It’s a little shy of five in the morning; the crimson rays of the sun are yet to paint the horizon. While you’re still chasing the goose in your dream, there is a bunch of folks up and about tirelessly kneading the dough to bring you soft and buttery parathas for lunch.
So when you’re busy hustling through the crowded roads and local trains of Mumbai, the Holachef has already got your lunch simmering and garnished. This is what a regular day for a chef at Holachef looks like.
Started in September 2014, Holachef was founded with the idea of bringing great food from the best culinary talent to you. “While we do the chopping of vegetables during the earlier night, everything is cooked from scratch on the day of the order. For lunch orders, we begin cooking at seven in the morning and keep it ready for delivery by 11 am,” says Chef Archana Vohra, who has been working with Holachef since its inception.
And once the lunch orders are completed, the team of chefs begins dinner preparation. They don’t know your name, your family or even your designation, and yet these chefs are driven by one goal – to give you the best lunch or dinner of the day.
Sowing the seeds
Saurabh Saxena, Co-founder of HolaChef, says that there are several culinary artists who either have to work in the limited framework of a fixed menu or home cooks who just cook for their family and friends. These cooks, he adds, know some truly authentic and traditional recipes. Thus, Anil Gelra and Saurabh decided to rope them in and give the consumers the option of eating different kinds of great food every day.
For Saurabh, the problem that Holachef solves resonates with a very personal need. Both he and his wife do not cook. So they would end up ordering food or eating out. “However, we found the whole experience of ordering food quite distressing. We would have to order food from the available local options, which were not exactly very appetizing,” adds Saurabh.
Weeding out the problems
Holachef began at a time when food tech wasn’t the buzzword of the day. The team therefore had to begin with convincing the chefs on this model. “The restaurants chefs would say they were contractually obligated and the home cooks would be skeptical of cooking food for others outside the family,” says Saurabh.
To make it easier for the chefs, the team decided to allow them to work from wherever they were comfortable and the Holachef team would then work on the fulfillment problems. However, as the number of orders began to grow with time, the team realised that supply would need to work up to match the demand.
Several different techniques and standardisation processes were put in place to make the task easier for the chefs. Holachef soon created centralised facilities with the required cooking infrastructure, with different additional support staff in place.
“We've allowed the chefs to create their support staff with some help from us. So they are part of the chef team. We've also created facilities that can be used with other chefs and other chef teams,” says Saurabh.
Currently about 20 per cent of the teams have started using the facility as given by Holachef, the others choose to work from their own spaces.
Nurturing the plant
“On the front end we have retained a very market place culture for the consumers. In terms of how you choose a dish and give it ratings, all of those are very marketplace like,” says Saurabh.
While centralising the process, Holachef ensures that the technology they create maintains personal touch and taste. Saurabh says that they have been mapping tastes of regions based on data mining, which has helped give them create a spread of 50-55 set items in lunch and dinner menus.
From food preparation, packing, to delivery, everything at Holachef is run on a very tight ship. “We are dealing with a perishable and short shelf life product. The delivery windows aren't high like an e-commerce player. So our marginal errors are minuscule,” says Saurabh.
Holachef recently raised a significant round of funding from Kalaari Capital. Ratan Tata has also made a personal investment of an undisclosed amount in the startup. The team is now geared to become one of the largest personal chefs for people across India.
Disclaimer: Kalaari Capital is an investor in YourStory.