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The Indian Inspired Cooking School

We talk to mother and daughter duo, Surinder and Safia, about how they brought their passion for homemade traditional Punjabi food to a wider public.

Surinder and Safia have been running Pure Punjabi for 3 years.

The business started as a 12-month trial, went far better than ever expected and now they offer food products, online cookery classes, and event catering.

But how did they come up with the idea and how did they get started?

We talk to them both about how their food business has grown and adapted since their initial idea.

How did the business start? 

Safia: In 2013 I was between jobs and my mum gave me a loan and suggested I try developing the products she was already selling and doing some pop-up cooking.

She said ‘You’ve always liked food and worked in hospitality, if it doesn’t work it’s not the end of the world’.

Surinder: I said take our two existing products and see how you do.

The original products are from my mother. By 11 [years old] I was cooking all the food – she taught me everything; how to make yogurts and bread, everything.

Then in 2010 I had a little shop and decided to bottle the products I made.

Safia: Last Christmas we took so many orders for cookery lessons that it took us until September to get through them.

We quickly realised we had to scale up – we’ve spent the last year filming cookery classes so we can put them online. This is a way to reach people and teach people who don’t live near us.

We also now cater to a lot of allergies, gluten free, diaryfee. We are traditional, healthy and good for you.

Did you have a business plan ?

Safia: We did have one, but we didn’t anticipate that we would be doing so much cooking. We thought 30% would come from cooking but now it’s completely different.

Health is big business now so our cooking lessons have gone from strength to strength.

The only thing that’s different is we didn’t originally intend to have a cookery school.

We didn’t realise people would want to know how to make the food. It’s the biggest part of our business now. It started with the products and the pop-ups but then we responded to customer requests.

It all emerged by accident. People asked about weddings and private parties, and then someone in Paris asked me to teach via Skype – which gave us the idea to record our lessons.

What are your classes like? 

Safia: When we do workshops we take a group of 6 - with more you can’t give proper assistance. They come and we welcome them, they get to have a drink and get to know each other.

Today we did three things: onion bhajis, aloo gobi, and bread. It went really well – everyone jelled really well.

Bread is harder than people expect - definitely a case of practice makes perfect.

What makes your company unique?

Safia: We’re not restaurant cooking - this is being taught in the same way I was taught by my mum.

Surinder: This is why we teach in our house – they need to learn in the environment they’ll be cooking in.

What are the downsides of running a business from your own home?

Safia: Our brothers can’t use the kitchen when we’re teaching! And we have to look after it and keep the wear and tear down.

Surinder: We took steps to protect our own kitchen.

What is your favourite part of the business?

Safia: I like a lot of it – we’re both very sociable people so we like being around people. We both like being with people all day – everyone’s so nice.

I prefer the food and the creative side, mum likes paperwork in terms of the back-end mechanics - mum likes strategy. 

Surinder: Yea I like business strategy and planning. We naturally have our areas and have established what we do. If it’s the menu that’s Safia, if it’s costings that’s me.

What advice would you give to people wanting to start a food business ?

Surinder: Your starting point is contacting the local council; they were really good and did an advisory visit. 

They told me what I needed to do and left me lots of information - I then did the food hygiene certificate. It’s good to look at liability, insurance, food regulations – then you can feel assured that you know what you’re doing.

Remember that when you’re doing food and money comes into the equation everything changes, the whole process is different.

What’s your advice to others considering starting a business with family members? 

Safia: You have to talk to each other as if you weren’t related – it can be difficult.

Look at them as a professional – people can be different at work. 

What’s next for Pure Punjabi?  

Safia: It will all be about our online cookery school – it’s about letting people know that it’s there.

There are 7 different versions of lessons including the traditional course, gluten free, dairy free, plant-based and weight loss.

Find out more about Pure Punjabi and watch our video with Surinder and Safia below:

Sophie Mitchell

About the author

Sophie has contributed to, and over the two years she worked at Dynamis House.

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