Women: Be Unstoppable

 

 

“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman…If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater courage? Without her man could not be…”

– Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Personally I feel that celebrating women’s day stinks of inequality. It gives them that special status while demanding for equality!! But who are we kidding? Many of us, who may be advocating gender equality on the outset, funnily expect our dinners to be cooked and served by the women in our lives, either our moms or wives, by the time we reach home. It is as basic as when women get married or have babies they alone are expected to leave their jobs and relocate with the husband or look after the baby, as the case may be. But thankfully, gone are the days when working women were frowned upon! In fact we see so many firsts and seconds being achieved by women either on their own against all odds, or with the full support of the people around them. And today we at The Hogger’s Blog applaud such Women and look to present a few success stories of hardwork, determination and a ‘never say never’ attitude of these few Women, who are the leading ladies of our food industry.

As an army of 7 Bloggers, we at The Hogger’s Blog are a female dominated bunch, with 4 Ladies and three Men. Today Me (Suyog Narvekar) and my partner at The Hogger’s Blog Amrith Padmanand will narrate the stories of two Culinary Queens and two Food Entrepreneurs to mark the day the world celebrates as the International Women’s Day.

 

Arambhan Sisters

MSH RT AND MEAarthi and Pooja Arambhan at Me So Happi (Khar)

In no particular order of any type I would like to start off with the Arambhan sisters (Aarthi and Pooja) who are eminent entrepreneurs of the food industry in Mumbai. They own and operate the ‘Me So Happi’ restaurants at Khar and BKC and the newly opened ‘The Captain’s Table’ at BKC. These diners are a result of few sibling squabbles of which they have one thing in common, which is, their love for their mother and their relentless strive to make her wishes come true. The sisters have themselves hand-picked many of the décor pieces; from the wall hangings to the table cloths and they exult and brag about their selections. They even spar over the way food should be presented at their restaurants. I had the privilege of a small chat with the younger sibling, Pooja Arambhan. Pooja dawns the lawyer’s hat by the day when she handles the compliances of the diverse Arambhan Group and in the evening retires to her restaurants to micro manage them. One of her major qualifications that brings her to this list is that she was India’s Representative to the United Nations Women Empowerment Conference a couple of years back and that she also helps out women in building up their micro-businesses. So let’s dive into what Pooja has to say about some questions I threw at her:-

Q1. What made you venture into the Food industry?
Ans. The Arambhan group, Pooja informs me already had a great presence in the Offshore Catering Industry and her mother owned two famous restaurants in her day- Vandana at Mahim and the Bandrafest at Carter Road, where now the CCD stands. Their mother gave that up when the sisters were born and in order to give it back to their mom, Aarthi first came up with the idea of ‘Me So Happi’.

Q2. Who is the female iconic presence in your life that has inspired you the most?
Ans. Not so surprisingly, I already knew the answer to this question even before I asked it. The Arambhan sister duo are prominently inspired by their Mother and ‘Me So Happi’ and ‘The Captain’s Table’ are nothing but a tribute to their Mother.

Q3. Being a woman, did you face any particular problems in the Food Industry?
Ans.  Although she cedes that the kitchen is a male-dominated area, she herself is lucky enough not to face any discrimination internally in her restaurants (benefits of owning them, aren’t they Pooja?? :P) But she realizes the plight of women in general, facing discrimination in every strata of life and herself too has faced difficult situations as a woman in dealing with people. And she is extremely proud of the fact that one of her restaurants boasts of a very accomplished woman pastry chef.

Q4. What is the one thing you think a woman brings to a workplace a Man can’t?
Ans. “Compassion”, she replied quickly. Feigning offence at the answer I asked her if we men lack compassion? To which she promptly replied, “The way a woman can express compassion men never can. Women look into the finer details of things”.

Q5. Do you think we really need an International Women’s Day?
Ans. No was her prompt answer. She resonated my opinion to the fact that it gives a hint of inequality. “Why just one day? she asks. You also call me only one day in a year and for this!” (A mental note was made to call Pooja more regularly J )

Q6. What is your favorite dish?
Ans. “At ‘Me So Happi’, the Bunny Chow and the Caribbean Roti depending on my mood”. On being further nudged about her favorite dish apart from her own restaurants she answers, what we share as our favorite dish, the Pav Bhaji at Amar Juice Center. (A mental note was again made ;))

Q7. What suggestions would you give to other women who wish to enter your line of work?
Ans. She urges her fellow females to dart out of their comfort zones and take more risks in order to move forward. “Don’t be scared”, she says. “Have an open mind. Take risks. Be dedicated, consistent and punctual”.

A lady of her words, Pooja herself was very punctual while giving this small interview to me for which I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I wish her all the very best in all her endeavors and much much love.

Now I shall pass on the baton to Amrith who will be sharing with you the bytes he got from Chef Kshama Prabhu, Chef Rakhee Vaswani and the owner of Tea Villa Cafes, Roopanshi Bhatt:-

Chef Rakhee Vaswani:

Chef Rakhee Vaswani, Author, Picky Eaters Rakhee at the launch of her book

Rakhee Vaswani is a celebrity chef, culinary expert, food consultant, teacher, author, cooking show host, entrepreneur and above all, a food lover at heart. Certified by the Le Cordon Bleu at Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie in London, Rakhee began her culinary journey at the tender age of 11, keenly observing her aunts cook delicious food that caught her fancy (and her heart). Touted to be the ‘Desi Nigella’ of India, Rakhee is a natural with flavours and textures, her biggest asset being her strong palate and a deep rooted passion for the culinary arts and the food industry. Her first baby is ‘Palate Culinary Studio’, where she conducts over 100 different classes, crafted to interest everyone between the age group of 6 to 60.

September 2015 is when Chef Rakhee Vaswani, in her true celebrity sense, became the face of a new TV show called ‘Rewind with Rakhee’ on India’s first channel food-tainment channel called Living Foodz. She also went on to write her first cookbook ‘Picky Eaters’.

Q1. What drove you to venture out into the food industry?
Ans. At the age of 11 itself, I realized that I have a strong palate. If food was not tasty or appealing to me, I knew I could simply go to the kitchen and cook up something delectable with the help of my mom, aunts and neighbors. Having realized my capabilities and passion at a young age, I took no formal training as I always found solace in the kitchen and picked up talent from home-kitchens. This has helped me grow into a culinary expert with a strong base. Then came my husband, who is a connoisseur and it is because of him that I discovered a whole new journey of food. Coming from a Sindhi background, probably formal training wasn’t the correct way to go at that point but my partner knew I needed it sooner or later in life. This is why my journey begun from always being self-taught to getting a Le Cordon Bleu certificate, working with French chefs, going behind kitchens and hence kitchen is the one place I find the most satisfaction in. I then started my home-cooking business, shut it down to be a hands-on mom I knew that the restaurant industry changing every day. My relation with food never stopped because I have a family with just a strong palate, I always had a list of critics expecting better from me and my capabilities. These situations groomed me more and more. Even though I wasn’t working in the food industry, I was working towards it! A lot of my international travels included visiting culinary institutes and quenching thirst for exploring new cuisines, ingredients, ideas, equipment and the learning process never stopped. A few years later my kids wanted me out of their hair and that’s when my third baby was born – Palate Culinary Studio. As scared as I was since I was coming into the industry after 8-9 years, I gathered all my knowledge together and opened a small studio in a garage. The concept was to not give you a feeling of home, making home cooking a little more professional.

Being very technically challenged, social media and SEO were alien to me. I never had to use them in the start of my career and I can proudly say that work speaks for you. Having started with 10 one-day workshops to 100+ today, from a garage to a premium boutique studio, from having students aged 5 years to 80 years and having home makers to celebrities as my students to even professional bakers now, I’ve done it all and I’ll keep teaching, because I want to go down in history as the best teacher since it comes to me naturally. Today I’m a culinary expert, cooking and baking teacher, food consultant, professional chef, food blogger, TV show host, and the author of my own cookbook.

Q2. What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your industry?
Ans. The food industry is sky rocketing. It’s on a jet set speed. Everyday there is something new I learn and explore which sometimes gets a little overwhelming. The rapid growth is amazing but there is a lot to catch up to so I need to be keeping up all the time and be in sync with daily inventions and evolutions in the food world.

Q3. What advice would you like to give all the women out there who want to start something on their own?
Ans. After hearing my story I hope a lot of women reading this will realise that it is never too late to start or restart your career. If your passion is strong enough, you can shake it and wake it to make it your new goal ANYTIME! Age no bar! Another thing, never give up on learning. Never think you know it all. Each and every day will teach you something or the other. Even though I teach 100+ cuisines, I always learn something every day. Never stop that! And of course imparting that knowledge further is a great deed. At the same time, trials & errors and research are very important. A cook is like a Chef because without trying too hard a cook’s palate will know if the flavours are in balance. It’s also essential to give your own personal touch to each recipe. In the same way, no matter what career path you’re riding on, give it your own style and twist. No competition is good enough for you to stop yourself from being yet another player in the market. Add that extra flavour of passion, spice it up with some efforts and relish the fruits of your hard work thereafter even if you’re 50/60 years old, just start!

Chef Kshama Prabhu

Kshama Prabhu - Executive Chef -The Bar Stock Exchange, BKC
Kshama at TBSE

Culinary diva Kshama Prabhu’s world collides with the big city guys at The Bar Stock Exchange as the Exec Chef in this busy suburban city of Mumbai. She hails over 10 years of experience in the food industry with numerous quality awarded and renowned restaurants from Mumbai, London, Dubai and Australia and has worked with the deadliest and mighty best with the likes of Chef Gordon Ramsey and Nancy Kinchella.

Ever wondered why food ticks as good as the drinks in TBSE, it all comes with a pinch of magic from Chef Kshama Prabhu’s hand. We are here to ask her a few questions this Women’s day:

Q1.What brought on the idea to venture into this line of work?
Ans. I was more fascinated by the glamour of the industry. But back home my mom is fantastic cook. So during school holidays I would be joining some of the other baking or cooking class and experiment at home and would really get happy when everyone appreciated what I cooked. When I joined hotel management I chose to major in culinary as I realized cooking had become my passion and in my near future career I would be reaping benefits off of it.

Q2. Who would you say inspired you into this field?
Ans. Well two people, first being my mom and the second one was sachin tendulkar .

Q3. Being a woman, did you face any particular problems in this food industry?
Ans. Most of my work experience has been abroad. It’s not as bad as it’s in India. But when I came to India there were not too many women chefs in the industry and I kinda got a lot of cold shoulder. But eventually I learnt my way around and held myself together for going ahead.

Q4.Tell me one thing that a woman brings to a workplace that men can’t?
Ans. I think women are great team players. They can easily analyze the situation and are very assertive.

Q5.Do you think we really need a separate International women’s day?
Ans. Well I personally think in today’s male dominated world a woman’s day is necessary. But then u just one day for celebrating womanhood. Why can’t it be everyday where a woman is appreciated and not opperesed or compelled into things. Well I might sound a little feminist…haha.

Q6.Which is your all-time favorite dish?
Ans. It’s the dal khichdi and Mangalorean aloo sabji my mom makes. It’s the yummiest that ever and I can have it at any given point of time.

Q7.What suggestions would you give to other women who wish to enter your line of work?

Ans. For the fellow women who would like to enter my field of work, I think it’s very simple. They need to hold their mettle together and he ready for all the action and face it like a tiger. It’s after all not that bad. Keep that attitude along with passion and work with grace and i shall they would soar the heights.

Roopanshi Bhatt

11039229_10207125824800437_4510261239563770999_nRoopanshi and Micky with their staff at Tea Villa Cafe (Vile Parle)

Calling Roopanshi Bhatt a female entrepreneur is an understatement. She is a youth prodigy. At such a young age, she not only owns two restaurants but she’s almost pioneering the Chai revolution in Mumbai. The country where tea runs in our veins all we had was coffee houses catering to the need of young and the office going. The middle class yearned for good Tea at a proper café and Roopanshi spotting that need conjured up the Tea Villa Café at Vile Parle, which very recently opened up its sister branch at Bandra. Lets hear more from Roopanshi about her journey from just another college student to an entrepreneurial prodigy:-

Q1. What brought on the idea to venture into this line of work?
Ans. Getting into food industry was never in my mind, I have given my 4 years to the Event industry specializing into destination weddings and planning. My career started by working in this industry as a Sr.Client servicing, working 24 hrs for clients.

My journey started after meeting Mr.Micky Panjwani, as my senior and a good friend, traveling around cities for weddings in India and Out of India, I used to miss my mom and her home-made tea. When I used to get up that was when my day used to start, ending up at a tapri chai corner having masala chai. One day sitting at a coffee joint having coffee even-though I wanted to have a cup of tea came a thought in my and Micky’s head. India being such a big market for tea why don’t we have a tea place and only just tapri corner and 5star hotels. This was the turning point in my life where we first thought to start a tea joint and hence we named it as TEA VILLA Cafe.

Q2. Who would you say inspired you into this field?
Ans. My mother makes the best tea is what I used to say to everyone. Friends who used to have her Tea would always tell me to start a tapir and we would all have a laugh over it. But she was the one who inspired us to start Tea Villa as she was the one who always wanted to start a cafe with a library in her retired life.
So basically my mother is my inspiration to start Tea Villa

Q3. Being a woman, did you face any particular problems in this food industry?
Ans. Being a woman makes me strong and problems are there in all the industries, particularly in food industry I have not faced such a situation which is out of control as I have the support of my family and Micky around me.

Q4.Tell me one thing that a woman brings to a workplace that men can’t?
Ans. I feel a woman is much strong and positive to face all situations at the work place she will never give up in life, I have learned a lot from life in such young age that I feel everyday I keep learning.

Q5.Do you think we really need a separate International women’s day?
Ans. I think we should have one, so as to appreciate all the hard working women.

Q6.Which is your all-time favorite dish?
Ans. My all-time Favorite dish is Burmese dish, Khaosuey.

Q7.What suggestions would you give to other women who wish to enter your line of work?
Ans. I always tell people to Follow their dreams, never give up on them. So my suggestion to all wonderful women out there is to keep dreaming and follow them and to trust yourselves. Have patience and work hard to achieve your goals. Things will follow with time.

 

So while Pooja tells you to come out of your comfort zone, Kshama tells you to take all the action like a tiger. Rakhee assures you that age is no bar and Roopanshi tells you to back yourselves. I feel they all point to just one thing. Women should stop feeling unequal. Femme is fatale for a reason. I know there is a lot of inequality and since we are quoting Gandhi in this post I would say “Be the Change you wish to see”. If you feel women should be treated equally then treat men as your equals, not as the stronger sex. Stand up to them and face them like the tigers you are. Never ask for special status as a woman as it only furthers the inequality. But never let yourselves be discriminated against by men and other women alike, because believe me there are very few things we men fear, more than an agitated and determined woman. I sign off by wishing you all a very Happy International Women’s Day. Carpe Diem!

–By Suyog and Amrith (The Hogger Brothers)

 

PS : A big shout out to our team at the The Hogger’s Blog who helped us tirelessly. Neha Shaw for nipping us in the bud, Parinaz & Sarthak for the endless and at times offensive title suggestions, Sanskaara for the efforts which were unfortunately hindered by a personal tragedy and Saylee for her undaunted support.

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. janesus says:

    Motivating and inspiring! Thanks for sharing. Jane, http://www.theblurbspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks a lot on behalf of the entire team:)

      Liked by 1 person

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