My love for food goes back to my childhood in India, especially my memories around food. It was a food culture that was quite different than the one of recent years in the U.S. Everything was in season and came from a few miles of where you lived. We treasured foods because we knew that they were only there for a few short months.
By age 12, I was making full meals for the family. In India, at least in my generation, it’s almost a given that young women learn to cook. My kitchen responsibilities included going with my parents to the market, a near daily adventure that instilled in me a love of being at the farmers market today. The idea of seeing ingredients in the raw and transforming them into magical dishes is exhilarating to me.
Around 2009, it was this process of transformation that started Calcutta Kitchens. One of my favorite farmers gave me a box of over-ripe tomatoes and I made a big batch of tomato chutney with them. The chutney was such a hit that I thought why don’t I try and sell this at the farmers market’?
Once I started the markets, my customers wanted more. Over and over again, they requested that I offer “Indian sauces” that they could cook with. Thus was born the first version of our sauces. The first flavor was Makhani Tikka Simmer Sauce, an almost exact replica of what I made at home for my family. This was followed by our Coconut and Fresh Coriander Simmer Sauce and then our newest, Bengali Coconut Cardamom Simmer Sauce, which goes back to my roots of Bengali cooking.
This is the process I still go through when creating my new products – an inspiration from my environment or a customer combined with what I know to do well.
We also recently launched our Spice Mixes, a natural extension of our product line, based on similar feedback from our customers. These have been equally well received.
Calcutta Kitchens Simmer Sauces has been a favorite at farmers’ markets in New York and Connecticut for the last five years. They are an easy, healthy way to introduce Indian flavors into your everyday cooking. We love our farmers markets because our sauces are the perfect vehicle for the wonderful variety of seasonal produce, meat and fish from local farms.
Along with farmers markets, we also sell our sauces at NY and CT area gourmet food stores, butcher shops and online. On every product, I offer simple instructions for cooking with our simmer sauces and spices. I also love to hear about my customers’ creativity. One Italian shopper said she mixed the simmer sauce in with her meatballs and that “those were the best meatballs I ever made.”
Launching a new product involves a lot of upfront costs – lab tests, nutritional information, graphic design, labels, raw materials, marketing and branding. Given the size of my business, this is difficult to accomplish with my cash flow restrictions. Having this loan, helps me launch the product which directly impacts and increases my future cash flow.