Welcome to my home

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How do you feel about meeting strangers over a sumptuous Bohri meal in the sprawling home of the chef? Disha Shetty visits The Bohri Kitchen and writes about this new trend of housewives cooking multi-course, traditional meals for you in their homes, at a cost. You get good food served with doses of culture, and the home chef shares her traditional recipes, while being commercially compensated. It’s a win-win for all!

Ienter the sprawling living room, home to the Kapadias, in a residential corner of Mumbai’s Colaba where old British era buildings and tall modern sky-scrappers co-exist. Early morning sunlight floods the space where a dining table rests comfortably on one side, and a large part of the floor is covered with a mattress meant for seating.
This is where the Kapadias entertain a group of 14 people every Saturday and Sunday, treating them to authentic Bohri food, topped with an abundance of warm hospitality. They call it ‘The Bohri Kitchen’.

Munaf Kapadia (left), along with his mother Nafisa, the team behind The Bohri Kitchen, at their home in Mumbai’s Colaba

Munaf Kapadia (left), along with his mother Nafisa, the team behind The Bohri Kitchen, at their home in Mumbai’s Colaba

So how did the idea of opening up their home to strangers come about, I ask 27-year-old Munaf Kapadia, a former Google employee and now the CEO, Chief Eating Officer, at The Bohri Kitchen. “I wanted to keep my mother, who is a housewife and very entrepreneurial, busy,” he says. He saw her food being appreciated by others and realised that authentic Bohri cuisine is not something that is easily available. That was in December 2014. A year on, the news about the experimental lunch has spread through word of mouth and The Bohri Kitchen has carved a niche for itself. The events are sold out within hours of it being posted on their Facebook page.

They have a no-serial killer policy!
The process to try the food is simple. One has to go to their Facebook page and drop a message about the event they want to attend, and if the family finds the request genuine, their address will be shared. “My fear is that someday a random person will enter our house, a reason we screen people beforehand. I also introduced a no-serial killer policy,” Munaf shares, tongue-in-cheek.

The family’s living room where they entertain a group of 14 people every Saturday and Sunday

The family’s living room where they entertain a group of 14 people every Saturday and Sunday

Once a person’s request to attend is validated, he or she is treated to a multi-course Bohri lunch that is served on a big steel thaal or plate. Munaf takes the guests, who are given a name tag, through the basic Bohri traditions followed, and tells them about the food.

“The reaction to the food and the hospitality at our home by our guests blew us away. They hugged my mom who has four kids, me being the youngest, who so far had taken her food for granted,” Munaf said about the first event they hosted.
For his mother Nafisa, it is a way to keep busy and do what she knows best. “I always loved to cook. We were a big joint family; my in-laws were there as were my husband’s brothers and their wives. We were always cooking. Now with my daughters married and with just the three of us in the house, cooking small portions was becoming a task,” she shares.

Coming soon – home delivery
While there were no financial ambitions when The Bohri Kitchen started, Munaf now has his eyes set on a delivery model and wants his mother to not cook regularly, but to simply oversee the cooking. “I invested sometime in building a brand and creating the logo. I decided to make it a premium, exclusive thing,” Munaf explains.

Almost all who come for the lunch are non-Bohris and are warned to wear loose expandable clothing in advance. But the family says that it is the varied mix of people who walk into their home that motivates them to hold more events.

“My father likes it. He believes that it is a great networking ground for me, at an early stage in my career,” Munaf says. His father incidentally was told that the first group of people who came to their home were just friends dropping by for lunch. The fact that they were being charged for the food was hidden from him. “My father would never dream about charging people for food in the house. He comes from a traditional mindset, but at the same time he is every adaptable,” he adds.

A mix of Yemeni and Indian influences
Within Islam there are two major sects – Shias and Sunnis. Bohris are a small community of one million people within Shias. Originally from Yemen, they moved to Gujarat in India. “From Gujarat some of us moved to Maharashtra, but our mother tongue is Gujarati. So the cuisine is Yemeni but with Gujarati, Maharashtrian and even Punjabi influences. This is what makes Bohri food palatable to most people,” Munaf explains. He adds that while the cuisine has regional influences, the manner of cooking and the way it is served has not changed much.

However there is little change or experimenting with the menu unless it is a group booking. “I have been following the recipes taught to me by my mother and mother-in-law. Munaf is the biggest pressure though; he wants me to stick to the Bohri style of cooking,” Nafisa shares.

About being a ‘home chef’
Munaf believes that the biggest mistake home chefs make is to remain just a home chef and not create a brand around themselves – a reason why he wants a distinct identity for The Bohri Kitchen. “You need to dissociate the food from the person and leverage the positives from being a home. You have to tell the customer that we are serious, we have a feedback mechanism and we learn from our mistakes,” he explains.

A typical menu of The Bohri Kitchen Starters
Mutton kheema samosa
A surprise chicken dish
Sweet Dish
Ghas falooda with fresh fruits
Main Course
Raan in red masala
Lassan Baidu
Chicken biryani with paya soup
Dessert
Saancha Ice Cream
Paan
Beverages
Nariyal paani with blended malai
Rose sherbet with chia seeds
Jaljeera soda

To sample their food, call on 098194 47438 or check out their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thebohrikitchen

Six months from now Munaf wants to see the home delivery facility rolled out and his mother turned into a culinary supervisor. “The Bohri Kitchen should be the single brand that comes to your mind when you think of Bohri food,” he signs off.


disha

Disha Shetty

The writer is a young journalist who has recently discovered the joys of travelling.

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