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The winner eats all

Rocky and Mayur of MangaloreIt’s food and food and only food that keeps them going

Rocky and Mayur of MangaloreIt’s food and food and only food that keeps them going  

Three young men became The 3 Hungry Men and now have a whole bunch of ardent foodies following their blog

Don’t be surprised if you walk into an eatery and find a young man focusing a gigantic camera on his meal. Don’t be perplexed if he orders what you perceive to be the entire menu and do not, be flummoxed when he turns to his friend and says, “Where next?”

“Where do we go to eat?” is the single-most pondered over question by Mangalorean students and elders alike. Mangalore has long been ignored by food reviewers and doesn’t even feature on most online restaurant guides.

Three years ago, three college students took up the challenge of being the first independent food reviewing team in Mangalore. With the intention of changing Mangalore’s attitude towards food they set up a blog and wrote reviews on the places they loved to eat at, ranging from chic restaurants to small-time eateries tucked amongst rambling buildings.

The buzz around them grew with “The 3 Hungry Men” becoming a well-known name in Mangalore. Nikhil Pai, 23 and Colin D’Souza, 25 (the third member is constantly changing) now manage a full-fledged website where they publish their reviews.

They review restaurants on a 6-point scale based on hygiene, ambience, food, service, location and value for money. The review itself isn’t done on the spot, but is made public after a month. “Many people recognise us and often give us special treatment. So we have a team which visits the restaurant later and we get an accurate, unbiased review,” explains Nikhil. In the process, they have become the go-to people when it comes to eating out, frequently being used as a call centre for food options by people, laughs Nikhil.

With a finite number of eateries in Mangalore, Manipal and Udupi they constantly have to hunt for new places to eat and in the process discover treats such as the banana leaf sukka in Mukka.

Their first large-scale event was “NH-66” where they toured the Mangalore – Bombay Highway on their motorcycles, reviewing roadside eateries. Though this drew comparison with Rocky and Mayur of the popular “Highway on My Plate” show – personalities too are quite similar – Nikhil is quick to clarify: “They call us the Rocky and Mayur of Mangalore… But, that was a one-time event. While they sample highway eateries, our focus is small-time restaurants in the coast. The concept is completely different.”

In addition to the food reviews, they also conduct very popular eating competitions (Eating is a talent, they say) – chicken eating, pizza eating, ice cream premier league, biryani wars and most recently, pani puri eating competition for their third anniversary.

“One guy ate an entire biryani in 1:08 minutes and while another ate three huge pieces of really hot, fried chicken in just 100 seconds,” says an awed Nikhil.

While most endeavours born out of youthful exuberance often fade into oblivion after a while, for The 3 Hungry Men, it was more than just a way to kill time. “It’s our passion for food that keeps us going, that’s what inspired us in the first place,” says Colin resolutely. It isn’t however, a full-time endeavour. Colin is pursuing his post-graduate studies in psychology and Nikhil works as a cartoonist and illustrator. “If we had the funds, we’d do reviews pan-India,” smiles Nikhil.

It hasn’t always been a smooth road paved with good times and good food. After three years, they have become a recognised name in Mangalore’s food industry, with numerous restaurants bearing a certificate that shows The 3 Hungry Men’s recommended dish.

And not everyone takes criticism well, especially from ‘amateurs’. “Are you professional chefs to criticise us?” is an oft-heard question. “We are like any other customer who can voice opinions. Our aim isn’t to degrade a place. We also highlight the positives so that it acts as a guide to a first-timer,” explains Colin.

However, what has The 3 Hungry Men most excited is the airing of the show “Twist of Taste” hosted by New-York based, Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna. They were invited to give him a tour of coastal cuisine and are the youngest guides on the show. They refuse to divulge more details citing contractual reasons but hint that it is different from the format of the other episodes. The show will air on Monday, March 3, on Fox Traveller at 9.30 p.m.

SATSHYA ANNA THARIEN

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