What’s the occasion? Biryani!
One of my most favourite memories of biryani is vising my friend Anjum’s house for Ramzan. Just as I would turn into the street to her house, there would be a wonderful smell wafting through the air. I’d given my excuses at home –
“I’ll be at Anjum’s for lunch.” and my mother would understand that that meant that no food was to be given to me for the rest of the day because of all that I was about to devour. We’d talk and laugh for hours at her place. However, once the biryani and fried chicken (one, that nobody makes like Anjum’s dad) reached our tables, there would be a silence like no other. The only sound that you hear is that of us chomping down the food at speeds, we didn’t know we were capable of.
Years later at work, we were exhausted and decided to order food. A sudden craving of biryani hits the palate. We’d heard of Aasife biryani before but we’d never tried it. So we decided to order in from there. Just as the food arrived, a familiar smell captured my senses. I served myself with the eagerness of a schoolgirl and then the first mouthful took me back years in time – to laughter, the sound of crisp chicken served on my plate and the absolute bliss of innocence.
When the opportunity presented itself for us to do an interview with Mr. Aasife himself, we were ecstatic. For a writer of all-things-food, our biggest celebrities are the chefs who make them. So this was quite the fan girl moment for us. As we walked in to Aasife biryani on Mount road, we were impressed by the look of the place. The valet took our great care of us from the moment we stepped in. A young man in his 30-something presented himself as Aasife and we were stunned. It’s not like we had a person in mind when we went to meet him, but to see someone so young to have built an empire for himself and make a huge mark in the food industry is tremendously inspiring. His story, as it will unfold below, will show you just how much.
Tell us how you started your journey.
I come from a very humble background. I’ve studied up to 10th Std but I’ve always had a passion for cooking. Just outside GRT I had a small stand where I would sell my biryani. This was in 1999. Within 2-3 months it became popular and I had quite a number of regular customers. Working day in and day out, the business started blooming. At one point my outlet on Butt road got so crowded that it was as big as a wedding guest list. After that there was no turning back.
You have a fantastic business sense in spite of having no formal education on it. How did you manage this?
I understand my business from my customers. When people started calling me to have the biryani delivered to them, I understood a little bit about which areas wanted my biryani there. Once my demand to that particular area increased to a certain level, I opened an outlet there. Once I go to a new place, I feel very positive because of all the love I receive from my beloved customers. And when you surround yourself with such positivity and goodwill, nothing can go wrong.
How do you manage to keep the consistency of your food up in every outlet uniformly?
I started hiring people. But even as I expanded, I wanted to have control over the food that is made so everything is made in one place and then sent to the different outlets. I personally check the food. Every person working there knows exactly how much of each ingredient goes into the food. From the time a chicken is slaughtered, it is brought to your table in a matter of a few hours. So every ingredient is absolutely fresh. There’s no question of going wrong when it is like a formula that you apply to solve your equation. It will taste perfect each time no matter what.
How has your family supported you through these ventures?
My mother has seen me through thick and thin. If there was ever a time when I didn’t know something, she would guide me through it.
What are your favourites on the menu?
I love biryani. There is no question about the fact that biryani is my absolute favourite. But I also do love grilled chicken and the falooda that we serve.
Tell us about one very memorable incident in your career so far.
There was once a period when it rained heavily for 30 hours and many places in Chennai were flooded. My kitchen was stalked full and I thought to myself that people could use some comfort food at this hour. I had only one other person to help me. So instead of closing the place I decided to make as much biryani as our stalk would allow us to make. We made up to 500 kg of biryani and we were completely sold out. I may have been tired but my heart was very happy and full!
Do you have a message for other young entrepreneurs like yourself?
Learn your business well, first. It takes at least 10 years to understand all the nuances of your business. Start taking risks after that. Don’t compromise on quality no matter what. If at first, you do something that succeeds, continue to do it till the end. It may be more difficult or time consuming, but it is worth your while.
Tell us about the idea behind your outlet in OMR
I know that a lot of people come with their families to have my biryani. So this is going to be the biggest restaurant that there is. It can seat up to 500 people across 5 floors. There’s an exclusive play area for kids. This is a place that I want people to feel, at home.
Tell us about the low point and high point in your career.
I was thrown out of my stall outside GRT at one point by people who said that I hadn’t taken permission to sell my food. They broke my cart and I thought that was the end of my business. But my spirit was not broken. I went back to making biryani and opened my own place in Alandur. The opening of this store gave me confidence as I finally realized my dream.
What is on the cards for the future?
I want to open more outlets for my biryani around Chennai. And I want the name of our biryani to be so popular that if anyone sets foot in Chennai, they don’t leave without trying Aasife Biryani.
After having this chat with Mr. Asife, we were very excited to be invited to taste some more of his dishes.
Biryani, of course, was on the cards, But this time we had more than just that.
Cooked to perfection with the freshest of ingredients, this one is your classic Arabian grill.
This was a burst of flavour right from the moment it was served at the table. Served with a mint sauce that complemented the dish wonderfully, it tastes delightfully unique.
We will just say this – Aasife just cannot go wrong with his biryani.
Beautifully presented and rich in taste!
We went back reminiscing about the taste of the food for the rest of the day and inspiring story that we’d just heard. It was one of those stories that we hold very close to our hearts; for the love of good old biryani.
Call in for a box of steaming Biriyani at 044 4007 4007 and we’ll let the Biriyani do the talking.