home dining chefs
A traditional Andhra vegetarian meal [Representational Image]Wikimedia commons

Decking up, gathering some friends and going to a fancy restaurant that serves mouth-watering dishes equals a Sunday well-spent. On the other hand, eating out is also a hot option for people who get hardly any time to cook due to severe pressure from work and personal life.

While visiting a nice restaurant still wins hands down, in-house consumption of equally mouth-watering delicacies for a lot less than what the restaurant charges is slowly catching people's fancy.

Bengaluru, which sees a huge influx of people from other states of India every year, has many such home-chefs whose businesses are flourishing.

Advertising professional Pramod Shankar and his wife Lakshmi, serve a delightful five-course breakfast to guests. It consists of traditional items seen in a Kerala breakfast: a variety of puttus with kadala curry, appams with vegetable stew, papads fried in coconut oil, "adai" – a steamed banana dish, and "sulaimani" – a Malabar-style black tea with lime and mint.

To enhance the feeling of eating at home, the couple plays old Malayalam film songs in the background, and has decorated the living room with lamps and jasmine bouquets, Bangalore Mirror reported.

Originally from Cochin, Pramod and Lakshmi started their business with food stalls at the Sunday Soul Sante flea market in 2009. Then, hosting a wedding sadya a few years ago, where everyone praised their cooked dishes, the couple got the idea of a home-dining business.

Since last year, the couple has hosted five such breakfasts, but look forward to expand the business once they move into their new and larger house in Koramangala.

While Bengaluru is still in the early stages of this business compared to Mumbai and Delhi, several home-dining chefs are coming forward, generating a lot of interest.

There are several platforms that are trying to bring home chefs in direct contact with customers. Califormia-based "Travelling Spoon" (TS) is one such platform, which has tied up with home chefs from around the world.

"Our goal is to offer a high-quality curated selection of vetted hosts who offer travellers exceptional experiences. We feature our hosts online and allow travellers to book those experiences directly," said Aashi Vel, one of the founders of TS.

Telecom professional Archana Rajesh and homemaker Asha George are the only two chefs in Bengaluru with whom TS has tied up. Although neither of them has hosted a meal at home yet, Vel said Archana has already planned her menu: a traditional Gowda meal costing Rs 1,000-1,200 per person.

Interestingly, TS screens home chefs before giving them a chance to serve their delicacies. For example, Archana had to provide extensive details after applying for the TS job that appeared in a travel magazine, then give a Skype interview and finally host a TS person at home.

Outside of India, other countries have also taken up this business.

For instance, in Paris, an Italian family runs the business at their small flat. Their menu includes aubergine pancakes, a kind of Neapolitan potato pie and meatballs with three kinds of pasta. The wine is carefully picked out, BBC reported.

Dining out would cost more than €80 in a normal Paris restaurant, but the Italian couple charge guests only €25 each.

This trend of diners around the world choosing home-cooked delicacies over an expensive visit to a restaurant is making eateries jittery over sales, as they are rushing to call it "illegal".

Didier Chenet, President of the main Paris restaurateurs' union "Synhorcat", has appealed to the French government to take action against home chefs and stop them, claiming bistros and brasseries are putting them out of business.

"Today, many restaurants in France are on a knife-edge because of the economic crisis. Losing just half a dozen customers can spell disaster," he said.

"There are people out there offering a service which is identical to restaurants: a choice of starters, main courses, desserts, wine, the works. But they pay no rent, no staff, no taxes — it is completely illegal," he added.

Synhorcat estimated that there are 3,000 home-chefs in France. It put up two arguments against them: first, that home-dining business is a part of the black economy, and second, hygiene and safety rules are being broken.

"If the government doesn't do something to stop the underground restaurants, it will be a disaster," said Chenet.

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