This self-taught chef’s mission is to revive the royal cuisine of Malwa

The royal kitchens of Rajasthan, Lucknow, and Hyderabad are well documented, with cookbooks and culture books tracing the origins and history of food. However, self-taught chef Anuradha Joshi Medhora thinks she can’t say the same for the royal cuisine of Malwa, which she tries to document and popularize through her cloud kitchen, Charoli.

A former marketing and advertising professional, Anuradha comes from a family of entrepreneurs and says the connoisseur of history in her led her to start a business.

Charoli’s journey

In a conversation with His history, Anuradha recalls her earliest memories of food when her grandfather gathered with his friends over beer and meat cooked in the garden. A third generation meat eater in a Brahmin family in Indore, she says her paternal and maternal grandfathers loved what they ate.

“Even though Brahmins don’t usually eat meat, my paternal grandfather was an officer in the Royal Indian Navy, served in World War II, and enjoyed a more colonial view of meat. On the other hand, my mother’s father was a zamindar from central India, grew up with royal families and had princes as friends, ”she shares.

Nariyal Murg, Maas ka Kofta Narma Dil, Kheema Banjara, Bhindi ka Rajai Salan, Bharwan Paneer Mirch are some of the dishes that are part of the royal cuisine of Malwa.

Today, she believes that the royal cuisine of Malwa has been limited to households like hers, relatives and family friends who have a royal and noble lineage. “But even in these families, cooking is dying because the younger generations are no longer too inclined to make the effort to cook in a traditional way,” she adds.

But growing up, Anuradha was sent to boarding school at the age of 13 and had not been home since. Thus, she understands the value of home cooked meals. Soon she began to recreate the dishes of her region by sourcing from family members and relatives.

“I was very lucky to grow up in a space surrounded by royal and noble families, and I enjoyed the unique cuisine of the region. And you realize the value as you get older, ”she says.

In 2015, she turned her passion into a broader view of kitchen documentation as she realized its historical value and significance. While she remained involved in the family clothing business, Anuradha also ran Charoli as a side business by participating in various pop-up stores in Mumbai and offering catering services. Little by little, she withdrew from the family business to devote herself entirely to Charoli in 2019.

Primed so far, Charoli is named after a secret ingredient her mother used in her favorite mutton dish.

The market opportunity

Although the entrepreneurial spirit came naturally to Anuradha, restoring a wedding function of a royal family from Indore boosted her confidence to carry on the business full time “because they are really the keepers of the kitchen. She adds: “They felt that we were doing justice to the revival of royal Malwa dishes – which is huge.”

Available on Swiggy, Zomato, and thanks to its Instagram presence, Cloud Kitchen offers a wide range of dishes – from starters to main courses and desserts. During the pandemic, she launched Maharajas Delights Box, a family and friends meal box – available in a vegetarian and non-vegetarian version – for two or four people.

In 2019, she assembled a team of five, including herself, to watch the pandemic shake up the food and beverage industry. Although the number of physical pop-ups has declined, Anuradha says the pandemic has not hampered the growth of the business as online demand increased.

Before that, she says it had been difficult to bring structure to Charoli while also running the family business. Finding a dedicated team and educating clients was also a challenge. Operating in a city like Mumbai, she says people tend to equate Malwa food with just seafood, and it had been a task to break that mold.

Today, Charoli is making the most of the growing popularity of cloud kitchens in India, which is expected to grow into a billion dollar market by 2023, according to most research and advisory reports.

The move to a commercial space in 2019 led to 25 to 30% growth in turnover. “We have made a conscious decision to grow at a sustained rate so that the growth is organic and we judge our success by the number of loyal customers we get,” she adds.

Ultimately, Anuradha hopes to publish a book about the region’s unique spices and food ingredients, and capture the essence of Malwa’s royal cuisine.

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