The Gastronomists:

Covid Playbook Rule #4: Crisis could be the bridge between passion and profession

Pursuing one’s passion is a tricky subject. A few have it in them to pursue it with ease. Others do lip service, often citing other compulsions, distractions. “I never get the time” “I will do it one fine day when other responsibilities are done”. But the beauty of this Covid crisis is that, for many it killed the reasons that we had been giving ourselves. Work had slowed down. Travel time was down. Some of us suddenly had a lot of time. And yes, the household help wasn’t around. The cook wasn’t around. So what did some people do, in these changed circumstances ? Well..They got into the kitchen. And when they did,  some beautiful stories started cooking. Here are a few – of hobby home chefs, who focused hard enough to actually go pro.

Story #1: Sumit and Aishani Chowdhury

The former Reliance Jio president who discovered a baking business with his daughter

So what did Sumit Chowdhury, former president of Jio Infocomm and founder of Gaia Smart Cities and Sesovera – a Voice Tech startup do during the lockdown ? He started baking ! Yes.. Sumit, who has always loved hobby baking saw the lockdown as a perfect opportunity to launch one more entrepreneur in the family – His daughter – Aishani. Aishani, now all of 16 years has been making cupcakes for the last 7 years. Covid and the ensuring lockdown created some unique conditions. Aishani, who was in her 10th grade then, had free time thanks to the exams being scrapped.  So Sumit decided to go pro on the father-daughter’s common passion of baking. And thus was born ‘The Dough and Batter’. A speciality gourmet bakeshop serving right from the trendy Sourdough bread range to exotic European breads to cakes, muffins and Aishani’s favourites – Cupcakes. It started off as a simple experiment on Instagram. But a great product and the new found appetite for great home-delivered food during the lockdown quickly resulted in the venture getting oodles of love from customers. So Sumit and Aishani started this daily routine of getting up at 4 am in the morning and baking for the next 7-8 hours. And they kept at this for the past 170 days ! Whats more,  Sumit himself set out to deliver the goods in his South Mumbai neighborhood. Of course now that the venture has grown, there are 2 delivery boys and now they deliver all over Mumbai.

The products are priced at a premium, which customers happily pay for. All for the authentic taste that Sumit-Aishani manage to deliver. They have expats from Europe who are now customers and they vouch for the authentic taste of the breads. And while they have their regular hits, they keep shuffling the menu with new experiments which both father-daughter duo are very fond of. Now though while Aishani is getting busier with schools reopening, Sumit plans to continue with the venture. How  does he plan to balance this hobby with the very successful enterprises that he runs ? Well.. He states how most artisanal bakers globally, do it for the passion and also have a day job to look at. So he plans to continue baking. He may look at transforming the venture as a platform for other artisanal bakers of which they will continue playing a small role. He calls Aishani the CEO of the venture and himself the chief dishwasher. For him the best part of Covid was reigniting his passion and discovering a young CEO in his daughter.

To dig into The Dough and Batter bake treats, follow on Facebook and Instagram.

“The best part about the lockdown was discovering my 16 year old as the CEO of The Dough and the Batter

Story #2: Gayatri Subramanian

She is giving people delicious food. The nostalgia and the stories are free

Our second home chef is also unique in her own way. Gayatri’s first love was always cooking. Cooking was therapeutic for her even in the pre-Covid period. Its just that the Covid Lockdown created time, which allowed her to focus on her passion. What makes Gayatris story special is the connect she has with food. Gayatri was given her cooking lessons early in her childhood by her Dad. Her Dad loved to cook and he managed to pass that love to his daughter. As a child whenever Gayatri used to travel, they used to stay with close relatives and friends, instead of living in hotels. And when they did so, they cooked for the family and also learnt their cuisine. So cooking and nostalgic anecdotes and memories were getting blended in her mind. So for each recipe, Gayatri has a memory, an anecdote or a nostalgic experience attached to it.

Even something as tragic as her fathers death had a cooking memory attached to it. Her father died while cooking itself and had a large cooking spoon in his hand at the time of his death. So, for Gayatri, cooking during Covid was connecting with memories – of her Dad, of travel, of her childhood. So, during Covid, instead of just cooking she started posting her cooking pictures on Instagram and Facebook. And it wasn’t just the pictures but also the story attached to that dish alongwith the recipe. The best part about her Instagram posts is how tastefully the pictures are edited, the journey of the recipe – from prepping to the final garnishing and yes, the anecdotal memories associated with it. Gayatri doesnt use a computer, nor a laptop and does all her social media posts on the phone alone. She isn’t very social media savvy, isnt great with using hashtags either. She thought podcasts are a software !   But its the sheer soul in her posts that started getting the love. After following her on Instagram for sometime, friends were no longer happy just feasting their eyes on the platform. They wanted the actual feast. And it finally happened on Onam, where a family, who originally hailed from Kerala, and who had been feasting on Sadya meals for decades in Mumbai,  requested her if she could take an order for a traditional Onam Sadya meal. And indeed Gayatri was ready for it. So an elborate Onam Sadya spread became her first order. Next day she gets a call from the family, stating that the food took them down the memory lane 50 years past ! It was that authentic. And that’s when the home chef decided to go pro. Now she regularly gets weekend orders from friends. She specialises in authentic south indian vegetarian food. The menu is put out at the beginning of the week and those who want to order, have 2-3 days to place the order. She doesn’t yet have a delivery service. She delivers in her own car or sometimes through some regular OLA / UBER friendly drivers. She takes the pain to sanitize the OLA/UBER before the food sits in the car. Gayatri stops not at just feeding humans but regularly cooks and feeds 16-18 dogs in the neighbourhood as well. Her daily morning routine from 430 am to 630 am is to feed dogs rice and pedigree that she prepares the previous night. Covid helped Gayatri connect to her childhood memories through food. The best part about Gayatri is that she always believed in sharing recipes in her posts so that those follow the recipes add them to their bank of memories. As another chef taught her – You won’t take these recipes to the grave.

Discover Gayatri’s magical culinary journey on Facebook and Instagram.

“Give to the world the best that you have and the best in the world will come back to you”

– Sangram Surve

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