Masterchef at home

Want to try a new recipe but not sure of the steps? Or too tired to chop veggies for din­ner? A new ven­ture now makes it easy to cook gourmet meals at home in no time

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - DOWN TO EARTH SABREEN HAZIQ |

You can cut down on cooking time by get­ting chopped in­gre­di­ents for a gourmet recipe de­liv­ered at your doorstep

I fast-paced world, where N TO­DAY'S time is as valu­able as any ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity, fast food has be­come a pre­ferred choice for many. Busy souls who nei­ther have the time nor en­ergy to cook a lav­ish meal af­ter a long day at work are in­creas­ingly look­ing for quick recipes that are easy to pre­pare and can also sat­isfy their taste buds.Tap­ping into this de­mand, en­trepreneurs have now cre­ated a busi­ness model that al­lows any­one to cook quick and de­li­cious gourmet meals at home.

Cookfresh, an on­line ini­tia­tive, was started in Fe­bru­ary 2014 by Raghav Kohli and his friend An­shul Narang. The com­pany de­liv­ers freshly chopped and ground in­gre­di­ents to homes in South Delhi and Gur­gaon in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion. Cus­tomers can place an or­der from a va­ri­ety of recipes avail­able on the web­site, both veg­e­tar­ian and non-veg­e­tar­ian. The in­gre­di­ents for the recipe, in ex­act quan­ti­ties, are de­liv­ered at the doorstep, along with a recipe card de­tail­ing the cooking in­struc­tions. All in­gre­di­ents are chopped just be­fore be­ing dis­patched and come with la­bels in­side a biodegrad­able box, de­signed to keep them fresh and crisp. “Cookfresh has now elim­i­nated the need to stock up on large quan­ti­ties of in­gre­di­ents such as spe­cial kinds of sauces and spice mixes that you are not likely to use of­ten,” says 23-year-old Udyan Biswas, a regular cus­tomer.

Cookfresh claims to be In­dia’s first food de­liv­ery ser­vice that pro­vides the tools to be a gourmet chef at home. “I was never re­ally an ex­pert cook. So when I sur­prised my mother with Cookfresh’s chicken vin­daloo on her birth­day, she was re­ally happy,” says Sa­maira Sayed, a stu­dent.

Easy on stom­ach, hard on pocket

Narang ex­plains that the in­spi­ra­tion for Cookfresh came when he and Kohli passed

out of col­lege. “When we were stu­dents, we would of­ten throw par­ties at our house and cook for our friends. But once we started work­ing, we were left with lit­tle time. That is how we con­cep­tu­alised the idea to make easy and quick recipes at home, ”he says.

His ini­tia­tive, how­ever, is not easy on the pocket for stu­dents.The min­i­mum or­der at Cookfresh is for 169,which goes up to 749.

` ` Most recipes are priced be­tween 300-400.

` “I have or­dered at Cookfresh many times. But as a stu­dent I have a tight bud­get. Since the price is high, I can­not or­der fre­quently,” says Sadiya Suhail, who stud­ies law at Delhi uni­ver­sity.

Cookfresh started with 15 recipes, but the menu is be­ing re­vamped and cur­rently of­fers 33 recipes. Be­sides main-course meals, it also of­fers desserts and sal­ads. The team aims to even­tu­ally in­tro­duce a sub­scrip­tion plan wherein a cus­tomer will re­ceive three new meals on a weekly ba­sis.

Chef ’s Bas­ket is an­other ven­ture based in Mumbai.It was started in 2012 by Nipun Katyal, a food en­thu­si­ast, and two of his friends. “We were in­spired by Masterchef, but re­alised that cooking world-class food at home is a te­dious af­fair, ”Katyal says.

The brand sells its recipe kits on­line via e-shop­ping sites like Ama­zon and at se­lect stores in Mumbai, Pune, Ben­galuru, Su­rat, Kolkata and Ahmed­abad.

Nat­u­ral, but with a shelf life

What dif­fer­en­ti­ates Chef ’s Bas­ket from Cookfresh is the for­mer’s func­tion­al­ity. Its in­gre­di­ents are hand­picked in their ori­gin coun­tries, in­clud­ing Italy, Spain, Morocco and Mex­ico, for an au­then­tic culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. Th­ese are then im­ported to the com­pany’s pack­ag­ing fa­cil­ity at Bhi­wandi, Thane, from where they are dis­patched to re­tail stores such as Food­hall, Re­liance Mart, Hyper­city and Na­ture’s Bas­ket. Prices vary from 100 to 400.

` ` The own­ers claim that all recipes are 100 per cent nat­u­ral with no ar­ti­fi­cial colours, preser­va­tives or added flavours. When asked about the fresh­ness of the in­gre­di­ents, Katyal said, “All the recipe kits have a shelf life of nine months. But they are de­signed and pack­aged in such a way that the con­tents re­tain their nu­tri­tional value.”

Chef ’s Bas­ket sells nearly 50,000 kits ev­ery month. “Why buy a bot­tle of thymein­fused olive oil when all you need is a ta­ble­spoon? Be­sides, it is al­ways a de­light for a house­wife to re­ceive a pack­age of chopped and ready-to-cook veggies,” says Nighat, a house­wife in Delhi’s Kailash Colony.She has not heard about Cookfresh.

Shub­ham Ma­hesh­wari, who founded Be­ing Chef in Septem­ber 2014, did a cus­tomer feed­back sur­vey in Delhi last year to find out about the com­mon prob­lems peo­ple face while cooking.He lists six: which recipe to fol­low, how to decode com­plex recipes, where to buy the in­gre­di­ents from, how much in­gre­di­ents to use, how to cut and chop the in­gre­di­ents and cus­tomise a recipe as per taste. “Peo­ple barely use mea­sur­ing beakers while cooking. Many do not know how much wa­ter to add to cook a brick of Maggi. We dis­patch in­gre­di­ents in ex­act quan­ti­ties so that peo­ple do not have to buy packets of, say, spice mixes when all they need is a sprin­kle,” Ma­hesh­wari says.

Be­ing Chef was launched with an ini­tial in­vest­ment of 60 lakh. Ma­hesh­wari says

` the monthly op­er­a­tional cost goes up to 6-7

` lakh. The com­pany gets about 65 or­ders on an av­er­age dur­ing week days and over 100 or­ders on week­ends. It mostly caters to housewives, bach­e­lors and new­ly­weds in Gur­gaon and also takes or­ders for cor­po­rate events and kitty par­ties. Prices start from as low as 29,with 359 be­ing the max­i­mum.

` ` It is, how­ever, too early to say whether this busi­ness will make a last­ing im­pact on the food in­dus­try or is a pass­ing fad. De­vika Narula,who made it to the top 12 in Sea­son 2 of Masterchef In­dia, says it is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea to do a Do- It-Your­self kind of cooking, es­pe­cially when it comes to gourmet meals.

Muham­mad Ashraf, manager at Karim at the In­dia Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­tre in Delhi, says it is un­likely that the new ven­ture will cut into the busi­ness of the ex­ist­ing food chains. “It is not re­ally about a box of chopped veg­eta­bles and in­gre­di­ents be­cause peo­ple do like go­ing out with friends and fam­ily on week­ends.The con­cept is in­no­va­tive but not some­thing that peo­ple would want to do ev­ery day.” He es­ti­mates the profit of th­ese com­pa­nies to be 150-200 or

` more depend­ing on the price of the recipe as the own­ers pur­chase the in­gre­di­ents from ven­dors at a highly sub­sidised rate.

"We had no time to cook for house par­ties when we started work­ing, so we got the idea to make easy and quick recipes at home" "We dis­patch in­gre­di­ents in ex­act quan­ti­ties so that peo­ple do not have to buy packets of, say, spice mixes when all they need is a sprin­kle "

Be­ing Chef de­liv­ers the ex­act quan­tity of

in­gre­di­ents for a meal to homes in Gur­gaon and prices start from as low as 29

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