The two waves of Covid-19 pandemic have affected people in myriad ways. While many have suffered, many have stepped out of their busy professional life to help out those in distress in their own way.
One such is the celebrity Indian chef Saransh Goila, whom the people at large and gourmets in particular knows as the maker of the world’s “best butter chicken” according to MasterChef Australia.
Even though the hunger for Goila’s delivery-only signature dish did not diminish during the Coronavirus pandemic, it was definitely not business that was weighing on Goila’s mind.
To his utter amazement, Goila, who enjoys a following of more than 5,30,000 followers on Instagram, was being flooded with several messages daily. These were from Covid-19 afflicted patients, their families and caregivers, who were seeking his help in finding out how and from where to source healthy food and meals.
Goila, sharing an insightful observation about Indian society told Agence France-Presse (AFP): “You don’t think of people being stuck for home-cooked meals in India. We are a country where you have your neighbours, friends, family always ready to help.”
It is the Covid virus that gave a paradigm shift to this distinctive culture and ethos. The Coronavirus dealt a heavy blow to these informal networks as people were forced to go into isolation and quarantine with everyone in the families becoming victims of the Covid infection.
Realising this crucial aspect, Goila initiated a non-profit platform called Covid Meals for India in April. This platform allowed thousands of volunteer home cooks to connect with coronavirus patients and frontline workers in around 400 cities.
Despite these pressing issues, Goila also managed to open his second overseas kitchen in London in May. This is located in the trendy Shoreditch neighbourhood and came into being five years after launching his business.
Goila’s menu card features dishes that are innovative – suiting different tastes and palates. One can order a butter chicken biryani, a butter chicken burger, chips with butter chicken gravy, and even a butter chicken khichdi, a rice-and-lentil gruel usually served to sick people.
Saransh Goila (Pic: Courtesy nutfruit.org)
The culinary art caught up with Goila very early on. He found his calling after winning a cooking competition on television, when he was just 25. This led him to start hosting a travel programme which showcased regional Indian cuisine.
During the hosting of this programme during which Goila covered a distance of some 20,000 kilometres, he realised something very important. It was that the dish butter chicken had a universal appeal, literally cutting across India’s diverse cultures.
So the chef, who ironically, prefers vegetarian food himself, hit on the novel ideal of establishing the world’s first global butter chicken brand.
It was in 2018, that Goila announced his arrival on the big stage. He was invited by former MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris, who happened to be a fan of his cooking, to be the guest at MasterChef Austria, the popular programme across the globe. When he appeared on the show, the contestants were asked to recreate his signature dish.
Much before the pandemic hit across the world, Goila’s popular creamy tomato-based curry, was never affected by any healthy trend of its time. The proof: the eight outlets he owns across India and Britain.
With a multitude of people liking butter chicken, it was part and parcel of any Indian food outlet, with its mild flavour appealing to everyone, including those with sensitive taste buds. Goila describes the butter chicken the best! According to him it is “a hug in a bowl”.
Covid has had its effects on his business, leading to cutting down on the orders. ““It’s a tricky, tricky spot for the hospitality industry,” Goila remarks. But the overseas outlets, both in London, have a steady business.
While there is a downtrend in the Coronavirus cases in India, Goila’s relief initiative is still going strong. Its scale is something which has surprised the chef.
“I mostly use social media for my own benefit, you know, to promote my work… But this is different. You can actually make a change if you want to. That’s what I have realised,” he observes.