Published: 15th June 2018
MadrAsian will you give you a dining experience that will leave you environmentally woke
Started by two youngsters with their love for the environment, this new pan Asian restaurant is all about making food a sustainable experience
Madrasians, it is said, are a conscious lot. And those of the current generation who still relate to the emotion of belonging, continue to be socially engaged in their choices. We are anti-plastic, we are pro-handlooms. Our weekends are spent in beach clean ups, our weekdays are valued by volunteering evenings. Well, you get the drift. We are an 'all-there-for-the cause' lot, and we do well by being that lot!
So while we try making everything around us sustainable and environmentally friendly, why not be friendly with our own tummy, and the entire experience of feeding it? Started by two young and active madrasians, is MadrAsian - the new pan-Asian restaurant in town, treating your senses to everything which is eco and artisan-friendly with its set-up, and promises to go the sustainable way. Including the food they have to offer, of course!
Nikitha Selvakumar, co-founder, is a driven 24-year-old self-starter who is quite the sustainable geek herself. Donning a handmade saree, Nikitha says, "I have somehow unconsciously always been environmentally responsible, and its reflected in my own lifestyle throughout." "The dreamer," as she calls herself, knows fully well that the onus of damage control is on our generation. "The generations before us have been quite indiscriminate about their behaviour towards the environment and its resources. And here we are now, facing the brunt of it all," she says. Her partner, Sathish Kumar, nods in agreement. "Even today, it is us who are constantly asking our families or friends to use a garbage bin, for example or use lesser plastic. It has never been the norm for our parents, or the generations before, to consider the damage they are doing," he adds.
Sathish would have never been the go-to guy for the sustainable model if it hadn't been for friend and now colleague, Nikitha's influence. "The basics were always there - don't dump, don't waste, reuse. But I do think the aggressive practice of bringing the social and environmental responsibility into the everyday life, is quite recent." And how is it working so far? "I am still learning," he says "but I do enjoy the changes I have made, and I am glad I am able to do my bit!"
Of course, it's a bit tough. It requires constant maintenance, we need to always talk to our staff and remind them what we are all about, we still have to figure out a lot in terms of the quatities we make, 'cause freshly made pastes and sauces can only be used for so many days. It is difficult, but we are learning. After all we don't want to be just another Coca-Cola bottle in the market
Nikitha Selvakumar, co-founder, MadrAsian
But how did the MadrAsian journey begin? With a trip to Sikkim, apparently! "My visit to Sikkim introduced me to a rhythm, where nature and the people were in absolute harmony with each other. That's where it really struck me that I should find a way to provide food which is enriching, not intoxicating," Nikitha tells me. And in her quest to begin something novel and get into the hotel and food industry, she eventually met Sathish, who has had an interesting career in the business himself. "I have worked with firms which have supported in ideating and building restaurants from the scratch," Sathish explains. An engineer by education, Sathish's interest always lay in the business of food. "So obviously, when the idea was initially discussed, I was quite excited about it. Even more 'cause we were doing things which made an impact," he says.
MadrAsian started serving experiences on a platter, in April this year. A brand new place, everything has been clearly given much thought. From the texture of the cushions, to the smells and the sound, there is enough and more to suggest that the restaurant isn't just about the food. "Our collective ideas had two major motives - to ensure that we only get handmade products for our interiors and be socially responsible in terms of where we are putting our money; and of course, reach out to all the senses of our customers to make the sustainable approach a holistic experience for them," both Nikitha and Sathish open up. The cushions are made of vetiver - a fragrant variety of bunchgrass and a natural coolant- and handmade cloth. The murals on the wall are made by a 65-year-old local independent artist, "who finished most of his brilliant paintings in matter of days!" I am told. The colours around are generally matte and sober. The clay utensils and glasses were sourced from a local family of pot makers from Erode. The instrumentals which play at the restaurant are soothing, with the music (after much research) coming from Indonesia, Mynmar and Thailand. Little potted plants are placed across the hall, treating the eye and the air. "None of our food has MSG in it and all the sauces are made in batches, from the scratch," Sathish tells me. They are even encouraging customers to get their own containers for takeaways to avoid plastic or paper packaging, by giving them a 5% off on their bills. "Oh and we also introduced traditional board games now!" Nikitha jumps in enthusiastically.
But I'm sure there is a price to pay for the maintenance of it all, so I ask. "Of course, it's a bit tough. It requires constant maintenance, we need to always talk to our staff and remind them what we are all about, we still have to figure out a lot in terms of the quatities we make, 'cause freshly made pastes and sauces can only be used for so many days. It is difficult, but we are learning. After all we don't want to be just another Coca Cola bottle in the market," Nikitha quips. "Besides, we almost always have to remember not to take the easy way out when we are in a tough situation - that is the challenge. But who are we if we don't make that conscious choice?" Sathish adds in.
And it's true, neither Sathish and Nikitha, nor their MadrAsian is another Cola bottle in the market. They infact already have some rave reviews on google, and customers adding their own bits in being friendly with the ambiance. "We had a customer the other day who asked us not to print a customer copy of their card payment for them. It was a small thing to do, but it was something," Sathish says. "And I suppose that is what we want - to at least impact 5 people who walk into MadrAsian everyday, to go the sustainable way, by providing them the experience and the food which reflects the same," Nikitha adds, hopefully.