Sunday, 19 January 2014

As He Re-Engineers The Wine Company's Menu, Chef Saby Shares Fabrica's Business Plans

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

I WAS trying to shake off the dreariness of Delhi's weather the other day at my favourite Soda Bottle Openerwala (SBOW) at the DLF Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, when I ran into Megha Kohli, a young chef with the happiest face in the business. I had heard Megha had joined Fabrica, the new company floated by Sabyasachi 'Chef Saby' Gorai, so my newsman's antenna shot up when I saw Megha, her chef's whites showing signs of long hours in the kitchen, at the Cyber Hub.
And sure enough, I learnt that Saby had been signed up by Ashish Kapur to work on The Wine Company menu. That was music to my ears because I believe The Wine Company is a great idea -- where else can you get such decently priced wine in Delhi-NCR -- but its menu has obviously been drawn up by a person who has no clue about wines or wine pairing. You cannot have a wine-driven restaurant without a food menu to complement it. Being a good judge of market realities, Ashish seems to have figured it out soon enough and it shows in his decision to get Saby to rewrite the menu.
After leaving AD Singh, Sabyasachi
Gorai launched Fabrica with a plan to
to roll out concepts in five business
verticals. Image: Facebook
Meeting Megha and Saby's nephew, young chef Subhayan Das, outside SBOW seemed like some sort of a karmic connection at work, for the restaurant was the last project that Saby completed before quitting AD Singh's fast-expanding restaurant empire. It was a calculated risk on the part of Saby, who has found a niche for his unmistakable media persona on television (The Urban Cook on Zee Khana Khazana), but he's working according to a plan that straddles five verticals:
* Roll out middle-to-mass-market food concepts, from gourmet food carts to burger chains, in smaller cities such as Chandigarh Jaipur and Pune. Apart from these turnkey projects, Saby proposes to pursue restaurant consultancies, which he says will provide him "bread and butter" and the wherewithal to grow his business organically. His dream is to create a chain of gourmet stores with restaurants and lecture kitchens on the lines of Eataly, the brainchild of the Italian electronics retailer, Oscar Farinetti.
* Launch a culinary college to produce qualified chefs who will be trained to cater to the burgeoning restaurant industry and its increasingly international standards. Saby is in final stages of talks with a private university in Delhi-NCR and the project is likely to be bankrolled by the scion of an old business house with a growing interest in restaurant concepts. A top equipment maker is developing what promises to be the country's most modern catering college kitchen.
* Create a two-way employment exchange for chefs -- both Indians looking for better openings or jobs abroad and international chefs scouting for career breaks outside their countries. This is one vertical the country badly needs. I wish Saby pays attention to the critical area of training stewards as well!
* Sign up as brand ambassador of food and kitchen accessories brands. This is one good idea, for apart from Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna, Ritu Dalmia and Saby (for the upscale German kitchen and household utilities brand, Miele), marketers rarely consider chefs as brand ambassadors in verticals where their world should be the law. If Saby succeeds, he'll give chef-shy food and kitchen appliances brands the courage to bank on chefs. Because Saby, unlike the other three, who became media personalities before they got brand ambassadorships, did not have a television show before he signed up with Miele.
* And last (this one is what I find is most exciting), create a range of 'sprinkle-ons', or cooked powders that you can adds to your food to get a curry kick, for a Japanese marketing agency. Imagine you are having a medium-done steak and you get the urge to sex it up with a balchao flavour, and all you need to do is pick up a sprinkler filled with balchao powder. Saby dreams of the day when these sprinkler would become as common as Tabasco and Capsico at homes and in restaurants.
Dreams have the power to drive you closer to reality. Saby should know this better than most of his other peers.