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Bhopal's dull food scene inspires Delhi couple to bring easy-on-the-pocket world cuisine to the 'City of Lakes'

Binjal Shah
3rd May 2016
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Most of you don’t realise how much of your social life is planned around your gastronomic indulgences, and how much of it even springs from your culinary exploits. My gang of mutts, just like Ted and Marshall, has driven 200 kilometres, more often than we’d care to admit, just for the perfect plate of corn pakoda. This must hit close to home for you too - your first crush and you probably bonded over a panipuri eating contest and stole some spicy memories at that corner shop, or you’ve shared a moment with your partner when they brought you the dosa you had loved from that quaint little south-Indian breakfast joint you had once discovered together. Take experiences surrounding breaking bread away from a city’s landscape and your life will become bland. Mamta Todi went through exactly that when she had to move to Bhopal, following her husband’s transfer.

Mamta Todi and Ankur Todi YourStory

Fiesta to Siesta

Mamta, a journalist from Chennai, who has worked for Times of India and New Indian Express in the past, married husband Ankur Khaitan and migrated north to Delhi. The move from the isle of curry leaves to the land of chat was comfortable.However, a year later, Ankur was transferred to Bhopal. It was three years ago when Mamta, 31 years a foodie, was uprooted from a fiesta to a siesta – but she did not go gently into that goodnight. “Bhopal is a beautiful place but dull for metro standards, not many eat-outs, not many hang outs, not enough places to meet interesting people. I am a foodie and did not get the desired palette here,” she says.

She had an evening job with an English publication, and had the first half of her day wide open to experiment and take matters into her own hands. “To test the waters, we started in our colony. I began making Indian and western desserts to fill my time and tell the city that there is more to life than poha-jalebi. Through a WhatsApp group, I would send out daily specials and people would call and order. I was a one-man army at the time - messaging, cooking, taking orders, and delivering them by myself,” Mamta adds.

Startup 2.0

Her professional life in Bhopal was marinating beautifully, but her personal life sprung another, rather delightful, challenge at her – in the form of her Yajur, her first-born.

Sweet Posse
She would look after him in the day, while building a community of food lovers and experimenters and getting them hooked to her concoctions, and then took him along with her to work in the evenings. This kept up for three years, until September 2015. Her catering service had picked up. “By then, we felt we had built loyalties with our regular customers, and the time was right to expand. Sweet Posse is born out of passion for good food, a lot of which Bhopal is missing and a lot of which we want to establish in their taste - but my worst fears were managing people and funding.”

Running a startup came with the usual trials – finding the right mix of talent who shares your vision. “We met lot of skilled people who just failed to agree with our taste, so, eventually, we trained amateur people who didn’t know the difference between aata and maida, didn’t speak English and yet, today, my best hands are unlettered but make the perfect salsa and pasta,” Mamta quips.

Sweet Posse Dreams

Sweet Posse's menu initially offered a combination of continental food, chat, various types of sandwiches, mocktails, and milkshakes, coupled with some Italian treats. “People here are relatively conservative in spending so we couldn’t start a hep, uptown outlet. Therefore, we have perhaps the most economically-priced menu starting as low as Rs 20 and the most expensive on the menu is Rs 90. People here hardly know these dishes, but we take the effort to tell them what is what,” she explains.

Juggling parenting duties and also two full-time jobs, the couple has already hit many milestones since they started out with Sweet Posse seven months ago,expanding to two outlets and serving at least 50 customers a day,right from medical students to people who bargain on a Rs. 35 budget thali, theyhave already broken even.

“We don’t take shortcuts, don’t mix colours in our food and offer freshly cooked stuff everyday. We ensure that we bring Yajur up properly and yes, my evening job with a publication continues...” says Mamta, of her commitment to creating a life worth living in Bhopal.

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