#DSSCPowerPackers: DSSC’s list of culinary achievers you need to look out for in Delhi (Part Un)

In sync with the F&B industry’s ever evolving ways, a new storm is brewing, and this time the brew masters themselves have changed! We present to you eight ace women who’re changing the city’s culinary landscape, one delectable bite at a time.

Women rule the roost in the kitchen in most Indian homes, however, they’ve always chosen to ride pillion when it comes to the F&B industry. Till now. The rules are changing, and how! Not only have they entered the business, but with never-before-seen concepts. DSSC decided to investigate the matter and got these power women to gather around a cuppa joe and share their experiences on breaking barriers in the industry.

Aakanksha Kapoor, I Say Organic

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Aakansha Kapoor of I Say Organic joined the company, over two years ago to learn the tricks of running a business and also because the ethos of the company are “close to heart”.

She was particularly interested in hopping aboard the organic train because she suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome for a long time, that is now completely cured. Aakanksha has experienced change because of healthy and organic eating and since fitness and eating healthy are two of many ideals of her life, she finally decided to join her brother because she wanted to help others come closer to them as well.

She says there are two clubs of eaters in Delhi – those who are “absolutely convinced about the importance of eating organic and hence eat it” and those who are fence sitters – they know the importance, are passionate, yet have not made the shift towards organic food. The reason, says the 28-year-old, is to do with trust and pricing. “Having said that,” she says, “in the two years that I have been with the company, I have seen a lot of people make a complete shift to eating organic food”. Aakanksha explains that in a country like India where anything can be produced through twisted means, people find it difficult to erase their inhibitions about whether organic food is actually so. “We try and approach this barrier through transparency so that our customers know exactly where their food is coming from,” she says.

We’ve often wondered why organic food the world over is so expensive, when it seems more logical to make the prices competitive so that more people hop aboard the organic train. Aakanksha explains this as well and says the demand for organic food is lower than the production, which hikes up the price. Also, producing organic produce is very labour intensive, she says – because there are no pesticides involved, and those that are, are made by the farmers themselves, thus making the production extremely hands on.

While Aakanksha is not going to vouch that organic food cures chronic illnesses like cancer, she is both convinced and confident that a switch to organic food can revitalize you. They’ve recently ventured into a large space with their café and retail outlet in Select CityWalk and hope it will bring Delhiites closer to eating right.

Kainaz Contractor, Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu & Rustom’s Café

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Rustom’s Kainaz Contractor moved to Delhi two years ago with a dream of connecting people to Parsi food, a largely unexplored territory in the capital. Her work has always been about food – she started out in the hospitality sector before switching to writing about food for BBC Goodfood. Her focus has always been towards food and her eyes were set on opening her restaurant, which she says came sooner than expected because “it was a post-30 plan”. The 29-year-old has always been interested in her food, that is, Parsi cuisine, which she think has been misrepresented in India, including Mumbai.

“Most of the cafes that claim to serve Parsi food are actually serving Irani food and that includes your berry pulao. So my whole purpose behind starting Rustom’s was to reintroduce people to authentic home-style Parsi food,” she says.

Parsi food and Irani food are different, she says. Irani food is what her ancestors had in Iran but migration altered their cuisine. Parsis settled in India started including a lot of lentils, vegetables and Indian spices whereas Irani food has a lot of rice and meat.

Kainaz admits she is very methodical so having a vision helped her food journey. “It’s why I started with hotels to learn how restaurants work and understand the backend basically,” she says. Once she figured out what goes into starting and running a restaurant, she switched to writing to delve deeper into where food comes from. She felt it was good for her because she came into close contact with a lot of chefs and restaurants, found out what was happening globally and kept up with food trends.

“I think if you want to survive in this industry, then, clichéd as it sounds, you need to have that mad passion. I think that’s especially true for women because the restaurant business means odd hours and not everyone’s family is okay with that,” she said. She acknowledges that the F&B industry is a tough one – “it’s competitive, plain and simple”.

Rustom’s began not out of deep pockets, but from money borrowed by friends and family. Kainaz and her partner, Rahul Dua, had a pixel-free vision of what they wanted and sure they were of their idea. Both of them decided to put their dream to the test while their restaurant was under construction and so set up a limited delivery menu, the response to which was phenomenal. Finally their restaurant came to fruition in February 2014.

Since opening they’ve seen Delhiites become familiar with Parsi food – “At first we got a few customers asking for butter chicken and complaining about the food being overly sweet” but over the course of these  two years, they’ve opened up to exploring new palates.

Currently Kainaz and Rahul are only focused on taking care of their baby Rustom’s. They want to offer a personalised experience to their customers that means hanging around day and night to feed, which we think speaks bounty about the ethos of Rustom’s.  

Bani Nanda, MIAM

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The only dessert chef who goes beyond the ol’ sponge cake in Delhi is Bani Nanda, who has, in a short while, established herself as the go-to French Pâtisserie. Through her home-based pâtisserie, Miam, she’s challenging the dessert norms of people in the capital by offering them a selective range of neo-classical cakes. Bani likes to “amalgamate” the old and new in her style of baking.

The Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained chef launched Miam just over a year ago after working with The Oberoi for a year and half. She had a clear set vision and after learning as much as she could on the job, she decided it was time to branch away to play at her own gig. When she decided to start Miam, she says, she was “very sure what I was going to serve and fondant cakes just wasn’t going to be one of them”. At Miam she offers her customers specialised French desserts such as choux buns, macarons and entremets that include Kaffir Lime and Coconut Cake or the Jasmine and Raspberry.

She says, “The dark chocolate and salted caramel is my best seller because I don’t think Delhi is quite there in terms of experimenting with wild sweet flavours. But the palates are definitely evolving, well at least of my clients.”

Miam has been her way of keeping her grandmother’s wish alive. “She wanted me to start my own pâtisserie,” she says. And for now Bani is very happy with the road her baby (Miam) is walking – she’s getting a kick out of “digging deep” into her creativity by playing with unique combinations.

You can read more about Bani, the culinary rager, here.

Read Part Deux here.

Our powerful ladies have been wonderfully styled by Vasudha & Devika Jajoo in their fresh & unique lifestyle label, Tuned In Living. All the styles are available online for you to grab.

Tuned In Living celebrates all elements of inspired living. It is about consuming consciously and building an emotional connection with what we consume. It believes in using pure natural breathable fabrics that nourish our being and the environment. Consumers shouldn’t have to pick between looking good and feeling good, and therefore at Tuned In Living every piece is crafted keeping fabric, quality, style elements and ease of use in mind. All its pieces are affordably priced as it wants to share the love of inspired living.

Location Courtesy: La Bodega