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Sameer Sewak, a weekend chef based in Dehradun, heeded his culinary calling against the backdrop of the pandemic. Having lived everywhere, Sameer nurtured his skills while pursuing other endeavours, and translated his passion into a series of lip-smacking platters.
A streak of familial support, a dash of ambition, and a trove of talent culminated in the institution of an online delivery service featuring Awadhi cuisine atop a chulha-styled set-up. Na Cheez, his upcoming restaurant, is set to launch in mid-January 2021. We connected with him to know more.
Your dishes have, quite literally, spiralled into virality. How did it all start?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking. When I was studying in Canada, I’d miss Indian food. I considered legitimising my passion, but I was in the middle of training as a pilot. But I soon realised the industry was riddled with instability. It was in 2020 that I thought of starting a food service instead. A lot of people asked me to create a Youtube channel, or publish a blog centred around food. When the pandemic struck, I spent my time hiking, and cooking chulha food on my terrace. In July, I decided to start a remote business in Dehradun. Right now, I’m serving Awadhi cuisine, and delivering across the city. Dal Bukhara, Kebabs, Biryanis, Butter Chicken, and Korma are a few of my dishes. Since demand is escalating, I’m shifting to a larger set-up and equipping the business with a team.
What’s your signature dish? And a dish that’s underrated, but worth recommending?
I can’t really pick one. There are quite a few: Shami Kebabs (mutton/vegetarian), Biryani, and Chicken Korma are best-selling dishes. Butter Chicken, too, has been a successful addition. As for an underrated dish, I’d think Yakhni Pulav is fitting. It’s an acquired taste. If you’re not acquainted with the dish, you don’t know what to expect.
You delivered food to Swara Bhaskar! How did that happen?
During the initial week of my venture, I noticed she was in Mussoorie. Since I’m a huge fan, I decided to tweet her, and ask if she’d like some Korma Biryani delivered to her location. A number of people expanded the scope of my reach, and prodded her to try my dish. Soon, she connected with me, and informed me that she was in Dehradun. On Sunday afternoon, after I’d concluded my deliveries, I travelled to her location, gave her the package, and that was that!
I’ve done other celebrity deliveries as well. Ankur Tewari, Mrunal Thakur, and Prarthna Singh ordered a few dishes while they were in the city. Mariellen Ward, a Canadian blogger, contacted me during her visit to Dehradun as well.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
As a child, I witnessed my grandmother cook with passion. My mother is an amazing cook as well. When I was younger, I’d watch her prepare dishes in the wee hours of the morning. On special occasions, we’d cook food on a chulha, which is quite a task.
What’s your cooking procedure like?
Since I use a chulha, the procedure is elaborate. If I’m cooking Biryani, Pulav, or Korma, I need to gather wood, as well as a few bricks to complete the arrangement. For a Yakhni Biryani or Pulav, I assemble all the spices in a potli, or muslin cloth, tie it around with a few masalas, and boil the mixture for an hour or two. Simultaneously, I soak some rice as well. Once the broth is ready, I add the rice to it, and cook it together. Even for the Korma, I need to arrange all the spices before-hand. Since orders are increasing now, I need to start my day at 4am. Everything is ready by 9am, after which I work on packaging and deliveries.
Tell us about the first dish you ever cooked?
Maggi! I think I’d tried my hand at it when I was in the third standard. Honestly, my family wasn’t too enthusiastic about it.
What does the future look like?
Right now, I’m on a temporary break since I’m launching Na Cheez, my delivery-and-pickup restaurant, in mid-January. I’m working on organising the space, and hiring staff. Once I do that, I can cater to additional orders. An extension into other cities is probable, but I don’t plan on rushing into it.
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