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The Laundry Chef!

22-10-2020  Gday India

Growing up amongst boxes of Alphonso mangoes and the temple bells of Mathura, Helly Raichura is who she is today thanks to her love of regional cooking. She cooks with a modern twist; as a guest judge in this year’s MasterChef she introduced the pasta inspired by khandvi that broke the internet and created quite the stir overseas, with MasterChef now being aired in India. I say what glorifying Khandvi to pasta just as the Chinese with their chopsticks to the world.

Let me introduce you to Raichura, who is here to shift our thinking in food and the way we do business.

The name EVL is as organic as her business. It came just like that - whilst cleaning her backyard. Saying that she was not up for cleaning the backyard every weekend when diners would enter her home. So, that was it “Why not diners enter via my laundry?”

EVL, translating to Enter Via Laundry, was once just a hobby, growing it organically. Helly Raichura’s email literally broke a year and a half ago when the once-a-month food experience got to 26,000 bookings in one day via word of mouth. There was a waitlist for over a year to taste her luxurious food (which included me). Then COVID-19 kept everyone in a waiting game.

As I speak to Raichura, the founder of Enter via Laundry (now incorporating EVL at Home only for delivery), I sense trepidation about the future. As Melbourne begins to find its inspiration within the pandemic, I am hopeful that our city will bounce back once again, helped by her generosity in serving the finest plate of food.

As always, I am fascinated by migrant stories, especially when it comes to their interpretation of their cultural cuisine. In her mid-30s, Raichura came to Australia in 2007 from Ahmedabad, Gujrat to study human resources. She met her husband here and is now a mother of two.

She never considered doing anything in food; though she was always drawn to cooking, she never trained to be a professional chef. Stereotypical middle-class values of owning a nice posh job forced Raichura to do the same. Scoring a job in HR, she never stopped dreaming of food and started a small cake business, which she soon discontinued but it allowed her to test the waters. Her posh job in Corporate was also something that she wants to continue on the side.

Originally, EVL started as a hobby for friends and family. She wanted to see how her friends responded to the whole dining experience. She was surprised to see three of her friends turn up.

Breaking the norm of pigeon-holed and clichéd dining, Raichura wanted an organic way for people to experience not only her food, but also this new way of sharing a table laden with food by strangers.
The idea behind EVL was to host and share an experience; that was the theme behind the whole business. It became the epicentre for creating a bond, a sense of community where designers and master-chefs alike would be looking for friendly faces over food.

When Raichura, juggling a newborn and homeschooling a five- year old, is on the phone with me, she’s pondering the future of her business.

Now that a return to normality is hovering in front of us after months of lockdown, there is light at the end of the tunnel for EVL too.

Its October, I am on the phone with her again. EVL at home will be serving its last meal from 23rd October - 25TH October. Raichura says to me excitedly that she now has a central kitchen where the magic will continue to happen, sending out ready-made meals through the EVL program. Also, she will be opening for bookings in November or early January 2021, depending on restrictions. But she is back with her EVL experience and has some fantastic surprises in store.

Raichura has just scratched the surface. There has been a shift of thinking lately in chefs, food businesses and even individuals in cooking and enjoying regional food – and what EVL started a couple of years ago seems to have brought out the love of regional cooking in people. Her love for food enables her to respect local produce, cook with seasonal produce and create her own narrative. We have all seen this self-taught cooking technique in MasterChef, showing us her skill. Raichura not only enjoys techniques that been handed down to her from her mother and aunty, giving birth to her famous khandvi pasta.

EVL will not only have an amplified new menu, but also start catering for anyone who wants to enjoy a Bengali experience or a Kashmiri experience in the comfort of their home.

For this Diwali, like last year, she has curated some amazing mithai boxes that will be available for order from her website or on Instagram. The contents look exquisite, like the lemon zest and hazelnut coconut ladoos or perhaps the saffron sandesh. I’ll be sure to book mine.

Melbourne has embraced migration and the beautiful Raichura says she is very happy to contribute to this captivating storytelling of food, making her Gujrati community proud. I see diversity in all genres of storytelling, from cinema to food; life is a never-ending bioscope of food stories. I feel indebted to be able to write for such creative people who believe that food can be changed with new techniques and tradition can be made new and delicious. I am a partisan of the new migrant artisan chefs in town.

Shakespeare comes to mind for this gorgeous chef: “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”

By Nandita Chakraborty

22-10-2020  Gday India

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