“Most caterers know business but not food and food is the soul of catering”- Sarita Bazaz, The Food Affairs
Sarita Bazaz, Founder and CEO, The Food Affairs has catered many events and weddings and is very passionate about what she does. Having a keen interest in food from different cultures, she travels a lot and experiences the different tastes of food and brings them in her menu. Sharing more on her abilities to juggle, adapt and meeting the needs of her increasingly demanding clientele, she shares her recipe for consistent quality.
Q- How is that you manage to prepare food according to the taste preferences of your clients?
A- It starts with the menu of course, then comes the taste of your food. Third is the presentation of the food as you first see the food first and then eat it, and then comes the service. Catering compiles of everything. You just cannot have good and tasty food. It has to look very good and appetizing. There are so many special requests that come from the clients and we have to cater to the. People have become very particular about ingredients and taste. Catering is also about what the occasion is and who your guests are. It’s a whole lot of things. There are people who request me to send a menu, but I have never been able to send them. The reason is that unless and until I meet my clients, I cannot design a menu for them. I make a customized menu for every client. I try to understand who the guests are and then have food and menu as per their taste and preference.
Q- Tell us more about the new additions to your menu for the festive season?
A- At Veda, this time, we did a culinary showcase of our new menu which has 7 different cuisines for the festive season. The highlight, this time, is that we are doing a salt cooking counter. Salt cooking India is very new and the food is being cooked in Himalayan salt. The salt is from India and Pakistan, but it comes from America and cooking is done on salt slabs. I heard a lot about it and in America, people are using it, so I thought of bringing this concept to India. We are also doing an Italian counter which has asparagus and mushroom and is pure vegetarian. A lot of non- vegetarian cuisines have come to our menu. We are a specialist in vegetarian fusions with a very curative presentation. In fact, this is the first time we are doing an event. I have been there for almost 23 years’ now and for me, it is like hosting a party at home. The way I would do a party at my home for my guests, it is the same thing that I do for my guests. That is what I feel catering is all about. I make sure that every guest is looked after, every special request is taken care of. We believe in doing a lot of fresh food where everything is freshly cooked at that very day. Something’s are cooked just before serving. We have coastal cuisines, then we have Nawabi cuisines, we have a Northwest counter, which is a combination of Punjabi and Sindhi food, Rajasthan counter is there and chaat section which has Victoria Chaat, Hazratganj Chaat, and Mumbai Chaupati. The entire menu and concept has connect with the roots of India and every dish of ours has a lot of detailing and effort that has gone into. We do a lot of live counters which has freshly cooked dishes. You ask for it and my chefs will make it for you there and then!
Q- How do see the food scene changing in India?
A- What I have realized is that people do want a complete spread where there should be everything, but at the same time Indian food is always preferred. My clients have always wanted Indian food as without it the party is never complete. Parties and events now have a mix of Indian and International food depending from client to client. Majorly every party has an Indian section, Oriental section (which includes Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai and Japanese food) and Mediterranean section. At Veda, what we did is we had a live kitchen in a restaurant format. You could sit down, order and you are served here. It is a tasting menu and people are loving it.
Q- Catering comes with its own sets of challenges and means competing with similar players. What is that key strategy that you follow to keep the show running?
A- Catering is like doing everything on the same day. At times I feel there are a lot of businesses and industries, but this industry works in a very different way. Right from the dry to the fresh ingredients, everything is converted and served and it is a whole lot of effort. Every time you have to work equal amount.
Q- How do you take care of quality control and food standards?
A- I personally check everything every hour. If there is anything going wrong we remove it that very moment. We do the entire tasting of the food.
Q- Talking specifically about catering, where do think the event caterers go wrong?
A- A lot of people are doing good work these days, but somehow we are different from them. Our food is very personalized. If you see and taste our Oriental food, we are cooking rice inside the bamboo. It is very difficult to do so, but this is what differentiates us. We are not following any trend and we create our own menu every time. Everything is handcrafted. Even our sorbets are hand churned. I am not a qualified chef, but all my chefs have been trained by me. I feel most caterers do not know about food. They know about the business, but not the food. Food is the soul of the catering business. Everybody is outsourcing things. Even we take multiple orders, but we take them completely under our umbrella and customize it. We call people from different parts of the country for their specialties.
Q- How do you hire your chefs?
A- For me, hiring is like, anybody who knows how to cook and has a passion for it, I hire that person and train him/her. Through my training, I give them a niche. I myself travel all over the country to get the right talent.
Q- Out of all the delicious treats that we can see here at Veda, which is your favorite?
A- We are doing a Rajasthani dish this time. It is inside a Vada so it is a puffed up Vada and we have filled it up with rice and poured kadi on the top. It is yummy and amazing.
Q- What are your future plans?
A- We have three areas in our catering. First is chaat that we have been known forever. We do street foods of India all over and we serve them in a very fancy and hygienic manner and give a twist to it. Second is destination weddings. I plan to do more of them as I love doing destination weddings. In past, we have done destination weddings in a place like the Canary Islands. It is very difficult to do a wedding in such a place as you will not find anything, but we still managed. I took my team there and it was tough and we managed to serve 600 people there. It was a big fat Indian wedding. I am looking at doing a lot of weddings in Delhi as well. I dream of food, I live to eat and feed people.
Q- How deep one’s pocket should be to have a wedding/event catered by Sarita Bazaz?
A- For this, I would only like to say one thing, what I try to do is at the end of the day when whatever price you are paying, you are happy paying it to me. It’s a value for money and my clients should feel I am worth that much. We use the best of ingredients and are very competitive with others.
Q- What is that one lesson you would like to pass to the new entrepreneur’s planning to be in this business?
A- Event catering is very tough and I have learned it the hard way. I used to buy vegetables myself and even go to the wholesale market to buy stuff. My entire vendor line has been developed by me and they are my loyalist. This is how I have developed from the roots and I know everything about my business. This is how I have a hold on things. I and my team work for almost 18 hours a day and those 3-5 days are very hard, but we enjoy it.
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