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August 26, 2016

Meet the Couple Behind Magazine Street Kitchen

Text by Huzan Tata. Photographs by Prateek Patel

Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf’s sprawling new food venue is a co-cooking space, a bakery and a dining area all rolled into one

Forewarned about the road to our destination, we are prepared to manoeuvre our vehicle through pebbled paths and winding lanes. And, as Mumbai’s showers strike, we brave through storm-like weather, before we turn in to Reay Road’s newest and probably most unique landmark, Magazine Street Kitchen. Reaching the venue may be an effort, but you forget all about the journey as soon as you enter the large wooden doors of this space.

The red brick walls of what used to be an industrial estate add to the old-world charm, and as we prepare for our shoot, we explore the 2,500-square-foot location and its shining equipment. Meant to be a co-cooking space, Magazine Street Kitchen — taking its name from the street it is located on — is the brainchild of the owners of Colaba restaurant The Table, Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf, along with head chef Alex Sanchez. The first of its kind in the city, it serves as a multi-use venue for masterclasses, workshops, group events, intimate dinners and other community cooking initiatives. “This has been in the making for two years. The Table is now five-and-a-half years old, and a while after its launch we started thinking about what to do next — opening another restaurant was the obvious thing. We did look into that, but nothing came through. This property actually belongs to family and it was about to be sold, when I thought we could find a use for it. We initially thought of just catering due to the location…the idea developed from there, and we realised it would actually be a beautiful kitchen for others to use,” explains Devidayal.

Today, the quaint location houses several cooking stoves, a bakery, pantry and freezer on the lower level, and a short staircase leads to the floor above — where a dining space seats around 40 people and glass windows provide the perfect view of the kitchen below. “The design has evolved over the last two years. The upstairs area was initially going to be our office, then we thought of using part of it as a dining room, and finally settled on just the latter. In the kitchen, all the cooking equipment has been imported from Italy and Germany and is custom-made for us,” Devidayal shares.

While Chef Sanchez is responsible for bringing several international cooks down for special sessions — renowned chef Tim Dornon conducted a sauce-making workshop and created a seven-course tasting menu here last month — the husband-wife duo have their designated roles too. As with their restaurant, Devidayal, a self-confessed cooking novice, manages the operations, and Yousuf is the one calling the shots in business development. Since Magazine Street Kitchen is such a novel concept, there were some bumps along the way, I imagine. “The biggest challenge was to come up with the idea — you don’t have a set example around. You ask yourself, ‘Does this create interest? Will people appreciate coming all the way?’ In every industry, when things get saturated, the only way forward is to push the envelope. You have to come up with different ideas. To achieve that goal became demanding,” Yousuf discloses.

And their idea seems to be gaining steam at a reasonable pace. Their recent Food With Benefits event had nine of Mumbai’s top chefs come together to work their magic. And though the kitchen isn’t used every day, the bakery, Magazine Street Bread Co., creates fresh goods daily and supplies them to other outlets and cafes across the city, including Le 15 Café and Banh Mi Co. Brioches, croissants, cinnamon rolls, puffs, baguettes and other treats — of which we sample some crisp, buttery ones — are made here, from completely local ingredients. “Our signature is that we are, if I may say so myself, making really superior-quality bread. Our head baker and chef did a lot of R&D in creating these recipes to make them as good as an imported product. I think limiting wastage and creating specific quantities works better for us. We want people to consume our breads all through the city,” expresses Devidayal.

For now, the couple is hoping for the kitchen to gain traction, and are keen on introducing the concept in more cities. The most exciting thing about it, they agree, is that it’s in an area not many people frequent and they hope to change that. So, what ultimately is the USP of their new project? “I think it’s that there isn’t any other space like it in the city,” Devidayal says. “Our attempt was to make sure it’s a state-of-the-art kitchen. Whether it’s a chef from London, Mumbai or the USA, there shouldn’t be anything they can’t do here,” Yousuf adds. And Devidayal excitedly tells us, “For me, what’s great is the fact that we’ve been able to create a modern cooking space in an old industrial warehouse. So people get to have a sense of what this building used to be, and also have the best equipment to work with. That contrast is pretty exciting. I love that we’ve been able to retain some identity of the past.” On that note, we take our leave, still thinking of the scrumptious breads we devoured earlier, and hoping to visit their kitchen again soon.

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