SAVOR TAKES YOU AROUND THE WORLD IN A LUNCH BOX
With its emphasis on experiences, Savor Lunch offers its clients sophisticated iterations of the lunch dabba delivery service. Each meal is an exploration of the food of a particular culture: asparagus-studded pasta with lemony ricotta sauce and festooned with bacon bits, earthy miso chicken with nori rice, cochido stew swilling with chorizo and ajoblanco soup.
At the moment, Savor delivers lunches from Colaba to Bandra. To get in touch, visit their website, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +91 7045451777.
Several years ago, a friend took Kanu Gupta to an underground restaurant in Hong Kong. “We walked in, the husband has a torn down wife-beater, he's sitting watching a Chinese soap, smoking away,” he says. “The kids are playing video games, there's no acknowledgement that you even exist. The poor wife is steaming in the kitchen, and then she brings out two of everything. And it was the best food I've ever had. No, let me rephrase, it was the best experience. I've had better food, but I remember that meal. The experience was like a window into that society.”
Kanu is an ardent evangelist for fresh experiences. “We have this line in our mission statement that says ‘people matter more than things, timelessness matters more than time, experiences matter more than anything’,” he says. It is this very avidity that he, together with a group of other people, pours into the Secret Supper Project, an exclusive four-year-old Mumbai supper club.
The Secret Supper Project has always had an unorthodox roster of employees (florists, musicians, architects etc.) with one unifying thread – they all have to be able to cook. This diversity has led to Secret Supper becoming a sort of revolving door of talent.”"A lot of businesses started there,” says Kanu. “Sucres des Terres' ice-cream business, Bombay Canteen did test dinners with us, a lot of our team members have gone on to work in the food industry. It's an amazing kind of bus stop.”
The suppers grew so enjoyable that a year ago, the team quit their day jobs and poured their hearts into Savor, a collective that forked into two. Savor Experiences, which curates anything from chef's tables and degustation menus to spirit tastings. And Savor Lunch, which offers its clients sophisticated iterations of the lunch dabba delivery service. “The whole notion behind lunch is... what would you do if you get an extra hour?,” says Kanu. “We want to create time, but how you spend that time is up to you. Want to have lunch in the park by yourself, you want to call your boyfriend and have lunch with him, that's up to you.”
Kanu offers his unvarnished opinion about the homogenous Indian lunch dabba: “The quality of everyday lunch in India is quite boring. Lunch is like, grab and go, let's figure it out....besides, you're going to have bhindi for dinner anyway. Do you want it again for lunch?”
Naturally, Savor's lunches have none of that. Instead, each meal becomes an exploration of the food of a particular culture: asparagus-studded pasta with lemony ricotta sauce and festooned with bacon bits, earthy miso chicken with nori rice, cochido stew swilling with chorizo and ajoblanco soup.
Savor's team members include (among others) Kanu, Tejal Choksi, Sushil Multani and Shashank Poojari. Between them, they belt out American, Arabic, Australian, British, Cantonese, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Jamaican, Japanese, Macanese, Mexican, North Indian, Peruvian, Russian, Sichuan, Spanish, Tasmanian, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese cuisines.
The team is punctilious about their produce. Each morning, the chefs ferret out the freshest ingredients available, scouring the city's markets for the best of the day. Savor has also crafted an ecosystem of young producers from around the country, including cheese-makers in Gujarat, and micro-green farms. “The beauty of our lunch service is that we can change our lunch service menu the morning of,” Kanu says earnestly. “If the figs suck, we'll replace them with strawberries. A lot of restaurants claim ‘organic first,’ ‘local first’, but they can never start with produce that is amazing and then cook around it.”
Cooking specifically for lunch has led to a flip in the production process. “Most restaurants cook and put something in a box for lunch,” says Kanu. “We're working the other way round. We're asking ‘what will work for a 45-minute break at room temperature, at a desk in the office?’ I'd love to do fish and chips, but fish only works well right off the pan. That approach is unique to lunch. That's why we will not repeat a menu in a month, but we also won't tell you what is going to be in it.”
Savor's success hinges on its employees' creativity. “It's not a 'nice' thing to have,” Kanu stresses. “It's fundamental.” Creativity is plucked from everywhere and anywhere. For instance, the board of Savor is paying for the team to visit the Kochi Biennale. Sometimes, they insinuate themselves into private homes. “Like just today for lunch, we found a crazy-good home chef in Bandra doing a very old-school Goan pork” says Kanu, “We met this Naga chef, who's insanely cool! He FedExes himself ingredients from Shillong. Ideas come through people, always.”
It's all working. Savor is hurtling onwards and upwards at a furious clip, its lunch clientele almost doubling each month. Gupta and Multani ruefully add that one of the attendant problems of scaling up includes maintaining quality and consistency. Another problem, they admit, is sustainability. Savor's lunch team is working towards a culture of sustainability but there is still a ways to go; their lunchbox design today has about 10 percent plastic, which Gupta hopes to banish completely.
"We are working on a beautiful design of the classic Bombay steel tiffin, that's going to be launched soon,” says Kanu. “Another thing we want to do is to engrave cutlery with the names of our long-time customers, send it to them and ask, how about we never send you a plastic fork ever again? The game-changer is the reusable, but we have to slowly move together towards it. There's no silver bullet.”
Ultimately, Savor hopes to bag itself a Michelin star. “Our mission is to be the first Michelin-starred lunch delivery company in the world,” says Kanu. “If a hawker centre (in Singapore) can get it, why not this?”