Munaf Kapadia wants to take Bohri cuisine from Mumbai to Manhattan
Munaf Kapadia has a dream — to have Bohri cuisine reach everyone, from Mumbai to Manhattan. Three years after starting The Bohri Kitchen, a home dining experience in Mumbai, his mother Nafisa’s biryani has found a following with celebrities like Rani Mukherji, business leaders in the expat community and the ever enthusiastic foodie. The 28-year-old even landed the cover of Forbes India earlier this year for their 30 Under 30 list and most recently, was roped in by Colors Infinity along with a line-up of well-known chefs like Pooja Dhingra and Rakhee Vaswani for their Eat@8 campaign, inspired to get viewers in India to eat earlier. The segment features shows like Come Dine With Me, Junior Bake-Off and My Kitchen Rules which air on weekdays.
The irony is, Munaf can’t cook! Possibly why he invented the title of Chief Eating Officer at his family-run venture. “Hey, I make a really good omelette,” he attempts to redeem himself with a laugh. But a lack of culinary skills didn’t seem to be a barrier to set up a thriving food business.
What started out as a weekend project inviting people home to try his mother’s food in 2014, has fast expanded into a business model with a delivery kitchen and catering business. So much so that Munaf decided to leave his job at Google where he handled a $10 million portfolio to sell mutton kheema samosas instead. “Just don’t ask me to make them,” he admits. The last time that happened, he elaborates,“The samosa ended up with ‘four sides’ instead of three during the TV promo shoot and my mother was in splits for about 15 seconds straight.”
Samosas aside, the favourites so far are the signature Bohri biryani, their famed Raan in Red Masala (leg of lamb) that had one family drive down from Pune to Mumbai just for a meal, and a Kaju Chicken that arrives in a thick cashew nut gravy. How do you reproduce all of that when the head chef (his 58-year-old mother) isn’t around? Munaf had to learn this the hard way when a damaging Zomato review tarnished a reputation he had painstakingly built. “So seven days after we had opened our delivery kitchen in Worli last year, I shut it down,” he tells us.
When hiring more upmarket chefs didn’t solve the problem, Munaf got so desperate that he attempted to learn to cook himself. Eventually he found his solution by hiring caterers from within the Bohri community on his payroll. “These people usually prepare food for large events like a wedding, so it’s never less than a thousand people,” he explains. Meaning, if you wanted a taste of this cuisine in the past, you either had to go to a wedding or a friend’s house. Taking a cue from the gap in the market, Munaf plans to set up a full-fledged restaurant in Mumbai by December and eventually... he takes a deep breath, “Serve Bohri food in New York. But we’ll start with Mumbai,” he says with a smile.
Eat@8 features culinary shows. Airs weekdays on Colors Infinity.