The living room of Anjali Chadha remained unaffected by the sultriness of an uncharacteristically hot autumn afternoon. It was bubbling with chit-chat — discussions among five women about their new-found hobby. Adding to the lively ambience was the sweet smell of confectionaries that lay like a beautiful spread on the coffee table.
“Marriage and kids change a lot of things, especially for a woman. No matter how much you deny it and talk about equality, but at times it’s just impossible to have a perfect work and home balance,” says Anjali Chadha, 35, a resident of Gurgaon who, until having her kids, was a senior executive for an accounting firm in Delhi.
Anjali, like several other women in India, gave up her job so that she could spend more time with her children. “I really didn’t want my children to grow up in the hands of hired help, so I quit my job. But there was always this free time at hand which kept bothering me. So I started taking orders in my neighbourhood for meals,” added Anjali.
Like Anjali, several women in this locality, have embarked on the same enterprise. You must have heard of this new concept called “Home chefs”. Well, if you haven’t already, let me put it straight and simple. Home chefs are basically home cooks, who prepare mostly easy-to-follow recipes in their own kitchens to be collected by interested clients. “We have a WhatsApp group and a Facebook page called “Legend Cook In Book” in which several ladies like me put up whatever they are making with a picture, price and pick up time,” Anjali added.
43-year-old and a mother of two, Jyoti Mendiratta ,who co-founded “Legend Cook In Book”, thinks it’s a very good idea as it helps people to get to know each other. Plus, it promotes their hidden talents. “At times people don’t wish to cook, so ordering in becomes the next best thing. But not everyone is a big fan of unhealthy, oily food. With this app, we get an idea of people’s preferences.”
“The best part about ordering from home chefs is that you know the quality of the food will be quite good as the chef is going to use ingredients they themselves use at home. Plus you save on taxes.”
Radhika Mukerjee, a mother of two, further explained this concept, “See, the best part about ordering from home chefs is that you know the quality of the food will be quite good as the chef is going to use ingredients they themselves use at home. Plus you save on taxes. There is also the convenience of proximity, you may just have to pick up your order from, let’s say, two floors up or down.”
“It’s a great platform as being a housewife I have the time to look after my kids while simultaneously being able to pursue my interests in cooking professionally. I’m not saying it’s easy. At times I stay up till four in the morning to prepare for the next day. But the clients’ appreciation and the smile on neighbourhood kids’ faces make it worthwhile,” says Ila Prakash Singh, who has been a home chef for eight years now and is famous in Gurgaon for her cakes and other baked products.
These days, thanks to the plethora of delivery services, being a home chef is something almost anyone can try. What one needs to really concentrate on, as a home chef, is the quality of food. Because often for an overworked homemaker, it is an uphill task to churn out customised dishes of superior quality. The trick lies in keeping the orders small, something that home chefs can manage. Thus, several people who earlier ventured out in this space ended up shutting shop later due to a fall in demand as the quality of their food deteriorated over time.
250 kilometers away from the capital city, lives another home chef who has not only kept her orders small but also very unique. Jaipur resident Palak Devpura, who specialises in making chocolate truffles, says, “I like to keep my orders small as I get more time to work on them, so the quality doesn’t suffer.”
Palak has been working with chocolates for three years now. “I’m from Indore and got married here in Jaipur, but being a full-time housewife I had a lot of free time on my hands. So I started learning about chocolates and after that I started to make them for people,” she says.
A majority of home chefs have a very limited clientele, comprising mostly friends, neighbors and relatives. “It’s not easy as the pressure is huge. Will they like it? What if I over cook it? My first two orders tanked really bad as the chicken in my chicken biryani became very soggy by the time they reached the client’s place. But with time and practice I can manage it now,” adds Anjali Chadha.
Becoming a home chef is far from being a big venture. But with adequate equipment and emotional support from friends and family, more housewives might want to puruse a full-time career in this field.