Amal Farooque of Sage & Olio is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, and for a lot of us locked away at home, has been a fairy godmother of authentic Korean flavours. Born and bred in Dubai, Amal’s childhood was spent making trips to local farmers markets, and fish and meat markets with her father by her side.
“Food has always been my pathfinder,” Amal explains, “it says a lot about a person, their culture, their habits and even their mentality. It is a means of building relationships, taking care of people, contributing to society. Food is the maker of memories and solver of all sadness,”
Having grown up in a multi-cultural society, Amal was raised in a whirlwind of exotic flavours, from Arabic, to Iranian, and from Philippine to Swedish. “Every community has its way of sustainability, and respect for its produce,” Amal explains, “my mum inculcated this habit of sustainability in us ever since we were kids- A lot of understanding on how seasons and geographies affected foods and its storage”
Amal’s fondest memories of food paint a fragrant picture of Afghani Pathans pulling freshly baked Afghani Rotis from the hot tandoor, followed up with a dessert of Al Marai Cream sprinkled with sugar, or icy green-tinted watermelon with rose syrup and ice.
When asked where she finds her inspiration while cooking, the starry-eyed Amal credits the natural world for her culinary skill. “In all honesty- I am a wide-eyed dreamer, I am known to stare at and have conversations with the sky. So yeah, truly, it is the sky and nature.”
°Sage, Olio, & Everything in Between
A lover of flavours and an entrepreneur at heart, Amal’s first saccharine affair with the culinary world took on the form of SugarOverDose, a sweet and confectionary service that prides itself on the celebration of sugar-induced madness, and providing just the right dessert for the right occasion.
After years of this comforting madness, Amal’s second, more savoury foray into the food industry saw the birth of Sliders & Fries in the year 2017. Becoming increasingly popular for their freshly baked buns and flavourful offerings, the delivery service made fans of half the city, and is still serving up delicious munchies today.
two successful culinary trysts, Amal had made her mark on local dining, and it was this very influence that would be the starting point for her next great adventure into the world of flavours. “In February 2019, a very old client asked me to cater a dinner for him and his guests. I had no idea how it was done, nothing,” Amal says, “He just said ‘Kar lena, Ghar ke log hain’.”
It was so that at the insistence of a long-time client, Amal whipped up a smorgasbord of Mediterranean and Italian flavours fit to feed a party of 25, an experiment that would change her life in more ways than one. “He trusted me and then later on went to become my Business Partner as well!” Amal reveals, “There was no looking back after that!”
It was so that Sage & Olio was born, a gourmet catering service that is all about sit-downs and community tables, and experiencing food as it should be experienced- together. “Yes, there are fancy ways to eat food, but, there is also a simple way to eat fancy food,” Amal explains, “Everyone should be able to relate food, that’s the philosophy behind Sage & Olio.”
With Korean offerings made inhouse and entirely from scratch, Sage & Olio aspires to authenticity, and emphasises the importance of being knowledgeable of both the culture and cuisine. “Knowledge is key!” Amal says, “When you know you aren’t good at something, don’t put your hands in it. Respect the traditions and culture and educate yourself- That’s the only way to assure the authenticity of anything.”
°Delivery in the Age of Covid-19
The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus has created an atmosphere of trepidation amongst societies all over the world. With entire industries having been affected and thousands upon thousands out of jobs lost, the food industry has taken a larger hit than most, with more and more people asking the same question, “Can we trust what we haven’t prepared ourselves?”
As the owner of multiple businesses, Amal’s experience in this current climate is not one that is unique, but tells a powerful tale of an industry fighting on the frontlines to provide people with the pleasure and comfort of food, no matter how steep the price.
With limited supplies, Amal explains that a few items had to be left off of the menu, but the atmosphere of hesitation and even outright mistrust makes things all the more difficult. “I have no cream cheese and hence, I can’t make any Cheesecake or Red velvet” Amal reveals, “There is a lot of delay in receiving stocks. Delivery boys get hounded. In some places the cops are really understanding and don’t bother the delivery staff, however, in others, they are just terrible and so annoying!”
With a lack of proper communication amongst authorities concerning essential services identification and Exempted Services passes, the Indian food delivery industry in the age of Covid-19 is a confusing, often frustrating environment for businesses. However, as Amal explains, all the necessary precautions are being taken to ensure that the biggest threat- that of the disease itself- is eliminated.
“We`re only working with a total of four people in the kitchen, delivery boys were never allowed in the kitchen area from the beginning,” Amal explains, “I am pretty big on hygiene as a practice and hence, that trickles into my staff too”
With tables, laptops, main doors and work stations sprayed and wiped down with sanitizers every 4-6 hours, floors that are wiped down with Dettol in the beginning and end of the day, and a mask and hairnet clad staff that is constantly sanitizing themselves, Amal runs a tight ship to ensure no contamination occurs. “We make sure the delivery boys pick up the food packages from the table near our main door, that way they can’t even enter nor come in direct contact with the kitchen staff. All food boxes and containers are placed in paper bags before they leave the kitchen.”
With all of these precautions in place, Amal explains that while things have been unusual and difficult, her loyal customers are what keeps her going. “Overall, my customers have been pretty cool and cautious but not psychotic. They can see that these delivery guys and the delivery kitchens have expenses to cover up and I feel they want to help us out in their own way!” Amal explains.
While she admits there is a certain amount of stigma attached to food and its delivery, she believes in the human need to connect, and to uplift each other. “We are human beings too, and we have a lot of responsibilities,” Amal says, “There is definitely a need for the government to step in and provide us with the necessary financial aids and subsidies. We do pay taxes, so why should we be avoided or left out?”
A woman with an iron will, Amal is not to be deterred by the current global climate, and works hard with her staff to provide those of us stuck at home with a little taste of the outside world, through her fare of authentic, Korean cooking.
As we part ways, Amal leaves us with a bit of advice she hopes to give to those who are looking to follow in her footsteps. “Be sure to get down & dirty and be ready for anything,” the young entrepreneur says, “There is nothing glamorous about being a Chef and a Business Owner- It is bloody hard work man! Both, physically and mentally challenging, but, when the client smiles after that first bite- Its totally worth it! I have been lucky to have had some really adorable clients. At times, your clients can be your best teachers too!”
We at TheVibe applaud the efforts of entrepreneurs the like of Amal, who are fighting the good fight and providing us the comforts of delicious cooking during the tough time. If you’re looking for a taste of Amal’s cooking, reach out to order from SugarOverDose, Sliders & Fries, and Sage & Olio, at 8082323555 or 9821561159.
All images used in this article are courtesy of Amal Farooque and belong rightfully to their original owners.
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