27-year-old Chef Shriya Shetty relocated from Mumbai to Mangaluru five years ago with the aim of learning more about the cuisine of the City’s unique and diverse communities and chronicling Karnataka’s culinary legacy. Her cuisine has so far inspired thousands as she brings in traditional Mangalorean cuisine to the forefront and shedding light on the rich culinary heritage.
For past five years she has been doing research on Mangalorean food. She was born and brought up in Mumbai and completed her graduation in Commerce. Belonging to a Bunt family, Shriya says that the passion for food runs in her family who enjoy eating and feeding others. “Initially I thought will give it a try and then decided to do internships. Once I started doing internships, I realised this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Shriya recalled.
She further said that after her college, she worked as an intern at a restaurant in Mumbai called Ellipsis and eventually got a job there. “I don’t have any formal hospitality experience. Whatever I know is only through industry experience,” she added. Following this, she interned at a restaurant in Bangkok called Gaggan. “I had a lot of interest in a lot of various places at the time, and I had started in the bakery department and worked my way through every department in the kitchen,” said Shriya.
She went on to say, “When I was abroad, I realised that the only food you can cook the best is the one you grew up eating. I grew up in India, eating Indian food despite the fact that I had little interest in it prior to that because people would not discuss traditional Indian cuisine. It was not until recently that people started knowing and enjoying our food. Our cuisine is truly amazing, and there is so much to explore. It was then that I realised that I would return and relocate to Mangaluru to continue my research.”
After returning to India, Shriya got an opportunity in Mangaluru for a small consulting project and that is when she started her research. She recalls that despite the fact that she is a Shetty, Mangalorean food was prepared on Sundays but not all of the meals. “I wasn’t aware of the traditional food items of the place. After spending three months here, I realised how much I still needed to learn. As a Chef it was sort of my responsibility to at least try to do something for the cuisine that is already beautiful yet dying.”
Shriya mentioned that people all across the world assumed that Mangalorean food belonged to the Shetty’s owing to the fact that they own so many restaurants. “However, there are other restaurants maintained by various communities.”
When asked about the on-going research she said, “I started my research along with my partner Varun. We’ve visited little temple kitchens, ugrana in Dharamasthala, to learn about the ingredients that grew on our land, and we have cooked with grandmothers, grandparents, and parents at our friends’ and families’ homes. We decided to open a bakery called Buttercream Co (formerly known as Pupkins Kitchen) and we used to do workshop classes as well. ” Currently, they are also the Culinary Curators at the newly opened The Avatar Hotel in Attavar.
Shriya said that they do host pop-up dinners and private dinners to introduce people what Mangalorean food is. “For instance, people who visited Shetty restaurants were unfamiliar with many of our City’s cuisines and we wanted to introduce them,” she remarked.
Ghee roast has become a signature dish of Shriya. “I was blown away when I tried my first Ghee roast from Kundapur Shetty Lunch Home. To re-create the ghee roast dish, I did a lot of research. We used to travel to Kundapura and also visit other ghee roast places, and that’s how we came up with our own recipe.”
Shriya explained that they began with pop-ups in Mumbai and have now expanded to include private dinners in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai. The pop-up dinner will have the traditional food items served in a fun way over various courses. “It’s cooked for about 7 to 8 hours and has a great flavour and we use unique technique as well,” she added.
She recently had an opportunity to serve Mangalorean food to Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone and her friends. “This is one of the pop- up we did recently ‘My Mangalorean Oota pop-up’ with the company called The Soul Company, based in Bengaluru which creates and curates meal experiences. We served a seven-course meal for the event, which was hosted in Mumbai. It’s a ticketed private event where we take 25 guests per night and I explain them about each dish. Deepika Padukone, along with her companions, was one of the guests who had reserved a table for this pop-up. Of course, as a long-time fan of her’s, it was wonderful to see her. She was very sweet and enjoyed all the cuisine. We had other guests as well,” she said.
At pop-up dinner, people can come to the kitchen to eat what is prepared there. Rather than going to a restaurant, ordering, and eating meals, they offer a complete meal experience.
Message to readers
Shriya Shetty stressed on the fact that we should be proud of our cuisines and local ingredients. “The joy I see on people’s faces when they taste Mangalorean food never ceases to amaze me. If anyone wishes to share a homestyle traditional recipe from their grandparents that will most likely be forgotten until it is documented, and they are welcome to reach me at email@example.com. It will be an honour for me to look after it as well. I can say that we have only scratched the surface of what is available through our research. We started with Mangaluru but we want to cover rest of Karnataka as well,” she concluded.