Stars shine on myriad platters
Looks like Malayali actors do know a lesson or two about gastronomy as much as about histrionics. After treating our hearts with some well-baked characters that stayed within us, many are out to pamper our stomachs as well.
For many Malayali film stars, the restaurant business has turned out to be a dishy affair to pay back all the affection showered on them, besides raking in the extra moolah. And this intriguing combination of cinema and food has so far been a very appetising combo.
The ‘fame hungry’ out there are already thronging these restaurants to binge on the delicacies their screen gods have to offer.
Dileep, one of Kerala’s superstars, is no newbie to the restaurant business. After opening Mango Tree, a restaurant at Fort Kochi, a tourist hotspot, Dileep has plunged deeper into the business with Dhe Puttu, a restaurant that offers many varieties of puttu (a typical Kerala breakfast delicacy). Suddenly, the Kochi crowd seems to have taken to the taste of puttu, which, until some years ago, struggled to find a place in restaurant menus.
Today, Dhe Puttu is one of the most sought-after eateries, with people waiting for hours (braving heavy rain, too) to dig into the different varieties of puttu on offer.
Is it the ‘star attraction’ that pulls in the customers? “Not at all,” says Dileep. “We offer tasty, healthy and hygienic food. Besides, we maintain good quality, and that is precisely why people come to us.”
Nadir Shah, actor and partner of Dhe Puttu, adds that star value will not help if you don’t offer good food. “Of course, the media attention will place locate us quickly on the radar,” he says. “But, unless the people are impressed by the food you offer, none will want to visit the restaurant again.”
Dhe Puttu is already on the path of growth. “We have plans to open at Thiruvananthapuram, too,” says Nadir Shah.
Actor Siddique, owner of the Mamma Mia Food Court, at Kochi agrees. Siddique says he has an obligation to provide good food to people as customers pour in from other districts to Mamma Mia just because “actor Siddique owns it”.
“It affects me as a person if I don’t give them good food as the USP of my restaurant is that it is owned by me. In fact, I was adamant that Mamma Mia provides healthy food at cheap rates,” says Siddique who is planning to start a ‘boutique hotel’ alongside Mamma Mia.
Indrajith Sukumaran, another leading actor, has also tasted success in the food business. He, along with his actor-brother Prithviraj Sukumaran, are the directors of Spice Boat, a multi-cuisine restaurant at Doha, Qatar, owned by their mother Mallika Sukumaran, who is also an actor. “Spice Boat is owned by our mother. We are happy that it is quite popular among the Malayali crowd. We have got good reviews as well,” says Indrajith.
So, did the celebrity tag help? “Of course, the opening of Spice Boat was well covered by the Qatari media just because we are the owners. But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to one fact, ‘the food’. It is hard to survive with just the celebrity tag if you don’t rise up to their expectations,” says Indrajith. He adds that plans are underway to begin Spice Boat in the United Arab Emirates, too, where there is a large expatriate Malayali crowd.
Krishna, actor-model and owner of Andhra Meals and Tandoor, a renowned restaurant in Kochi, believes that people come to Andhra Meals just because it serves good food. “People do know that Andhra Meals is owned by me,” he says. “But the only means to lure in customers is by providing good food.”
As for director Ashique Abu, famous for his ‘new-gen’ flicks, he has opened Cafe Papaya recently.
With success stories being scripted on food, it seems like more and more people from the film fraternity are toying with the idea of starting eateries. One of them is actor Kunchacko Boban who has expressed a desire to start a restaurant which serves organic food.
And for many in the film world whose destiny is determined by the box office results on Friday, food is definitely something that helps them stay afloat.