Both Joshua and I have been inactive for quite some time on Lifestylerr. Sincere apologies to all our readers. It’s just that there was a lot happening during our hiatus. I enrolled for an SEO course that kept me busy while Joshua was occupied with his work relating to his debut novel "A Chance For Darkness". We were also engaged in some in-depth planning to revamp the blog and make crucial new additions that will help enhance the content and work some SEO-magic.
Here we are with our first BRAND NEW section for our blog – Rendezvous with Lifestylerr. What we desire to share with you in this section is a short tete-a-tete with start-up or off-beat businesses and the people behind them. It could be spas, salons, travel planners/agencies, restaurants, cafes, fashion stores, online shopping portals or anything else that is associated with the Lifestyle niche.
We are proud to introduce Chef Ajeet from EAT, Aundh Pune as our first guest on Rendezvous with Lifestylerr. We offered him a questionnaire and here are Chef Ajeet’s cool and wonderfully professional replies.
1. What Is EAT?
Eat is our attempt to serve delicious food in a no-frill format. We thrive to serve good food which is not too heavy on the pocket and get ‘gourmet’ food to the streets and masses. The name is intentionally generic so as to not really bind us too any particular cuisine or within the parameters of any culinary region. So it would be fair enough to say that it is kind of a platform to do various culinary experiments.
Right now we are serving our very own Indianised versions of Mexican and Arabic cuisine which we call ‘Mexikhana’ and ‘Arabikhana’ along with innovative burgers like Thecha Burger. At the same time we do not play with the basic authenticity of the cuisine but yes we do substitute certain ingredients and notch up a few spice notes so as to match our local palates. So we can say that our Hummus is perfectly authentic but our Enchilada sauce has been tweaked. Or if we consider our signature hot selling dish, ‘ChilliPav’, we have taken the very Mexican Chilli, but with Chicken or Soy mince of course, instead of the Beef and served it with buttered Pav.
The puritans can have their say but it is chilli and it is served with Pav!! We are constantly working on our menus and doing continuous research and recipe development to come out with even more varieties of our food, so very soon we might have Noodle Bowls, Flame grilled Chicken or even Street food from around the world on our menu.
2. Tell us about its inception
I have very lucky enough to have been part of many successful restaurants in Pune and Mumbai, as an employee, consultant or both. This created an immense urge to jump on to the entrepreneur wagon and try and do something for myself. Of course like it is with every startup, money was the biggest problem and so was the risk of leaving a secure job and start living a hand to mouth existence. But that got the better of me and along with a friend as partner we decided to put in whatever we had and start. Our intentions were very clear like I have mentioned earlier, serve good food at good prices and that’s how Eat came up.
3. What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”
LOL!! Anybody who knows me will not say that. It is fun, but if you like doing what you want to, love working weekends and long hours, not spending enough time with family…and the list goes on. More importantly, the very clichéd, if you have the passion for it. Yes but if you like to see a guest walking out of your premise with a smile and contended expression on their face then it is really fun. And most importantly, if the money is coming in, yeah boy it is fun.
4. Why did you choose to become a Chef?
I seriously wouldn’t have any answer for it, always wanted to, but also always wanted to be other things as well. I think I can blame it on the satellite television revolution that hit us when I was in high school. So I used to come home to Yan Can Cook and other television cookery shows every day.
5. What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
With the internet it’s become really easy to stay abreast with all trends and happenings nowadays. What more it even allows one to be on the mailing list of several hospitality information and research websites. So are books and trade magazines. But the real thing is to see, read, understand, innovate and experiment.
6. How did you come up with this offbeat concept at EAT?
I always knew that to a certain extent all the international cuisines served around here have been Indianised at varying levels, be it with ingredients, cooking techniques or serving styles. We are just not ready to accept it irrespective whether we are fine dine restaurants, specialty restaurants or QSRs. Also the Mexican cuisine, lets ignore things like nachos for a while, is considered high end or high street friendly, so I wanted to make it street friendly and mass appealing. That’s where ‘Mexikhana’ or desi Mexican food started. And I think we achieved doing what we had planned by serving Mexikhana and Innovative grilled burgers at a very pocket friendly price range.
7. Why choose Pune?
I am based out of Pune and have my entire setup here, so naturally pune was the first choice.
8. There are a lot of restaurants in this area. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?
We, at EAT Aundh Pune, aim to attract guests by our culinary expertise and our unique products. Moreover where else could one savor ChilliPav, Enchiladas, Quesadillas, Thecha Burger, Tandoori Burger and more at the same place. To stress a bit more on our burgers, they are all grilled, not fried and our whole proteins rather than mince, apart from our grilled chicken burger and veg burger, all the burgers are either a whole chunk of marinated cottage cheese or chicken breast.
9. What is a MUST-HAVE when at EAT?
ChilliPav, Thecha Burger, Big Chicken Burger, Quesadillas, Jawanneh, Hot Wings, Nachos, BBQ Burger, Mexican Wrap…..
10. What do you do to insure the quality of the food going out to customers at EAT?
We at EAT, Aundh Pune have a complete team of professionally trained chefs and managers who are the back bone of our operations. There are standardized recipes and procedures in place. Even more, it’s always a cook or a chef cooking the food at the store rather than a novice just assembling stuff. It’s all fresh and cooked from scratch. Of course there are surprise visits by me to do random tasting, checking of fridges and overall hygiene. We also take all our guest feedback very seriously and work and solve every complain we get.
11. What is your favorite cuisine to cook? Why?
I could say that my favorite cuisine to cook might be European / Mediterranean because I have been extensively trained and experienced in the same. But I also enjoy cooking Oriental food.
12. What is your favorite food to eat?
I love eating Oriental food.
13. Tell me about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.
Winning a bronze medal the Great Indian Culinary Challenge in Mumbai, 2006. Also it feels really good to be behind some very good restaurants in Pune – Flags, Mezza9 and Copacabana.
14. How have you changed over the last two years?
I have surely changed from being just a chef to a chef owner. From understanding the working of a professional kitchen, ingredients and techniques to understanding the most important functions of business, Finance, although it’s a long way to go for me to master it.
15. What are your plans for EAT in the next 2 years?
I am yet working on tweaking and redoing the menu and playing around with it till I am sure that I have achieved the right product mix. Once that is done I will surely look at doing at least 3 more outlets in Pune. Yeah provided I have furthered my knowledge on the Finance side.
16. How hard has it been to hire and keep good employees? Are there any other challenges for a new setup VS a chain?
Luckily, staffing has not been a problem for us since we have been around in the industry for quite some time at the hands on level so we have a lot of people in our circle and get sufficient replacements as and when required. The biggest challenge for a startup would surely be initial funding. If that is in place you are almost sorted, because you can hire professional services for all requirements and get rolling.
17. What is your signature dish and why that particular dish?
I would surely say ChilliPav for Eat. I loved thinking about it, making it and even eating it.
18. Give me 5 words to describe your restaurant.
It would surely be ‘The Good Food Place’
19. Give me an example of a Winter menu you would prepare for me?
From Eat let’s say, Mexican Chilli Bean Soup, Jawanneh, Bean Quesadillas and ChilliPav or Fajita Bowl.
20. Your thoughts on Lifestylerr
It’s a good place to gather a lot of helpful info and that too from varied fields. As for people like me, it feels nice that someone is taking the effort of bring up the cause of small brands and places trying to do good and innovative things within their sphere of work.
So Puneites, you know where to head for a desi-version of Arabic and Mexican Khana at incredibly good prices! Do let us know your thoughts on EAT which is located in Aundh Pune.
If you have liked this Rendezvous with Lifestylerr and want to be featured on the blog, you can contact us here.