Hyderabad's Fat Cat Kitchen offers a range of delicious burgers
The owner shares, "When the pandemic came and the live gigs took a hit, I had nothing to do — with what I had saved, I kept paying the artists whom I was managing"
As a child, he had always enjoyed being in the kitchen, but little did he know he would grow up to run an eatery someday. Meet musician-turned-cook — Arun Ruben (aka BaaBaa) — whose burgers are currently the talk of the town. “There was this stigma at home about men being in the kitchen, so I never really thought of taking it up professionally. But I, sort of, enjoyed and mastered the art, more so because I live by myself and have no choice if I had to save money, says Arun.
Sharing how he entered the food business, he says, “Music initially started as a part-time job when I picked the guitar to cope with stress and my mental health. When someone shared a video of me performing at a small coffee shop, I got to meet a couple of other musicians and formed a band called Phoenix — I did this for over 12 years and got to eat some of the best food at various restaurants in the city. I’d entertain guests at my home by recreating foods I’ve tried at these restaurants.
When the pandemic came and the live gigs took a hit, I had nothing to do — with what I had saved, I kept paying the artists whom I was managing. At one home party, a friend of mine ate my burger to say ‘I’d pay for a burger like this’ and I jokingly asked him to. That’s when I slowly started making and selling beef burgers, chicken burgers, hot dogs, egg sandwiches and ham sandwiches from my home.”
Gradually, Arun’s dining hall turned into a mini-restaurant where he’d cook and wait and serve. One of his customers called his cat sitting in a corner a ‘fat cat’ and that’s how the name Fat Cat Kitchen (FCK) was born. What started as a cloud kitchen in December has now moved to a little shutter next door in Sainikpuri that Hyderabadis can’t stop talking about. And no, the internet has nothing to do with it. Arun explains, “I’m not a fan of social media marketing, it’s a lot of fluff, I believe my food should do the talking,” and turns out it has! Word got on the street and today FCK has over 640 reviews on Google with a 4.5 rating!
Do these ratings translate to funds? Arun replies, “Not much, but that’s also because there’s little to no vegetarian food here and the beef and pork burgers that I sell, angers two major communities in the city. I did have neighbours call the cops on me but I was able to convince the authorities that if people can buy raw meat I should be able to sell a cooked version of it. Nevertheless, I’ve had some very sweet customers and our slightly high prices manage to keep a problematic crowd away. So moneywise, we’re in an okay place, we may not change the world tomorrow, but you know you’ll get your money’s worth here.”
Arun stresses that his place is not a cafe but a burger joint that some people had trouble understanding. “We don’t serve elaborate coffees and teas — the maximum you get here is a sasta tapriwala chai that’s ranged between 20-60 rupees based on which side of the shutter you have it. Also, I know a lot of people these days love lounge-y places but I only have four tables, I can’t have people nursing their food for hours, but most customers did understand my point when I explained my concern,” he says, adding that the basic demographic is of people about 22 years old and above, with his oldest customer being 78, who visits him at least once every week.
Everything at FCK is made by Arun and head chef Bharath — the two are assisted by Ganesh, while Munna takes care of the chai. As one would expect, Arun did get a good number of expansion and collaboration offers that he had to reject due to several reasons including certain demands to change his menu, method, location, etc. “Sainikpuri has made FCK what it is, it needs to stay here because it lacks a decent burger joint. People who live on this side of the city have had to travel to Jubilee Hills or Begumpet for a good burger but this place has changed that,” he shares.
Having lived by himself all his life, the 38-year-old can’t digest food being wasted and hence, asks his customers to pre-order certain foods on his fairly large menu, including Indian food, so as to prep well, save time, food and money.
The little cosy corner is all soul food and no fluff, lights and interior decor for the ‘gram. Arun lists their signature beef burger, chicken burger, sandwiches, chicken wings and pulaos to be some big sellouts and calls his butter chicken ‘mental’! In the long run, he hopes to finish building a decent burger-wings-beer-karaoke place, that has a good classic rock, retro and funk & reggae musician playing his bit in a corner, thus marrying both of Arun’s passions.