It needs lots of grit and effort to establish a business in a new city. This is what our next foodpreneur has done. Meet Ms. Usha Kayan, who has established herself as home chef in Ahmedabad, where she had shifted only four years ago after her husband's demise.
With three daughters and a young son, she has landed up in the commercial capital of Gujarat as her brother was settled here. Usha was born and brought up in Kolkata. Born in a marwari family, she was an expert in cooking marwari food. Her three daughters soon got busy with their studies and building their own lives. Her young son of 6 years was also settling down in the new environment. Her cooking skills were admired by her family. She found that there is a dearth of typical marwari food in the city. With encouragement from her brother and daughters, she started with marwari kanji vadas for Holi festival in 2016 and it was a complete sell out. This was the first step towards setting up her venture.
Let's know about the journey of a simple homemaker to a busy foodpreneur.
Over to Usha Kayan....
Petpuja: Welcome to the blog Usha! As I understand, you have entered the food business with your home cooking experience. Did you take some professional training later on or are you learning on the job?
Usha: Honestly Speaking I am not a trained person, if training means learning from an institution. My family is a bunch of foodies with very critical opinions. 😊 They love having different cuisines and street food. I used to make all these at home regularly for my family and whenever we had guests. Whenever we go out, we invariably order things which I do not make at home. While eating out, I have this habit of critically analysing the spices and taste of the dish. I used to try the same dish at home and standardise the recipe till I get the required taste. The taste may not be similar to the "restaurant wala taste", but should satisfy our own taste buds. In those days, I used to write the recipes thus creating a vast recipe treasure unknowingly. All those recipes are now helping me a lot. While in Kolkata, my pickles were very popular among friends and family. I used to give them for free whenever I do pickling for home. I started my pickle business from Kolkata when I got a wedding order from a friend. That one order triggered my commercial venture of pickles. I was happy with the growth. I used to get orders from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai also. After shifting to Ahmedabad, I entered into cooking domain. Seasonal pickles is still a thriving business. My earlier clients are also associated with me.
Petpuja: Confusions and apprehensions are always part of the discussions while starting a new venture. Did it happen with you also?
Usha : Yeah I was very scared to start as I didn’t know anyone in the city and had no idea where I was heading but my family instilled the hope in me. The response I got for my first effort of Kanji Vada was a big boost in setting up "Usha's Kitchen".
Petpuja: With so many competitors around, what is your marketing strategies to promote your venture?
Usha : Home chefs are gaining popularity over takeaways and zomato deliveries as they are mostly dished out from home kitchens. The same kitchen also makes food for the family, so clients have this faith and assurance that meals are made with the same cleanliness as for the family. And it's true also. I buy the same ingredients for my orders as for my family. I buy best quality organic ingredients to prepare my orders. When you are cooking for others, you become more cautious about hygiene, specially in these times of Corona.
Petpuja: I understand that cooking was your passion, so you had started Usha's Kitchen. But a food venture is not only about cooking but packing, presentation and delivering on time also. Your photos show you have an eye for presentation. Did you learn it from someone ?
Usha: Presentation of the food is as important as the taste. It was very difficult in the earlier days as my food had great taste but my presentation skills were not so good. My daughters were a great help in making the dishes presentable. However in these 4 years, I have evolved and learnt a lot about presentation. It is still a long way to go ! Online resources and self motivation help me to better myself.
Petpuja: What kind of clients do you cater to?
Usha: I cater to all kinds of clients like home tiffin, office tiffin or party orders etc. I have regular lunch and dinner meals orders from a corporate. Orders for kitty parties and single meals from families are also coming. No order is small. I value every order and try to fulfill in all my capacities. I am satisfied with my achievements in last four years and I see a bright road ahead.
Petpuja: Which cuisine is your forte?
Usha: People always cherish my Punjabi and Rajasthani food a lot. My seasonal pickles are also very popular. As I had mentioned, my pickling business was set up in Kolkata. I had many permanent customers in different cities. I started to send small samples with my orders in Ahmedabad as I am setting up my cooking enterprise and response was overwhelming. I now make 130-140 kg pickles in a season.
Petpuja: That's a wonderful marketing strategy. Where do you see yourself five years from now on?
Usha: I wish to take my venture to a larger scale of catering. Another dream project is to make a brand name for my pickles.
Petpuja: These days’ people are very health conscious. What’s your take on making healthy meals?
Usha: With social media and access to all kinds of information, it is natural for people to get more health-conscious. I believe home-cooked food with the right amount of organic ingredients and oil is always healthy. My thoughts are a bit old-school. According to me the right amount of Oil and Ghee are important for our body to function properly. As we all know our grandparents were more healthy and fit than we are. It is just because they used to consume home-cooked food with the right ingredients. People these days associate salad bowls with healthy food and I am getting orders for such bowls. I have created salad bowls menu to cater to such demands of people.
Petpuja: Compliments always play a great motivations What is the best compliment you have received for your services?
Usha: One of my clients after having my food called me to thank and said “ aapne mujhe meri maa ki yaad dila di”. I was overwhelmed after hearing this.
Petpuja: In any business, critical comments are always there, more so in the business of food. How do you take critical comments of your clients?
Usha: At first it was disheartening as I used to put my 100 % efforts and love. But then I learnt that they are important to better myself and my venture. Now I take them positively and try to improve on the feedback given. I make sure that such inputs help me upgrade my levels of outcome and deliver the best to my clients,
Petpuja: Have you taken FSSAI?
Usha: Yes, I have FSSAI certificate. It's important to have this for a commercial venture. It also gives a confidence to the clients.
Petpuja: Do you have some memorable experience as a “home cook”?
Usha: Once I had put up a stall in an exhibition I was very scared as it was my first experience of putting up a stall but I got a great response even after my food was finished people were coming back and asking for more.
Petpuja: We all know, any home based venture is not possible without support from the family. How does your family support you in running your enterprise?
Usha: Very true. Without family support nothing is possible. My daughters are my pillars of strength and support me whenever and wherever I need them. Whenever I have orders , they always help me with the preparations and presentation as I have never kept a permanent extra help for my business till now. I only keep a help when the order is big enough for me to manage alone. Even my young son understands and does not trouble me much. It is because of them that I have managed to come this far. I would like to give them credits for all my achievements.
Petpuja: It's a great support and blessing to have such understanding children.
What is your message to women who may be exploring home cooking as a business?
Usha: We being women always have a fear of rejection but if we have talent and determination nothing can stop us and success will eventually follow. So, if cooking is your love, join the bandwagon with some planning and some risk appetite.
Petpuja: Our readers would love to have some recipes from your kitchen. Which two recipes are you going to share with us today?
Usha: I am sharing two most popular recipes from my menu. Aloo samosa, popularly known as Punjabi Samosa in Ahmedabad and every place which is not North India and mango ice cream.
Aloo Samosa with 2 types of chutney
For Samosa Dough:
2 tbsp Ghee
Salt to taste
Water to knead dough
For Samosa Filling:
4-5 Boiled Potato
A bowl of Frozen/boiled Peas
4-5 green chillies
A small piece of ginger
2 tbsp Oil
For Green Chutney:
Coriander leaves - 100 gm
Green chilly - 2/3
Ginger- 1 inch piece
Salt as per taste
Lemon - juice of 2 lemons
Bikaneri Sev - handfull sev.
For Tamarind (Imly) Chutney:
Imly \imli paste - 100 gm/ 1 tablespoon full or size of 1 big lemon
Dates (khajur) - 5-7 seedless dates
Sugar - 2 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Black Salt 1 pinch
Roasted Jeera powder - 1 teaspoon
Sonth powder (dry ginger) 1 pinch
Red chilly powder- 1 pinch or as per taste
For Samosa dough:
Mix Maida, salt and ghee in a bowl and add some water to make a tight dough.
Cover the dough in a soft cloth and keep it for some time.
For Samosa Filling:
Mash boiled potatoes.
Grind green chillies and ginger into a fine paste
In a Kadhai, add 2 tbsp of oil and put the mashed potatoes in it.
Mix the chilly-ginger paste and all the other ingredients well to make the samosa filling.
Heat some oil in a kadhai in low flame to deep fry the samosa.
Roll out the dough into small circles (like puris)
After you roll out the dough, cut it into 2 halves making 2 semi-circles.
Take one semi-circle and fold it in a shape of cone.
Add some Somosa filling into it.
Dip your finger into water and put it on the outer layer of the cone.
Fold the samosa so that no ends are open.
Fry the samosas in the kadhai until its golden brown in colour.
For Green Chutney:
Cut Coriander leaves into small pieces and wash it properly to remove dirt from it.
Add coriander leaves, green chillies, ginger and bikaneri sev into the mixer grinder.
Grind to make a fine paste.
Take out the paste in a bowl and add some lemon juice and salt according to your taste.
For Imly Chutney:
Soak Imly in water for 2 hours
After 2 hours strain the soaked imly with water in a bowl.
Add sugar in it and keep it for boiling.
Once the imly mixture becomes little thick , add some small pieces of dates and the other ingredients in it. Mix and stir continuously.
Once the chutney is thick and of required consistency, switch off the heat and take it out in a bowl to cool.
Serve Samosa with green and imly chutneys. You can change the quantity of any ingredient to suit your own taste buds. :)
500ml full cream milk
2 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp sugar
Small serving bowl
Amul fresh cream/Malai
Take half bowl milk and mix the cornflour to it. (small serving bowl)
Boil the rest of the milk until it gets thick.
Then mix sugar and cornflour and milk paste in it and mix it well.
Mix again until it gets thick.
Take it out in a bowl and keep it to cool
Take 3 mangoes and make a puree from in the grinder.
Take a strainer and strain the puree well in a bowl.
Grind the strained puree again so that there are no lumps left in it.
Once the thick milk is cooled then add it to the mango puree jar and also add cream to it.
Grind it into a thick paste.
Take a container and pour the mixture in it.
Refrigerate it for 3-4 hours.
Take out the mixture and grind it one more time.
Pour the final mixture in the container and refrigerate it overnight.
Your creamy mango ice cream is ready to serve.