Worldwide, everyone has had to reset their food choices but the Indian foodie’s love for desi and global food is well-known.
One thing’s for sure in 2021: Indians will continue to experiment with global flavours! Worldwide, everyone has had to reset their food choices but the Indian foodie’s love for desi and global food is well-known. We love our pav bhaji and chole bhature as easily as we enjoy indulging ourselves with baked cheese pastas. Bingeing on piping hot gajar ka halwa comes as easily to the enthusiastic Indian foodie as does digging into rich hot chocolate fudge.
Speaking to The Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand, Ankush Arora, Founder & MD, Uncle Jack’s shares his culinary journey that can be traced back to an inspirational trip to Amsterdam, where a new perspective about food emerged, following which Los Angeles and New York provided a sounding board in terms of discovering, experiencing and falling in love with American flavours. Candid thoughts, a dash of humour and make for an insightful reading of current food trends.
He adds, “Our Fries are renowned! There are a lot of variations available and people love that.”
And what’s with the quirky name?
“The name Uncle Jack’s comes from two thoughts – Jack is one of the most common names in an American household. The term ‘Uncle’ was added to bring in that familiarity and lovable factor to it. It has definitely worked in our favour,” quips Arora.
Tell us about your culinary journey.
The love for food has been a major part of my life. I have loved everything about the variety and possibilities that come with food, whether you are preparing it or exploring menus and cuisines across the globe. We wanted to be able to bring gourmet food to the common folks. People often tell me that our food is very instagramable and I think that is pretty nice. I guess I am learning and evolving as an entrepreneur everyday. It’s been a great journey and each day brings a new experience.
Tell us about the menu and what makes it entice foodies in Chandigarh and Delhi? Also, can you elaborate on your sourcing strategy.
The food is classic American, with cheese burgers and fries and a side of shakes. There is a whole variety on American continent and the flavours that come with it, like the Mexican Quesadillas and our customised Tachos that are full of veggies and sauces. Burrito Bowls, chicken strips, all kinds of fries that you can think of and some brilliant tasting coolers, coffees and drinks.
The sourcing of all material is done from local vendors which ensures freshness, best quality checks and longevity. The food is always made fresh and nothing is majorly processed which does allow our flavors to remain consistent.
Can you tell us who your customers are?
We actually gave this quite a thought and came to realise that we would never want to leave out any group of foodies to favour the other.
Anyone with a love for food is more than welcome to walk in and experience our food. Your pocket size, your health concerns and every taste you wish to explore are very welcome. The menu “The cali life” has been curated to hold something for everyone.
There’s a general impression that ‘American food is junk’ – do you want to address how you view this?
The food we eat makes us who we are! It may be considered ‘junk food’, however if you look at our menu there are a lot of brilliant flavours that only come with veggies and products that are freshly made. The whole of our bakery line is in-house and therefore you get to experience the great tastes.
I believe it should always be one’s choice of what they wish to indulge in.
To each his own , you know !
With the lockdown restrictions easing now, do you see an increased demand for the same format or do you get more queries for takeaways, home deliveries etc?
The safety concerns naturally were addressed before we opened up, after the lockdown. We make sure that all our food is handled with absolute care and hygiene. Regular temperature checks, social distancing, wearing of masks, regular sanitization and safety measures are the new normal and we’ve adapted them with a lot of care. Needless to say there is a whole group of people that are avoiding going out and deliveries will continue to be as important as dine-ins.
What are your key success takeaways from Chandigarh that have given you an optimistic outlook to start operations in Delhi?
The fact that people became regular customers solely because of the food and kept coming back for more was a major encouragement. We believe in the food we serve and the bond we create with our customers and are hoping to share the same vibes with Delhi.
What is your strategy for implementing safety protocols and social distancing in your outlet and more importantly, in the kitchen?
The kitchen staff is sanitized everyday, before they enter the premises, irrespective of how many times they walk in and out. Masks are an absolute must for all. We choose to install sanitizer bottles at every table and free masks for those that don’t have one, at the counter.
You can always count on our staff to maintain adequate distance while still taking care of you.
Are you looking at expanding to other places like Noida too?
I don’t see any reason not to. At the moment we are looking forward to our outlet in Punjabi Bagh and CP.
From a culinary perspective, what are the trends you anticipate in 2021 and how do you plan to strategize for addressing it?
I think Indians are finally growing to like the QSR factor and the quick and easy to eat food is definitely the next big thing. We’ve made our menu easy keeping that factor in mind.
Also all our serving dishes, like the beakers and tubers and injector are all for take- away which is something that everyone loves.
Is technology and social media transforming the way Indians choose their food?
Undoubtedly, social media is a massive boon to everyone that is a part of the industry. To get another man’s perspective and motivate people to try out food that they wouldn’t consider otherwise is a brilliant way of reaching out to people. There is now a scope for people to grow and become real time food bloggers and culinary experts and share their experience.
It’s a great opportunity to work and grow together in terms of collaborations, cookouts, food walks and food festivals that are hosted with the help of social media outreach.