How This Kitchen Became a Favorite Haunt of Bollywood Celebs
"We started inviting a people at home on every Saturday and Sunday just to try my mother's food."
One fine Sunday afternoon, roughly two-and-a half-years ago, I was lazing around watching television with my mother. As I changed the channel, I got into an argument with my mother, when she told me, “Munaf, I have nothing else to do, please let me watch my saas-bahu show!”
The thought struck me hard. And from then on, I and my family started looking for options to keep her busy.
Many ideas came to mind and co-incidentally all of them revolved around food. You see, my mum is a fantastic cook and she loves to feed people, also the MBA inside me realized that there might actually be a gap in the market for the food that my mother cooks. We belong to a community called the Dawoodi Bohra Community and our food, all though very popular in Bombay, is not available outside the community.
So I realised that business around this cuisine might do well and we decided our restaurant ‘The Bohri Kitchen’, which would be run by my parents. However, three days of research into the subject led me to conclude that that opening a restaurant in Mumbai, however small, is next to an impossible task for a middle class family. So we did the next best thing possible and started inviting a people at home on every Saturday and Sunday just to try my mother's food.
We spread the word by spamming people via email, and eventually putting things up on a Facebook page. Slowly as the concept evolved, it became a lot more than just food as we started taking our guests through the experience of eating out of a Bohri Thaal.
The first experience itself set the ball rolling for what The Bohri Kitchen has become today. I recollect sending out an email to 30 of my friends, quite a few reverted with the request to stop spamming them, but shockingly someone actually called me a few hours later “I got your email from one of your friends, Where’s your restaurant?”. Eventually, after clarifying that this is not a restaurant, she, her young daughter and a few other friends came home, sat around my dining table, ate mom's food. After the meal, she hugged my mom and said, “Aunty, you have magic in your hands!”. My mother was overtly overwhelmed with this slightest acknowledgement, which she had never received for what she did best, not even from me. And that's how The Bohri Kitchen Home Dining Experience came into being.
I still remember one of the first few experiences when a journalist asked me “What's your vision with The Bohri Kitchen?” I responded fairly seriously, “My family loves Shahrukh Khan! One day we hope he hears about us and decides to come for an experience!” It's been two-and-a-half years since then and I'm very happy to say that even though Shahrukh Khan hasn't eaten mom’s food, Farah Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Aditya Chopra, Rani Mukherjee, Anupama Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan and Huma Qureshi have!
TBK started in January 2015. The dining experiences became fairly popular to the extent that I took a significant plunge by quitting Google to become a full-time ‘Samosas Salesman’. I started by setting up a tiny delivery kitchen with help from a friend and ultimately started delivering food across the city. This was massively frustrating due to an incredible number of setbacks and basically my inability to accept that I need to get my hands dirty in the operations of my business, if I wanted to succeed. My first 1 out of 5 on Zomato led to a nervous breakdown.
Things started to slowly fall in place since this year, when I finally decided to spend more time in the kitchen and make peace with the fact that a food business cannot be run by a ‘Chief Eating Officer’ who is unwilling to get into the details of what makes a Biryani. It’s not enough to just eat the food.
One of my early mentors, describes TBK as a bicycle where one pedal representing the Branding / PR behind TBK, is on overdrive, it’s going so fast that we’ve hit the final gear. But the second pedal, which represents the operations behind the food, is struggling to even shift to second gear.
Over the next 18 months, I hope to not only shift gears but upgrade to a superbike!
(This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)