BENGALURU: Preetha Ima has been a busy woman these days. With people wary of ordering from or dining in at restaurants, food made by home chefs like Ima have been more in demand. “Earlier, I got more weekend orders. But now, every day is like a Sunday and I get 20-30 orders daily,” says the Hebbal resident. Rachna Rao, co-founder of FoodyBuddy – an app that connects buyers with home chefs, says there has been a huge demand for them in these times. A new app launched by them, called Chef Buddy – meant to help those running their home food business – has seen more than 1,000 sign-ups in one month alone.
Other home chefs report a similar trend. Through her venture House of Ghorpade, Supriya Ghorpade offers heirloom dishes that have been part of the Sandur royal family for generations.Her new clientele has gone up by 30 per cent and these days, Ghorpade also has to turn down orders on some days. “I stay near Jakkur but I’ve had customers order from CBD, JP Nagar and Whitefield too,” she says. A single point source, says Ghorpade, who adds, “Over time we’ve built a relationship with our customers so people have that comfort level.” It is exactly this point that Madhu Sundararajan finds convincing. She has ordered home-cooked meals 8-9 times since the beginning of the lockdown.
With no domestic help or cook, Sundararajan was soon starting to find it tedious to manage chores and meal preparation. Ordering from a home chef started to give her just the respite she needed. “It feels more relatable to order from them because they seem just like you and me. I do feel like home chefs take more care about safety than a kitchen that produces mass quantities of food,” says Sundarajan, who finds an added bonus in supporting female-run businesses through this.
Some home chefs have also had to reinvent their dishes in this time. Ima, who uses the app FoodyBuddy to sell her dishes, has had to add momos, pani puri, lasagna, butter chicken, tangdi kabab, and idly vada to her menu as well. While orders for special occasions like birthdays were bigger pre-lockdown days, now, Ima has noticed a need for simpler dishes too. “One of my customers ordered just 30 chapatis that would go along with the curry she prepared.
The ability to order smaller portions also makes home chefs popular,” says Ima, who mainly provides dishes to those residing in the same apartment complex as her. Agrees Ghorpade, who says people want a break from cooking every day. “They are looking for hearty food but also healthy options. Our menu has authentic Maharastrian dishes like pandhra rassa, tambda rassa which is basically like ghar ka khaana but not so common in the south,” she adds.
Sumitra Kalapatapu, who used to offer home dining experiences for Andhra cuisine before Covid, is now selling pickles and podis from home instead. While she has been doing this occasionally over five years, this is the first time she is trying it full-time. “We have to adapt to the times,” she says, adding that her podis, including curry leaf powder and mulga podi, have been a big hit. “When they don’t feel like cooking, my customers like to add some of the podi to a simple dish of curd rice to make it taste better,” she says.