Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 15, Tuesday, September 9, 2003







Your wish is their command

MAHI is ecstatic over giving an immaculate party for her little daughter. They are both working parents who have invited the near and dear ones for the three year old's party. The guest list came to about 40 people for whom she decided to serve a home cooked meal. Her decision made a u-turn when her younger sister Rahi painted a dreary picture of Mahi resembling a pot roast herself after slaving over a hot stove all day. Looking fresh on one hand and feeding the hungry mass on the other proved to be a dilemma. To this Rahi suggested ordering food from outside. In this day of instant everything, the idea of catering seemed a welcome relief. Why not let someone else suffer in someone else's kitchen?

Thus the party ensued and the mother smiled at everyone looking as fresh as a daisy. Her evening was spent mingling with the guests without having to run to the kitchen every now and then on account of something burning. You see, someone else had already prepared the food. At the end of the party all the guests left for home with a full stomach and a satisfied taste palette.

Catering has gained popularity especially now when people seem much more busier than before. Everyone is running around with their ears glued to their cell phones. Busy as they may be, people need to eat and for that someone has to cook. Caterers are using their skills to not only have a great livelihood but also provide a valuable service to others in need. For parties and such, there is no longer the need to tread through the gut strewn muddy corridors of the fish market. It also means you do not have to hassle with the cook about the pay or how much he can filch from the stock. Caterers are there to offer you a menu and all you have to do is choose.
Of course, while you and I are trying to save time by not cooking the caterers are spending all their time behind the pursuit of food. They run the whole show from gathering the raw materials to preparing, packaging and often delivering.
Catering is a respectable and profitable business in our country. People from all walks of life are entering this business. The barriers of gender stereotyping bite the dust as many men also try their hand at it, literally.

Take for example the case of quick and dexterous Moin. He is 28 and has been working in this profession for the past seven years working at a catering center in Japan. He used his savings to start up a service called 'Bhoj' along with some of his friends. It began as a small venture supplying food to small offices and parties. As time went by, his friends joined other lines of work and soon he became the sole owner. Moins clientele has increased in the past couple of years where he serves everything from lunch to snacks for teatime. His workspace is a large kitchen at home where he employs about 10/12 people. Personal supervision is carried out to ensure quality. He considers catering a work of art added with business sense. It translates to getting mud-splattered fish and turning it into a mouth watering treats using the right amount of material. No waste equals to profits. Besides all this is also a social service.

Speaking of social services Sheva is a catering organization that deals with empowering women. It began around 1990 and was a sort of a pioneer in this field. At present it is directed by Sayeeda Roxanna Khan. It is an NGO that helps out women who are facing difficulties. Aside from that, it also runs micro credit systems and daycare and deals with issues like garment workers rights. Sheva markets traditional food and the revenues are used to further fund these programs. They were the organization that served the food during the Queen of Spain's visit to Bangladesh.

Shaheda Begum has no inclination to lead a predestined life just because she was born as a female. From banker she has turned to a business person. Along with her family members she built up 'Shaad' in Block E of Lalmatia. She left her banking career in 1996 because of the difficulties associated with traveling to office at that time. Political unrest meant that there were continual hartals and family members were always worried while she was out. Without a job she needed something to do and Shaad was started in 1997. They created snacks for the nearby school going children. The food was prepared in her kitchen and was served in the open space inside the building compound. Many customers left orders to be picked up later. The menu items increased along with the clientele which of course followed the consistent quality.
Although Shaad is not strictly a catering service it offers packaged meals to offices and schools. They offer three different menus that consist of breakfast, lunch and snack items for the evening. You are bound to get fresh food as the cooking process is a continuous one.

Anyone can cook but not all can create edible goods. It is a house rule of Bengali households. The application of salt, oil and spice is an art that defines whether you rub your belly in contentment or rush for the nearest toilet. Suraiya Amjad has that magic touch. She married early and had to take the helm of the family dealings. Treating the family members to a mouth watering dish was a satisfying activity for her. She had to travel a lot with her husband and foreign guest were treated to local cuisine. Reciprocated invitations meant she could also sample other dishes. Recipes were exchanged to be tried at home to improve her skills.

In 1991 she returned to the country after her husband retired and made a name for herself with her cooking proficiency. Renowned writer and journalist Shahrier Kabir sampled her creations while residing in Poland. On his return he asked Suraiya to supply the recipes for the cooking section of his paper Shaptahik Bichitra. Along with her publications she also has a catering service that follows trends seen during her stay abroad. She started Suraiya's Kitchen because she need to look after her then young children and couldn't take any other job. She used her skills to turn it into an asset, a business asset at that. At the beginning people did not have a very high opinion for people of this profession. Of course, her skills won over the pubic creating a name for herself. They serve everything from office lunches to weddings and post wedding functions. Orders need to be placed at least 2 days in advance.

Professional chef Mohammad Fakuruddin is one of the best in our country with fame that stretched beyond our boundaries. His touch was required for stately weddings and functions of the grandest scale. His sons have followed in his footsteps. Mohammad Rafiq and Mohammad Shafiq carry on with a 15 year old legacy of serving fine food. Their center is situated near the Ramna police station occupying a huge space and employing scores of people. They serve everything from local to foreign cuisines and orders have to be placed at least 2 days prior to the event.

Catering has developed from the hard work of the pros and the amateurs who wanted to start a different kind of business. It has become a necessary part of our service industry, facilitating people with quick solutions to their parties. Catering is why the prince and princess of fairy tales lived happily ever after. They did not have to suffer the sometimes royal pain of shopping and cooking. Someone else did it for them and they ate happily ever after.

By Sultana Yasmin Translated By Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo courtesy Dhaka Sheraton Hotel

















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