Sunday, September 24, 2017

Founded in 2015, Authenticook is a young company celebrating regional diversity by providing an authentic dining experience in the homes of incredibly talented home chefs. We had a chat with co-founders Ameya Deshpande, Aneesh Dhairyawan and Priyanka Deshpande about the concept, their experiences, our culinary heritage and, of course, food.

How did you come up with the concept of Authenticook?

It all started on our trip to Ladakh in 2014. While we were in the city of Leh, we realised the effects of globalisation, where the western cuisine was abundantly available and there were very few avenues to try out the local food of the region.

The most memorable experiences form the trip were those where we had an opportunity to interact with a local and understand a lot more about the place. The same is applicable as a resident in a city, wherein you have people from across the world and communities living together; there are very few avenues to experience this diversity and meet like-minded people beyond one’s social circle.

We believe that food is a religion that transcends boundaries, regions and prejudices. That’s when we thought of creating an avenue for people to have an opportunity to dine with a local to experience the true essence of a place.

How does Authenticook work as a platform?

Authenticook is an opportunity for locals and travelers alike to experience a place, one meal at a time. We are a website connecting hosts and diners over social dining experiences, promoting traditional Indian regional cuisines made with love and passion by local home-chefs.

Most of the cuisines and dishes prepared by the hosts are not available in restaurants and are getting lost with time. Authenticook aims to preserve our culture and culinary heritage.

Authenticook is present across Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Goa, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Fort Kochi.

Authenticook connects hosts with diners in exchange of service fees from its diners. The cost for the meals is set by the hosts themselves. One can simply log on to the website and select a meal coming up on a scheduled date or request a meal on a date of their choice.

What did you each do before Authenticook?

Aneesh: Consultant with a Big four consulting firm

Ameya: Investment Banker with an International Bank

Priyanka: Corporate Banker with one of the largest private banks in India

Favourite place to hang out in Pune and why?

Aneesh: Having worked in the city in the early part of my career, I am drawn towards FC road and the Deccan area.

Ameya: I have been traveling to Pune since I was a child. Loved the weather and the food at Café Goodluck.

Priyanka: I have fond childhood memories of Pune when I would visit my aunt during summer holidays. I love visiting Pune during monsoons and winter, and like the vibrancy around Koregaon Park and Baner.

What, according to you, is one food experience you shouldn’t miss when in Pune?

A Kashmiri Meal served in Pune

Each of the Authenticook experiences in Pune is unique and different in its own way. The one common factor though is the ‘awesomeness’ of each of these meals; whether it is the Malabari meal and Bohri Thaal in Kalyani Nagar, the Sindhi meals in Bopodi, the Bengali meal in Bavdhan, Andhra Brahmin meal in Koregaon Park or the Kashmiri meal in Aundh, amongst others.

Favourite thing to eat.

Aneesh: Can travel for Kheema Pav

Ameya: A sucker for anything spicy!

Priyanka: Pathare Prabhu prawn pickle and everything fishy!

Tell us about an Authenticook story/memory/experience that you will never forget.

Aneesh: We do meals with the Koli community in Mumbai where we take people through Versova Koliwada and curate a meal at the home of a Koli Fisherwoman’s family. The joy on the faces of seafood lovers, the insights that they get about the community is something that drives us to get the real, authentic cuisines of India available to the dining community across.

Ameya: One of the awesome moments was during the “Lost Recipes of Kannauj” meal experience that we do in Mumbai. We had two separate groups of diners; the first group was of four young men in their early 20s and the second group was an elderly couple. As it turned out, the senior gentleman was an alumnus of IIT Bombay, 1966 batch and the four youngsters were from IIT Bombay, 2014 batch.

48 years apart but the enthusiasm with which they spoke about the campus life, history etc. was fun to listen to. It was a great moment in the sense that there are always ways to connect with people.

Priyanka: I will never forget one instance when we met a host for a tasting session and when we appreciated her food and efforts, she almost had tears in her eyes. She was so overjoyed to get appreciated for her regular cooking and was so excited to work with us, in her words ‘youngsters’, she was thrilled at the thought of being associated with people from the younger generation and start her entrepreneurial journey.

Currently, you have a presence in nice cities. Tell us a little more about your expansion plans.

We have focused a lot on putting strong SOPs in place; whether it relates to empanelment of hosts, privacy and safety, building a trusted community etc. Our plan is to be present across most metropolitans and tourist-friendly destinations in India by the end of 2019.

Finally, what is the dream for Authenticook.

We want to harness the knowledge of cuisines that different households have and make sure that cuisines are not forgotten. We have been able to create appreciation for the long-forgotten cuisines in this era of fast food. Our dream is to impact more than a million women, enabling them to feel empowered and have a source of income.

This will also provide a base for Authenticook to be the first port of call for travellers and locals alike for enriching social dining experiences. Our dream for Authenticook is that we are recognised for having played a significant role in making people the world around, more patient, more respectful and more appreciative of the cultural differences that exist in the world.

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