Gourmet Gala: Begum Victoria

It’s unrestauranting on the rise in Bengaluru, thanks to the chaotic traffic and umpteen gourmet options available easily in the confines of your home. While there are hundreds of restaurants, bars, cafes and breweries mushrooming across the city, there’s also a surge in demand for home delivered gourmand offerings. Move over dal, roti, sabji or the staple rasam – rice, the bold and the beautiful of the metropolis are rejoicing in breaking away from the conventional meals. RITZ Magazine meets a few entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space, who are doing their bit to change the way we dine at home.

BY NAMITA GUPTA

Begum Victoria’s range of cheese by Shruti Golchha, Pooja Reddy and Manu Chandra

Pooja Reddy has come a long way from being an investment banker in NYC, who loves to bake, to entering the unusual and intriguing world of artisanal cheesemaking. Shruti Golchha always had many creative pursuits, from her early days when she entered the world of fashion and feels there’s an interesting connection between the worlds of fashion and food, inspired by Giorgio Armani. Manu Chandra is the popular chef behind restaurants like Olive Beach, Toast & Tonic and Cantan. “The three of us (Pooja, Shruti and Manu) came together because of our love for cheese. Fed up of importing it, we decided to create an infrastructure to make and service other cheese lovers like us and to re-create the memories of their travels around the world. There is now no need to look far out to France or Italy, for any such cheese when such wonderful cheese is available right here. The imported cheeses available are expensive and taste “plasticky” and “preserved”. The logistic timelines and import journey cannot ensure freshness. Our cheese is delicately handmade in small batches. We shun the usage of chemical stabilisers or preservatives. The counter culture of the farm-to-fork movement using locally sourced ingredients like purely organic A2 cow’s milk versus the until now reigning supreme processed food culture has also ushered in tremendous growth. “Five years ago, farmer’s market and food fleas weren’t as vibrant. Today we have a stream of customers who show up regularly”. The culture of how we eat is changing. If you buy organic you care about your own body. It’s well priced, super healthy, high quality, made with pure ingredients and can be shared by the whole family as opposed to a bottle of wine. Desserts are not healthy and chocolates are also not much appreciated. For those in search of novel gift ideas, this makes for a great gift platter,” states Shruti. For someone’s 50th, they sent out a large lot with the tag line, “You age as well as this Cheese.”

“Begum Victoria’s range of organic cheeses are all handmade, employing the use of traditional methods and responsibly-sourced A2 cow’s milk. Staying true to our longstanding belief of environmental consciousness and ensuring that we leave nature untouched, we avoid the use of animal-based products like rennet, making our products 100% vegetarian. We are making unique cheeses that are not readily available in the market, be it at the supermarkets and other cheese makers within India. Alpine conditions can be mimicked with temperature-controlled kitchens and ageing caves, but what eventually sets us apart is the quality of the locally sourced A2 milk, this adds to unique and indigenous flavours which translates into the delicious end product. Bengaluru is ready to try out new offerings from a gourmand/ epicurean standpoint and at the same time have a refined enough palate, thus enabling them to be discerning when it comes to quality and the product being offered. Weather wise, we are very conducive to cheese making. There were challenges though – refurbishing, sanitising and adhering to strict FSSAI guidelines in setting up the facility, be it the kitchen, the cave and the surrounding area, finding a consultant who came all the way from Canada to help us with the set-up and cheese making process: be it recipes, know how on cave management, training staff etc. And also finding the right source of milk. Cave management is the most critical and arduous part of cheese making and not very forgiving to even minute imperceptible variations in process. People can sign up for our monthly cheese club and soon we’ll be available at gourmet stores and other F & B spaces and retail outlets pan India,” she adds.