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Meet Annie Bafna, Founder and Head Chef of The Nutcracker. This tiny cafe, with its clever use of space, is located at the heart of the Heritage Art District of Mumbai. Open for the early birds with fresh breakfasts, their delicious food is packed with soul & flavor. Don’t miss the 3 Cheese Rolled Omelette, The House Salad, The Passion Fruit Smoothie & the famous 7 Layer Cookie.
What motivated you to leave the safety of a profitable job and open The Nutcracker?
Food has always been my passion – whether it was eating, cooking, research, shows…just about anything that was food related always absorbed me the most! It was at the back of my mind for many years to someday run a small home style café. I was at a point in my career where I had spent seven years in the finance industry and seven years in a more business focused role in the fashion industry. I felt ready to start up something on my own and the food industry was the obvious decision! My husband Siddharth was a huge motivational force behind my decision to take the leap….I knew if I was ever going to do it the time was NOW!
In a few lines could you tell us about your journey back to Mumbai and opening The Nutcracker?
The hardest part was finding the right spot. I had my heart set on Kala Ghoda – I love the old Bombay charm around it. It took me nearly six months to find the right place. Once we identified it and signed up, the next five months were like a whirlwind – designing, menu planning, branding, staffing, logistics, licenses and loads of other stuff. We spent a lot of time on food trials and getting friends and family repeatedly in to taste everything and give us their feedback and made changes so many times before we were finally happy with our menu. Since I had zero background in this industry, I had zero experience or perspective….so I had to just follow my instincts and hope it would work out!
Were you worried about the reception you’d get for being a vegetarian cafe not serving Indian food’
Yes there was certainly a level of anxiety – mainly because we were in an in-between “eggetarian” space and we had really no market trends to go by. We are not completely vegetarian and we are definitely not non-vegetarian. There was the comfort of knowing that Mumbai has a large enough vegetarian population. But what I really wanted to achieve was to have an equal number of non-vegetarian lovers walk in and enjoy their meal with us without missing the meat! To get people to understand that vegetarian food can be as interesting and fun…and that was the challenge!
What is your dream project?
My dream project is to have a Farm-to-Table concept restaurant someday. The beauty of a meal using fresh produce picked off a farm and cooked and served immediately is just something else.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There was a point when I got out of college that I really wanted to pursue culinary school but I did not…I kind of got swayed into the corporate professional side. If I could turn back time I would definitely tell that girl coming out of college to hold on to that dream and start it way back then.
Brunch or breakfast?
Mixtapes or vinyls?
Mixtapes – such memories
Films or plays?
Backpacking or road trips?
GMaps or real maps?
Neither – I HATE maps!
Crayons or charcoal?
Prose or poetry?