It was a decade back that I had met a special foodie. Normally if you want to have a conversation with somebody /hang out , you would say ‘Let’s have tea/ coffee’. But I distinctly remember this man saying ‘let’s have Misal’ ( popular dish in Maharashtra with spicy curry made from sprouted beans, potatoes, onions and mixed with flavourful savoury and crispy snack called Farsan served with Bread) .
Although Misal has been around for a while, it has gained immense popularity especially in these last few years. Of course there are many famous outlets in various cities who have to be credited for this wonderful offering, but one of those who need to be credited is Pune based food entrepreneur Ambar Karve . From organizing ‘Misal Mohatsav’- a food festival with all famous brands under one roof , to writing blogs on it , he has been promoting Misal like no other .
Ambar Karve hasn’t done any course in food , in fact he is a commerce graduate and followed it up with post graduation in management. Having a well set business in Robotics and Automation, Misal or Food was nowhere in his professional vocabulary. He was deeply entrenched into something called injection moulding. His clients included many engineering companies, IITs and defence related establishments . But he had immense love for food, so much so that it was just waiting to have a way out. As his business expanded he started travelling all over the state. Bored with all the regular stuff he would get on highways, he thought Misal with boiling spicy and flavorful curry would be a safe and better option. And thus began his journey of ‘Misal’. Would you believe it, this man has tasted Misal at around a whopping 800 outlets . And if you thought this was just a result of his business travel , you are wrong. I have heard people travelling hundreds of kms to see places of interest. But Ambar Karve would travel just to eat food. Citing the example of Misal at Junnar Bus Stand ( about 100 km from Pune ) , he said I used to go there just to eat Misal and come back. Likewise I have travelled to Kolhapur ( 240 km from Pune ) just to eat popular dishes like ‘Pandhara Rassa’ . ‘Basically I love food from all over India, especially Maharashtra . ‘I am a foodie’, he says proudly. Maharashtra has a rich wealth of food culture, but somehow we have not been able to bring it to the forefront. The reason- we are very accommodative and eat whatever is available in the outlet, we are not demanding enough , he says. Ambar Karve wants to make a genuine effort to promote Maharashtrian Food. That is why he organized the first ‘Misal Mohatsav’ in October 2016 , followed by the second in Nashik . The main aim was to promote Maharashtrian one dish meals, specially Misal and make them a household choice . The series of events definitely led to a wave amongst food lovers and proved to be an effective platform for promotion.
He continued his mission and opened his own food outlet ‘Fakkad’ in 2017 and has moved to a new place at Karvenagar in Pune . You will find details and review of the outlet in coming weeks @punefoodspot. The outlet serves some lip smacking Maharashtrian snacks. He has also extended his brand offering with packaged food .
There is a recent trend of debating which city serves the best Misal , Is it Nashik , Pune , Kolhapur or any other? References from the literature would suggest ‘Misal’ started off it’s journey in Pune with ‘Vaidya Uphar Graha operational since 1906 , he says. But these debates don’t bother me , because food is to be enjoyed not debated.I love all of them. There is no point in debating on the taste and ingredients as it is a result of locally available food and depends also on local palette, he points out. So just go for it and enjoy!
Ambar Karve says he learnt the art of cooking as he watched his mother make Idlis on a professional level. Not that I can match up to her taste , but I learnt a lot sitting alongside her . A few years back he bid farewell to his robotics business for good . I did enjoy my earlier profession, but I am a foodie at heart and so serving people, my friends makes me feel happy. I love travelling to places, learning about cultures, staying with people and enjoying their food. Currently I am not thinking of a full service restaurant but if things go well in the next few years , I have some big plans. I want to bring Misal on the global map . I love food and I am a foodie he signs off.
Truly this Man is on a Mission or rather Misal !!!