In the third section of this five part series, R Madan Chief Projects Officer at The Akshaya Patra Foundation describes the challenges the team faced in the initial days of facilitating the set up of the Earthquake Relief Centralised Kitchen in Nepal. Read Part 1 and Part 2 too!
Can you tell us about the initial challenges you faced? How did you overcome these challenges?
Our CSS (Central Strategic Sourcing) Head and our Project head went to Nepal and scouted the area to see where the kitchen could be established. Initially, we thought everything was destroyed there but we got the good news that some buildings are intact. We inspected a few wedding halls where we thought we could host the kitchen. We also had to check the supply lines because roads had also been damaged in the earthquakes, however they were fine and the roads were being fixed. This service was completely being done by India.
The people of Nepal didn’t know the concept of centralised kitchen. What they were used to was a langar type of kitchen. Even when we asked the vendors for 3 tonnes of rice, they were taken aback. It was not just the people but even our collaborators, Tata Trusts and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha couldn’t believe it. When people started visiting the kitchen, then they realised the scale of our operations.
Initially we followed a North Indian menu for the people. But we got a lot of negative feedback in the first two days with regards to the food. We were taken aback and needed to find out the reason as soon as possible. Luckily I met a person who could speak a little Hindi. We asked him to translate and find out why was there a negative feedback about the food.
The people said they didn’t have a problem with the quality of food and it’s very tasty. The main issue was with the certain types of vegetables and dal being used. In Hindu tradition when you are in mourning certain vegetables – for example pumpkin, brinjal and masoor dal – cannot be consumed. It was a lack of knowledge but also a great learning experience at that time. They also had a problem with the rice we were serving. That day I called the Chef who worked at the hotel where we were staying. He was a Nepali who worked in India. I asked him to help us out with the rice. He wanted to see the rice so I gave him a sample.
He cooked him in his style and said that this is the correct rice to be served. And there was no looking back from there.
Part IV on 23 September…