.
Launch of India-inspired restaurants: Most believe that The Bombay Canteen is the best thing to have happened in 2015. And why not? It gave the city’s food lovers to dwell upon the fact that Indian food can be cool. Other hotspots like Social, Monkey Bar and small cafes like Villa Vandre offered diners interesting twists to regional Indian dishes. Interestingly, it was no longer a territory for grown-ups, but quite a thing with the youth as well.
Homemade food products became a rage this year.
New-age foodpreneurs: 2015 saw some really cool food businesses become a hit with city folks. There was Hola Chef, an online food delivery service, which launched last year but became a popular pick with busy office-goers in 2015 after they expanded their operations. We were also introduced to ready-to-cook meal kits like Haute Chef, iChef and Burgundy Box giving people an option to cook restaurant-style meals sitting at home.
Other start-ups like Yummade, an online store for made-to-order food products, enabled home cooks to sell jams, pickles and cookies who otherwise couldn’t retail them. Online grocery stores like Grofers was a hit too as it connected consumers to neighbourhood markets with the help of an app. With too many players in the market now, the question is will they be able to sustain the competition or pack up as is the case with some big names.
Chefs Ranveer Brar and Ajay Chopra went independent.
Chefs making new beginnings: 2015 was also a year, which saw popular chefs leaving the commercial kitchen for the world of television. Chef Ranveer Brar gave up his full-time stint at Mumbai’s Novotel hotel to host food shows including a reality TV show, apart from other entrepreneurial projects. Then there was Chef Ajay Chopra, who left his job as the executive chef of Westin Mumbai to start an online meal kit venture called Burgundy Box. Others like Chef Kunal Kapur moved to hosting TV shows and endorsing brands and even writing a cookbook called A Chef in Every Home. The shift again raises the eternal question – what made these chefs take the big leap? Chef Ajay Chopra feels that working with a five-star hotel often did not leave him to try something creative. You can watch him on Adda With Kalyanhere.