Women to Watch: “Do Everything in your Means to Deliver Top-notch Quality,” Points Sheetal Saxena of Colocal

Short Description
Every year on 8th of March Women's Day is performed to celebrate the achievements of the women. This March, Restaurant India is talking to all top women chefs and restaurant owners in the country who have done a remarkable job in bringing Indian restaurant industry on the world culinary map.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Sheetal Saxena

It is a beautiful feeling to watch your dream take shape. Running a brand that gets such overwhelming love every day, is an empowering experience - one that leaves you hungrier to do better every day. I feel grateful, blessed, confident and eager to do more,” shared Sheetal Saxena, Founder, Colocal happily as the brand has got an overwhelming response since its opening. There’s no denying that the curiosity that this generation has for food is new and exciting. There’s a deeper interest to know the backstory of every dish, and there’s definitely more knowledge, thanks to the Internet and global food shows such as MasterChef — patrons now have a penchant for trying out new food. “There’s an evident inclination towards artisanal foods, food that is freshly made and ethically grown, and food that is local, seasonal, and nutrient-rich. The “woke” generation is actually pretty woke and is choosing foods that benefit their surroundings — such as our environment,” she added further by pointing that this sure is an exciting time to run a concept cafe or restaurant because patrons are evolving. Excerpts from the interview:

What were some of the hurdles that came on the way?

There will always be many obstacles when you want to start something that hasn’t been done before. And these hurdles aren’t gender specific. Our biggest hurdle was the unshakeable belief that Indian cacao wasn’t good enough. When we decided to work exclusively and only with cacao grown on Indian farms, we were stopped by everyone, experts, and novices included. Because all of them had heard and read about the poor quality of Indian cacao. They said it was unfit for desserts. But we knew we would work only with Indian cacao or nothing. There was no alternative. We put our metaphorical blinders on, and sourced the most premium Indian cacao from farms in Kerala — we literally handpick our cacao beans even to this day. We explored and worked hours in the chocolate factory to finally end up producing world-class Chocolate that made delicious desserts and Delhi’s favorite Hot Chocolate.

What has kept you going?

The fact that we are working with Indian cacao - something that has never been explored or experimented with has given us a lot of scope. We are like children in the chocolate factory — we find ourselves working on something fresh that has never been done before very often — this brings us a lot of happiness. See chocolate is still very basic in our country. We are introducing newer ways to experience chocolate and the best part is, our patrons are as thrilled to eat them.

What’s your expansion plan?

Our chocolate bars and other pantry products such as handmade cookies, baked chocolate, Chocolate, and Hazelnut Spread, Peanut Butter are available on our website for order. These products are also already present in five other cities including Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Jaipur, and Noida at all Roastery Coffee House outlets. Roastery Coffee is a sister brand.

Tell us about your other businesses and brand.

We have recently opened doors to Cafe Athyeka — my own tribute to the culture and food of South India, a region I love dearly and have profound respect for. Indian cacao is grown only in the southern states of our country. When I was studying cacao, I spent many months living close to the farms and getting a first-hand experience of their culture. I developed a deep love for their food and traditions. And every time I came back to my house in north India, I realized how we have only minimal knowledge about their flavours, culinary expertise, traditions, etc. It almost felt like a responsibility to share the experience. It also beautifully brings in such a sense of unity amongst our citizens to know and eat food from other states from our own nation.

5 tips you would want to share with fellow women restaurant owners?

These tips are not just for women restaurant owners but for all who want to pursue a career in the food industry:

·         Do everything in your means to deliver top-notch quality.

·         Irrespective of your gender, identity, or differences — be persistent and consistent.

·         Let success never get to your head. Keep working and embracing newer ways to make your patrons feel special, cared for and wanted.

·         Read more, study more and if possible, travel more. More knowledge will bring you more ideas.

·         Be close to your team, and spend more time in the kitchen, and on the floor for a first-hand insight into what’s working and where you can be better.

·         Work with local vendors and local and seasonal produce. This helps you cut costs and also deliver better taste and better quality.

 Top Trends that you foresee.

More love for Indian-origin products, fresh foods, nutrient-rich food items, and handmade and small-batch products.

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