Before lockdown, hotels and restaurants across the globe had diners walking in to enjoy delicious meals. However, for a month now, our city has turned into a ghost town of sorts with popular food outlets at shopping malls and crowded neighbourhood remaining closed owing to the pandemic. People have now changed their dining preferences as many have resorted to ordering meals from apps. Some have started subscribing meals from local food entrepreneurs who operate from their homes. These entrepreneurs delight customers with their signature dishes and promote using Instagram or word-of-mouth.
DT Next reached out to chefs from the city to understand what the residents are eating and how they operate during this stay-at-home period.
For the past two years, Alwarpet resident, Nikhil Gopakumar has been running his brand, OG Nutrition, offering keto meals that give individualised nutrient-intake based on each customer's diet plans. Nikhil's brand which started from his home, now functions at a commercial kitchen, operating with a strength of 50 employees, serving more than 400 people every day across Chennai and Bengaluru. His meals have also caught the attention of noted celebrities like Shraddha Srinath.
He informs that he keeps changing the menu every day so that his customers get all vitamins and minerals. Speaking about some of his best-selling food, Nikhil says, “From our regular subscription model, keto pizza and sugar-free chia pudding is everyone’s favourite. They also enjoy our almond-flour bread and desserts."
The young chef notes that since the pandemic, some are a bit skeptical to order food from outside. “To maintain transparency, I decided to record the entire cooking process as live videos on Instagram. I also upload other behind-the-scene footage of the food being prepared,” he explains. “I exercise extreme precaution and follow high hygiene standards to serve the healthiest of meals. I take a temperature check of all my employees, the person in charge of delivering and other people who handle the food."
Nikhil prints all this information on the meal box and shares it with his customers, so that they are aware of the safety measures he follows. "I also have an open window in my kitchen. So, whoever wishes to check-in can see how clean it is,” he stresses. He also says that his videos have gained traction on social media, thanks to the mouth-water delicacies he cooks and many have reached out to him to ask about his menu.
Similarly, Shitija Nahata offers desserts and vegetarian meals through her brand, FitChef. Sharing about her popular dishes, the entrepreneur says that her veg and non-vegetarian Mexican bowl and stir fry Chinese greens are much loved. “I offer a portioned meal under 350 calories for lunch and dinner. I buy all my ingredients from certified vendors and I use a minimal amount of oil in my cooking,” says Shitija.
While some foodies prefer ordering, some also wish to cook themselves. Pumpkin Tales in Alwarpet is aiming to bridge this gap by offering unique DIY meal kits as a part of their takeaway menu. One of the founders, Bhuvaneshwari tells that their bestsellers which include, pasta, burger and pizzas, are now flying off the shelf. “As people are trying to have fun in their kitchen these days, we decided to come up with DIY meals,” says Bhuvaneshwari. “For example, we offer pizza base with a special sauce and cheese. So customers can take them home and add whatever topping they like,” she says.