I understand that you would like to remain boutique and not mass-produce food. Please share your thoughts behind this decision.
Running a business involves a lot of small processes. You cannot skimp on them, even if they are difficult or tiring. There are times when I just want to cook and not do anything else, but the management and production process is part and parcel of my business. Typically, I start preparing my weekly menu on Wednesday. Mondays are my day off and I conduct classes on Tuesdays.
But I get orders every day, sometimes even party orders! If I feel that I can fulfil the order, or if it is from a regular customer, I won’t say no. I try my best to not refuse customers. My daughter always tells me, “Mom, there is a word called no”. I sometimes feel the effects at the end of the day. But when people see my weekly menus or my social media posts and call me to give suggestions or they leave messages – it gives me happiness and presents me with a challenge. Happiness because they trust me. And challenge because I get to try something different. If the customer feels confident to give me a task, I take it up. Those are the times when I cannot say no. Whether it is a small, big or extra order, I take it.
People are all praises about your food. And the fact you have been able to outgrow your kitchen so quickly is a huge feat. Can you share some of the customer stories or experiences?
(L to R) Dry Mango Pickle, Hing Pickle, Punjabi Mango Pickle
There is a long tradition around food. Especially with pickles, I make many traditional pickles that are not available in the market or people have stopped making. And people like my pickles not only because they taste good, but because they are healthy and preservative-free.
Once I got a call from a pregnant woman. She was craving the dry dates pickle that her mom made when she was a child. No one makes that pickle now. I also did not make them, but I knew how to make them, so I prepared some for her. And my God, her reaction! She was so happy! She called and told me that “It tasted exactly like my mom’s. You made my pregnancy so good. I’m so happy… I was craving this for a long time.” The happiness that you get to hear such things!
Lime pickles have been popular since generations. The lime pickle I make requires two to three years to mature and then you sell. I have a jar which is 25 years old, and you can also store them for a hundred years. It tastes better the more it matures, it is like gold! But, traditional lime pickles are rarely made now. Once, an old man called me. He had lime pickles at his house that were made by his grandmother. He had one last piece of the pickle remaining. His son had shown him my page, and he saw that I had black lime pickles, so he wanted to order them. I was fascinated! The man was old, and he had the lime pickle that was made by his grandmother! I immediately sent him the pickles I had made. And he was so happy! He was reminded of his grandmother.
A lot of people that eat my pickles and jams say that it reminds them of their mother or grandmother. It is so rewarding to hear that. My husband often tells me that I have become sabki nani-dadi. But that gives me a lot of happiness and validates what I’m doing is right. At times my customers call and recollect their childhood memories. They remember their grandmother making the same pickle.
These stories boost my confidence. I started my food journey with the very traditional pickles like mirchi, lime, and mango, very traditional Punjabi style. Then slowly, I started experimenting with other vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. Now I have more than 100 varieties of pickles.
Same with food. Many of my customers share their reviews on social media or send me a message. And I love to get feedback, whether it is positive or not. It helps me grow as a cook and as a person. If I do not get feedback, I feel that I may have gone wrong somewhere. Whether good or bad, feedback always helps!