When she is not shooting or winning global acclaim for her enviable body of work over the last two decades, Shefali Shah loves cooking and feeding her family and social circle. She loves being a host and also likes designing spaces. So when she thought of starting a hospitality business, she saw it as a cumulative opportunity to monetise from what she had been doing for free and out of her own liking.
It gave birth to a buffet called Jalsa, launched last month in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. “I look at life as a celebration and that doesn’t necessarily mean going to a restaurant. Even at home, something needs to make you happy on a daily basis. That is where Jalsa comes from,” says Shefali Shah, while on her way back to a hotel in Maharashtra, where she is currently shooting.
Shefali’s Instagram is filled with photos of her doing up the 7,000-odd sqft place, painting the walls and cooking some of her favourite food.
From the prints, fabrics to cutlery, everything was chosen with careful precision; how much of a passionate venture is Jalsa? “Passion is an understatement,” she says with a laugh, “It is something I got obsessed with over time. I could have gotten a designer but you also got to keep budgets in mind. The more time I spent there I knew what I wanted the place to look like.”
Whenever Shefali hosted an event, she always turned to her sister Neha Bassi who has been in the hospitality business for two decades. It was a “no-brainer” for her to collaborate with the sister. “Neha and her husband, Deepak, have been prolific whether it comes to food, service or presentation. So, it was a given that I wanted her,” says Shefali, adding that they offer not just quality food but an experience you would take home.
The slogan for Jalsa, says Shefali, is “come, chill and be”.
The menu was curated with that in mind... to cover an entire spectrum of customers from nine to 99. Jalsa offers a hodgepodge of Indian and international cuisines with 50-60 varieties, starting from kamrat , kachakeri to pastas and pizzas. The signature food is the nani wali dal , which is what Shefali’s children call their grandmother’s masala -free dal .
Ultimately, Jalsa is all about fun dining. It offers a range of activities for customers, like palm reading, applying henna, pottery and dancing to garba . “By the end of the evening, I saw someone in their 70s, letting their hair down and dancing to garba and also joined the teenagers for a flash mob,” she says, explaining why she wanted Jalsa to be more of an experience.
All said and done, Shefali says she believes in paisa vasool . “The kind of food and experience we offer in that price range, people will be like ‘seriously?’.”