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Introducing Indian culture through food and stories

Source: Jimmy Wong

How one woman is using her talent to bring people together over food and stories from her homeland.

They say there is no better way to bring people together than through food.

That is exactly what Sydney-based Bhavna Kalra does at The Modern Desi, her venture where she connects cultures through food.

This foodpreneur serves home-made Indian degustation* meal to a selected few guests each week weaved with tales from her homeland and sharing the history of the dishes she has made for the evening.

Bhavna Kalra
Bhavna Kalra is a foodpreneur who serves home-made Indian degustation* meal to a selected few guests each week weaved with tales from her homeland.

On Saturday evenings, this full-time IT professional dons the Chef-cum-entrepreneur hat and opens her house to a small group who are treated to a meal of five to seven courses ranging from entrées to desserts from different parts of India.

“I love sharing the tales and the history behind the dishes. Adding context to the food adds to the experience. It is unique and personalised. And I get to bring two things closest to my heart together– India and food,” she says.

Her journey started about six months ago when she got an opportunity to serve dishes cooked by her at a pop-up restaurant event in Sydney.

“I have been blogging about food for over 10 years. Just a girl from aamchi Mumbai started when I had just moved from India to Perth and was feeling very homesick. Somehow after migrating here, I had stopped eating food that I ate while growing up and that added to this overall feeling of emptiness,” Bhavna Kalra tells SBS Hindi.

Her doctor’s advice was to start ‘eating her own food’ and that is how Bhavna started on her culinary journey.

“I went back to cooking traditional Indian dishes and also started blogging about them weaved with family tales and recipes learnt from my grandmother,” she says.

Bhavna Kalra
Jimmy Wong

Over the years, Bhavna continued her blogging journey and it opened up new avenues when she moved to Sydney.

She ventured into catering, collaborating with other home-based cooks and participating in food-based events.

“I recently collaborated with a friend where we cooked for guests at a pop-up restaurant. People loved what we had offered. That is when I thought I wanted to do this more often. I wanted more people to eat what I was cooking. That is where the idea for The Modern Desi came about,” she says.

“I was not ready for a restaurant type of business. So I researched and got approval from the council to do it at home. I have permission for a very small group so I thought of offering them a degustation meal.”

She has lately also experimented by using Australian ingredients with Indian dishes.

“When non-Indian guests arrive, I tell them about how I have used some traditional Australian ingredients and they love it. I do it to pay my respects to the country I live in and its culture,” she says.  

Bhavna Kalra
Jimmy Wong

As with any small business owner who is starting out, Bhavna hopes her passion project will one day see huge success.

“When I see the delight in the eyes of my guests, I feel satisfied. It takes my nervousness away. I feel more confident and that keeps me going,” she says.

*The word ‘degustation’ is a French term ascribed to a ‘tasting menu’ and is used to describe a long session of sampling several courses of a chef’s best and most inventive dishes. 

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