In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Nishek Jain, Founder, 29 (Twenty Nine) shares his passion for Pan Indian food and more.
The Background Story
The idea of 29 was basically triggered with the realisation that India is the biggest hub of food. I’m able to tell about Mexican, Japanese, Italian Cuisine, Oriental and Chinese as well but what if some day somebody happens to ask me about Indian Cuisine? Being an Indian I know 7 items from Mexico, 11 from Italy, 13 from Lebanon but if you ask me for an item from Meghalaya, I will look at you as you have spoken a foreign language. The idea that I have gone to this pursuit in food sector was to expose the rich Indian cuisine to trace our own roots. I bring Indian food to Indian people in our home India via restaurant called 29.
I have visited 21 states of our country because I was living in the 22nd one. When I started travelling there were only 28 states. I didn’t go to other states because I have already visited them and already knew the food of. I wanted to travel India and took the first flight without even knowing where it was going to land. I landed in Hyderabad and realised that I don’t know anybody in Hyderabad. I just went to the interiors of Andhra Pradesh and googled a little. It turned out that I’ll be going to Amlapuram, Asia’s first transaction took place in this city 1100 years ago. I chose the place because it was older than 1100 years and got an opportunity to have a dish called ‘Punugullu’. The dish is special that they don’t even sell it; they just make it at home. I tasted it for the first time. I asked him for the recipe, took it and was wondering if there’s one Punugullu at one state then there are 28 more states of this country that I don’t know. That is how I started travelling and collecting recipes from different states of India. And when I ended up with travelling there were 168 recipes which were unheard in my hand from every nook and corner of India. That was the fundament of 29.
Every year on 24th of April and 24th of November, the menu changes completely. You get new items on these two days. If I’m promising to serve Indian cuisine to the people then I just cannot stop at 70 items, I need to satiate their palates with every possible Indian dish available. On these days, we also keep all the recipes of the previous menu outside in printed form. No restaurant does that; no one gives the recipe out. These are the recipes I have procured in 2015 after travelling in different states of our country and exploring Indian food. But if you look at them closely, these are the recipes I have procured from some village, district, somebody’s home and I’m giving it back to the people.
We are in South Mumbai, going towards North Mumbai and looking forward to cover Eastern and Western suburbs as well. Then we’ll go to Jodhpur, Bengaluru and various other cities. Eventually in 2018 we are hoping to expand to Singapore and Dubai but first of all, I’ll cover Pan Mumbai and Pan India.
I would say licensing was such a struggle. I was a laymen wishing to open up a restaurant and there was a lot procreative work that needs to be done. When I started there was a list of 11 licences but in the mean time now, there are 40. When you don’t belong to the industry, your reliability becomes a question. You have to prove your credentials and your model right to sustain in the business. One needs to keep innovating because if you keep doing the same stuff, you’ll end up losing diners.