‘Wellness’ is a total buzzword right now. So entrepreneur and chef Mira Manek has jumped on it at the perfect time. From working with big-name luxury restaurants such as Holborn Dining Rooms at the Rosewood Hotel, to building a successful blog to promote her recipes, Mira is making a real name for herself.
She is also shattering the common misconception that Indian cuisine is unhealthy, fatty and oily. Her dishes take inspiration from Indian spices such as those found in our beloved takeaways, but Mira offers nutritious options for every meal of the day.
She popped over to our offices to chat about how she found her business niche and why she’s now running with it.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I used to be a travel journalist based abroad and I moved to Dubai. I always, from my teenage years, had slow digestion which was affected more by my travelling. I would always look for the healthiest places but I do have a sweet tooth which would lead to me skipping meals. I thought it was being healthy but it all affected me. I’d figured out ways of compensating by having herbal teas and that sort of thing, but I didn’t give my body the nutrients it needed.
When I moved back to London I wanted to explore Indian cooking just because I realised what I thought was the enemy, which was oil, wasn’t. It was probably too many carbs! I wanted to eat the right foods and learn about them. So then I started learning and re-learning my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. Then by experimenting I realised I could came up with my own combinations. That wasn’t the plan but it happened. In doing that I started a range of products and from that people started tasting the food and seeing it on my Instagram. Through all of that, I started developing a new sort-of Indian cuisine that hasn’t really been done before.
2. How are you getting away from the reputation that Indian food is quite fatty?
I think what people perceive Indian cooking to be is defined by a trip to their local Tandoori restaurants. Indian can actually be a whole lot healthier. The other thing I’m trying to do is get rid of the perception that Indian cooking is something people can’t emulate at home because it’s too complicated. Whilst the flavours are complicated, the cooking process actually isn’t.
3. Chai has become a buzz word at the moment, what exactly is it?
Chai can be made in so many different ways and the easiest way to change your cup of tea into a cup of chai is by adding a mix of masalas into it. My chai spice is a mixture of the raw ground powders: cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg. It’s really good for you. I’m actually doing a collaboration with the Marylebone Hotel doing a supper club there and they’ve come up with a cocktail using my chai which is exciting!
4. Has the food industry been quite welcoming to you?
I think I’ve come in at the right time. People are wanting to do collaborations firstly and are open to it and secondly, it’s the right time to hear about healthy food and especially on the Indian side because nobody else seems to be doing specifically within the ingredients. While Indian food can be healthy, people don’t think of it as healthy. So by just focusing on that I think it has become a niche no-one has explored.
5. Has there been a lot of trial and error with your recipes?
I’ve done some recipes that may not taste quite right and I need to make them again but in the time I’ve made a whole array of different meals like breakfast and lunch and snacks. I think my forté is the feast element making things look beautiful. In my new supper clubs, I’m calling them feasts because I’m serving a whole array of dishes not individually plated.
6. What advice would you give to someone looking to find a niche in the food market?
I think even though initially I didn’t start off with a blog, I started off with a website, I realised that you need a blog. I think that updating constantly is the only way to engage people, if you don’t have anything new what are you going to put up?
If you’ve found a niche then run with it and go all out. Do dishes that really fall into that particular category and try to engage with people on social media. Start doing supper clubs to get people together and try the food. These days, your window to the world and the world’s window to you is social media.