Get-hooked May 17, 2021
Food delivery service ‘a bite better’ offers you delicious goodies cooked by talented disabled cooks
If you are a person who loves to check out different kinds of food, or wants a break from cooking every day, then Mumbai-based food delivery service ‘a bite better’ is just what you are looking for. The dishes here are put together by a team of young disabled cooks who bring plenty of taste, creativity, and enthusiasm to their dishes.
Are you craving for a bite into a delicious Goan Baath cake, or are cashew nut cookies made with healthy millet flour more suited to your taste buds? Whatever you are looking for, ‘a bite better’ is certainly the place to fulfil your foodie dreams ranging from hampers, daily meals to a range of HEARTisanal products for those with dietary restrictions.
Mumbai-based food delivery service ‘a bite better’ is becoming a popular go to place for foodies in the city. The meals here are cooked by a team of disabled cooks who work in an inclusive set up and bring plenty of creativity and passion to their dishes. These disabled cooks are young, love to eat, and love to feed people – a winning combination says Tatyana Dias, who started this initiative.
A neurobiologist, Dias is the co-founder of The Veruschka Foundation, a not for profit that trains intellectually and developmentally disabled youths, equipping them with the skills needed to live independently. Dias started the foundation in the memory of her late sister who had autism. In 2019, Dias started the Cuilnaris Cookery Course to teach cooking skills to disabled youths. The eventual goal was to place them in different restaurants and kitchens or empower them to start their own food businesses.
Disabled cooks work in inclusive set up
These plans had to be reworked after the COVID-19 pandemic. The food business was hit hard with kitchens and restaurants downsizing, forcing Dias to think of a new job strategy for her team of disabled cooks. Work opportunities for the disabled girls on her team were especially affected. “We felt that because of the pandemic we had to take matters in our own hands”, explains Dias. “We wanted to give our differently abled cooks a future, to help them an an identity and improve their self-esteem”.
And that’s how the world got a chance to taste ‘a bite better’.
We decided to call it ‘a bite better’ because the food products made are good for you. We have food items that are made with healthy stuff like jowar, bajra and jaggery as well as a range of products that speak to everyone like comfort foods. The idea is to help find employment for my girls as well as long term sustainability so that I can train more differently abled people in cooking skills. We need to give options to these differently abled cooks in terms of a future. Just being a skill training centre is not enough – we need to think about what after this. – Tatyana Dias, Co-founder, The Veruschka Foundation
The disabled cooks at ‘a bite better’ have conditions ranging from autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. At the moment there are two disabled cooks working with Dias given the travel restrictions in Mumbai. Once that lifts, there will be nearly 10 disabled cooks manning the kitchen. The choice of food to be cooked is decided by Dias and her team.
Among the core team of disabled cooks is Dhriti Pandit, a 24-year-old with Down syndrome, who has always loved to cook.
“Social distancing is followed properly in the kitchen, so I don’t have any worries about Dhriti going there”, says her mother Surekha Pandit. “She loves to go there and feels like she is contributing something. Dhriti loves to make new dishes and at the kitchen she has the opportunity to cook a different dish every day along with the other differently abled cooks”. The appreciation has given Dhriti greater confidence in her cooking abilities. “I can leave her alone in the kitchen and she handles everything”.
The food experience that the team of disabled cooks at ‘a bite better’ bring to their customers is truly international. For the Christmas platter last year themed Peace, Love and Joy, there were almond cookies from Germany, Goan Baath Cake from India, and fudge from the United States, giving people a chance to experience the joys from around the world during lockdown. The Christmas platter was a hit with over 100 packages sent to Pune, Goa and Delhi. Dias had to get additional hands in the kitchen to cope with the rush.
The popularity is a heady feeling given that the food delivery service launched informally only in November last year.
Disabled cooks win steady following
“The challenge is how to demonstrate to the public that a differently abled person is a workforce to invest is”, says Dias. “The differently abled cooks on my team are able to make a range of things, but it has to be in an inclusive environment. They do have challenges in terms of speed, but we know their strengths as well. They are excellent choppers, for instance, the amount of dry fruits they chopped during the festivals was incredible”.
Manjiree Kamath, 34 years old, is among the disabled cooks whose chopping skills are most prized. Manjiree, who has autism, has always loved cooking. “She was always good at it and has grown more confident”, says her mom Mohini Kamath. “She helps me at home a lot and is excellent at chopping. She chops vegetables so finely. This is a great opportunity for differently abled cooks to show the world their ability and creative side”.
If you thought snacks and festive treats are all that the disabled cooks at ‘a bite better’ are good at, think again. They also excel at international cuisine like Mexican bowls and Mediterranean platters which are offered at weekend kitchens to an enthusiastic response. This will become a regular feature in the section called meal boxes in the coming weeks. There are thoughtful creative touches as well. Like the Christmas platter had a DIY cookie set where children could create their own icing patterns.
Held food fund raiser for Covid relief efforts
The team also took part in the recent Bake for India campaign which had bakers from across India come together in a fund-raising drive for organisations working to support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘a bite better’ team raised funds for the Hemkunt Foundation which used the money to buy oxygen cylinders.
These touches have won the team of disabled cooks at ‘a bite better’ a steady and loyal following, which includes actress-model Kim Sharma who shared social media posts praising the hampers made by ‘a bite better’.
The following is pretty incredible when you consider how tough the food delivery business has become after the pandemic with a number of home-based cooks using the enforced lockdown to share their culinary skills. The team at ‘a bite better’ is winning hearts for their unbeatable combination of great food and an even greater heart.
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