Picture Courtesy: Sweekriti Gautam
The major issue currently being faced by Nepal is the economic blockade by India. We took an interview with the Deerwalk Food's manager and head chef Mr. Mohan Thapa. He has been trained in culinary arts and management. We had a talk with him as he shared some of his thoughts regarding the Deerwalk Foods system and the problems they are facing due to the blockade. Let's hear what he has to say.
What is your view regarding the blockade?
This blockade has taken us back towards the Stone Age. I believe this blockade has opened eyes of many. We had already forgotten how to use the traditional ways of cooking. But now, we have to rely on the firewood for cooking. The blockade is not really a problem for us and in my view, it has taught us many things.
Which is the most cooked food item these days?
Obviously, the number of varieties in the food menu has been decreased, but we are trying our best to serve as many varieties of food as possible. Younger staff members are not used to doing so much labor. The common food items that we are able to serve are pizza, pasta etc.
What are the changes in the cooking items due to the blockade?
As I’ve said before, we are trying our best to serve different varieties of food. During my childhood, we used to prepare food by burning firewood, but now we are habituated to cook using gas. So, cooking with firewood has created a bit of a problem. There isn’t much of a change in the food items that we serve, though.
How have you been managing the raw materials needed to prepare all the food items?
We have contact with 5-6 suppliers, but the main contact is with two suppliers for vegetables and groceries. Before the blockade, we had contact with only one of the suppliers, but because he could not provide all the necessary goods, we got in contact with the second supplier. Now, even if there is another national crisis, we will not have much of a problem because we have enough food stored to run the canteen smoothly for up to two months.How have you been managing the firewood?
We have 2-3 suppliers in contact. The starting price of the firewood that we bought was Rs.12 per kg and we have even paid up to Rs.22. Sometimes, we bring the firewood from Bhaktapur and sometimes from eastern Nepal. We even bought the firewood from Nepalgunj for 2 to 3 months to run the Cafeteria. Even though it has been a bit difficult, we have been able to manage it till date.
What are the problems that you have been facing due to the blockade?
I don't take the blockade as a problem. It is a governmental issue. If we are not able to prepare the food and serve it then that is our real problem. However, a number of problems may arise due to the blockade. The main problem that may arise is we may not be able to serve our customers in time. So, in order to minimize this, we have started to cook from 6 am in the morning whereas before the blockade we used to start at 8 am. Another problem is that we cannot control the power of firewood. Either it burns completely or doesn't burn at all. Because of this, the employees have to work harder and the financial expenses of the company has also increased.
What are the complaints received?
There are around 500 members in the Deerwalk family. About 99% of them have understood the problem, but it is human nature to always expect something better and new. Apart from that, we have not received any complaints regarding the hygiene of the food. Because I, myself am a trained chef, I teach my colleagues to do their best. So we don't receive many complaints.
How are you managing time to provide the food?
We serve breakfast from around 8 in the morning to the whole Deerwalk family. The snacks are available from 2 pm to 5 pm. The food which is to be prepared next week is decided before hand so that we don't have any rush or confusion in the last moment.
What is the estimated expense of the students per day?
The new batch spends more money in Deerwalk foods than the previous batches. When Deerwalk was first established, the food system was not properly managed. We did not have a proper place to stay and the chefs were also not well trained. So, the older batches prefer to go outside for food. I can confidently say that the food they consume outside is not as hygienic as the food that we serve here. I want every Deerwalk member to have their food in the canteen itself. I want every individual to be satisfied in every aspect, be it hygiene, nutrition, quality or budget. I wish to serve food which meets everyone's budget and expectation.Is the budget separated for the canteen maintained?
We have been in a loss since last 2-3 months due to the blockade. We had not kept big margins for the budget. For eg: we used to buy sunflower oil for Rs 165 but due to the blockade we have to buy it for Rs 260. There is a large difference between the previous and present price. One carton of oil is not sufficient for us; we need around three cartons of oil per day. We used to buy the groceries for around 3 lakhs, but now we have to buy the same amount of grocery for around 5 lakhs. We are waiting patiently in the hope that this blockade comes to an end soon and we can resume serving our customers with a variety of food items.This interview has been jointly taken by Sweekriti Gautam and Shreeya Pandey