Chennai’s Innovative New Food Entrepreneurs – A Special Roundup , The Tryst Cafe.
Chennai’s foodscape is brimming with innovation and vigour. From new cooking techniques, to quirky interiors and fusion based menus, every restaurateur worth his salt is doing something different to keep his restaurant at the tip of everyone’s palete. RITZ meets six of the most avant-garde entrepreneurs in the food business.
Samia Sait is not like the average business entrepreneur you meet. This youngster loves to get her hands dirty, covered in flour mostly, and get behind the counter to ensure that nothing but pure excellence passes on to the customer’s plate. “Tryst Café was my brother Omar’s idea, he has always been the foodie in the family, however, I’d like to think of it as my baby,” Samia laughs.
The business sense that she oozes comes naturally to Samia Sait who has been part of her father’s garment business. “Sales has been in my blood even as a child. I worked as a diamond consultant for Macy’s in US, before deciding to move back to India,” she says. Lindy, a US expat and a regular at Tryst for the last 5 years gushes about the café and the variety of goodies they offer. “Tryst caters to my palate. Their breads are phenomenal and they make sure to maintain food standards. I personally love their Cinnamon Escargots.” For the uninitiated, though Tryst is a gourmet café, the escargot that this café serves is not the Catalonian delicacy rather a baked confectionary delight that mimics the swirl of a snail.
While the café does draw its fair share of customers, Samia reveals that her breads and other baked goods also sell like the proverbial hot cakes. “It has been about 18 months since we started baking our own breads and pastries. We used to source bread from a bakery in Puducherry, but now we are on our own.” Tryst’s fresh baked goodness is quite the rage in the city. “We bake about 400 loaves of bread a day on weekdays. On weekends our sales are much higher, I’d say about 700 loaves. We work closely with foreign consulates in the city. The clientele is split about 65:35 between foreigners and locals,” she adds.
There certainly must be something about the bread at Tryst. “Our turnover is about `27-30 lakhs a month, a significant portion of which is from bread sales. The sale of cheese is a far second. I actively take part in the bakery work and love to custom-make bread,” admits Samia. Well, that explains the steep sales that the gourmet store makes. Samia tells us that her favourite customised breads are the sunflower seed bread and the olive oil and walnut bread.
As you walk past the gourmet end of Tryst, one is greeted by a causal yet chic and laid back café peppered with customers, local and otherwise. The menu matches the ambience of the café both food and portion wise. “I’d like to think we represent comfort food at its best. Food that we all love and ate growing up – the pizzas, the fajitas, the pastas…” she trails off. What catches our eye on the menu is the Al Capone and Sicilian pizzas. Influenced by mafia films and The Godfather, maybe? Laughing she tells us that she was inspired by a recipe that she found online. Be that as it may, we certainly love the combination of the tomato sauce, mushrooms and chicken sausages!
Besides knowing how to pick her chefs, Samia has an eye for detail and aesthetics and spares no expense for the right equipment. She reveals that the gourmet set up at Tryst set her back about `25 lakhs, while the most expensive piece of equipment are customised counters that cost `10 lakhs.
As we eye the food that’s been placed on our table, Samia tells us that they have something special planned for the month. Looks like Tryst has a date with Pan-Asian cuisine!