Prashant and Ayesha Kalra on the inception and objective of Delhi Food Tours
Sitting in a comfortable lazy-boy chair in his cosily furnished Defence Colony apartment, Prashant Kalra has an expression of contentment found on those whose profession revolves around their interests. In his case, it’s food. Being a part of a family which has been in the food business for generations (his grandfather established Delhi’s United Coffee House), it is probably inevitable that he went into the food business. Prashant and his wife Ayesha are the founders of Delhi Food Tours, which organises culinary explorations of the different faces of the city mainly for foreign tourists.
In conversation, Prashant and Ayesha talk about their unique food venture. Excerpts from the interview:
How did the idea of the Delhi Food Tours emerge?
Prashant: When I worked as a lawyer, I’d travelled to Kuala Lampur on a business trip. Looking for things to do on a Sunday, I came across an advertisement for a company called Food Tours Malaysia. The tour was given by a guide who was a software engineer in his day job and gave food tours around Kaula Lampur’s Chinatown in the evenings. This made me think that Delhi sorely lacked such ventures, which rendered foreign travellers unable to experience the city’s cuisine in any depth.
How did you make the decision to give up your careers and become food entrepreneurs?
Ayesha: I used to work in a bank, while Prashant was a lawyer. I had quit my job, when the idea of starting Delhi Food Tours first emerged. In the beginning we ran it while Prashant continued as a lawyer. We wanted to see if it became financially stable before we let go of our one stable income. After the website went live, we started getting reservations. The demand was so high that in 11 months after getting the first tour, Prashant was able to quit his job to devote full time to DFT.
Prashant: Getting into the food business was a decision I never regretted. If you have a profession in a field you enjoy, you never have to work a day. It’s such that money is incidental, and no longer the main goal.
What does a typical food tour look like?
Ayesha: Before signing up for a tour, the applicant has to fill a form, in which they need to specify any allergies which they may have, their spice tolerance and if they avoid certain foods. They must also tell us which country they are from, as this lets us assess how they would tolerate the food.
Prashant: After they have filled up the form, we take the responsibility for the entire duration of the tour. From the pick up at the hotel, travelling between the stops, food costs and bottled water, all are covered within the tour price. Generally, a tour has four stops, and we try to have the tour with as much variety as possible. So a typical tour may feature one north Indian place, one south Indian place, a chat area, one local cuisine. We also try to keep types of restaurants variable, so in one tour, a person may both sit outside a stall and in a fine dining establishment. We try to make it a social evening for the guests, where every dish is explained to them.