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|Zareen Khan Kicks It Up A Notch|
|Blogs - Spotlight|
|By Cee Zee|
California Foodie Interview
Recently Our Desi World spotted Zareen Khan on Facebook in a photo album where she was giving step by step cooking lessons to local enthusiasts and foodies in California. After a little research we were impressed with her business model. Our Desi World went on to interview entrepreneur Zareen Khan of Curry Village Foods and asked her how she balances home life and business with such success.
We also asked her to share one of her favorite recipes and Zareen happily obliged with this mouth watering dessert recipe for Flan or Caramel Custard with Orange Zest.
Here is Zareen chatting with ODW.
What made you start Curry Village Foods… what’s the story?
As with most moments of inspiration, this one was years in the making. I always knew I wanted to be my own boss and I always loved to cook. I and my husband had been thinking about starting a food-related business for almost a decade. A Desi café, fusion food catering, a sandwich shop, all sorts of possibilities and plans came and went. In the end, the final inspiration came from our annual Eid parties which always featured home-made gola kababs that everyone loved, everybody wanted to take home, and everyone wanted to eat the year round. From that came the idea of providing busy people fresh, flavorful, homemade kababs, available in their freezer. Curry Village Foods was born.
Where did you learn cooking?
My family is from Bombay and Punjab, so food is an integral part of family life. I started cooking as a teenager. My mother, my older sister, and my brother-in-law are all amazing cooks. I was lucky to have eaten their cooking and to have learned their art.
What is your biggest inspiration?
That moment when a friend eats my food and savors the morsel, that moment inspires and motivates me. I love to see my creation give the joy that only food cooked with love and care brings.
And I really love it when that person is a child. That kids love my food and love taking kabab sandwiches to school, is immensely inspiring.
What is your (Curry Village Food’s) biggest achievement so far?
Every week new customers arrive on our website. Each new customer is an achievement. Each repeat customer is an even bigger achievement.
But biggest achievement are clients who have children: so many moms buy my kababs for their kids. The one achievement I am especially proud of is that our food is loved by the entire family and is drawing kids to South Asian cuisine.
What was your biggest challenge?
The time and ingredients needed to make healthy, wholesome, all natural food can never be short-changed. But they come at a higher cost than churning out unhealthy and inexpensive fare. My biggest challenge will always be to maintain the wholesomeness of my kababs at the right price in the face of competition that will always focus only on price and profit.
What do you do when you are not cooking?
I love to do yoga and I love gardening. Living in Northern California has made me love the outdoors so whenever possible, I love to go hiking with my family.
Is this a family business? Is your husband involved? What is his role?
This is very much a family business. My son named the company. My husband and my eldest daughter routinely help me with announcements and menu descriptions. My youngest is my biggest all round helper. All four of them are the official tasters of my kababs and my cooking class recipes. They are also the “spice regulators”. If the kids can eat the kababs, then the spice level is right. If my husband finds the spice level “just right”, then it’s too spicy .
How do you balance work and home?
I leave for the commercial kitchen I work out of early in the morning, right after dropping off the kids. I am back around noon and after that I take care of the administrative and marketing aspects of the business until the kids come home. This way I am far more at home and with my kids than I ever was working in corporate America.
Can you give a tip or share a trick for working desi women short on time… something that will make their lives in the kitchen or cooking easier?
When I worked 9 to 5, I loved to make kababs in big batches and freeze them. I would definitely advise working women to put to their freezers to good use. They should also put their husband and children to good use in prepping for meals and in cleaning up afterward .
What is the one thing that differentiates Curry Village Food from other food companies?
An intense focus on natural, wholesome ingredients. I make my garam masala, my hara masala, and my ginger-garlic paste all from scratch. I don’t use boxed spices (such as Shan). No preservatives, no MSG, no artificial flavors, no artificial coloring. Period.
I truly make food that I would happily give to my children.
What is your favorite dish from your menu?
I love gola kababs. Naan or sheermal with gola kababs and a nice strong cup of tea is a heavenly combination. Malai seekh kabab rolls with fresh mint, coriander, thinly sliced onions, and a dash of our “Wicked Spicy chutney”, is a close second.