Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by Artspire. Presented by the Pump House Regional Art Center to attract, engage, and connect artists in the community through an art fair and sale on Saturday, June 12. Information is at artspire.thepumphouse.org. We chat with Puja Mehta of Indian Meal Kits. We talk about how the business got its start, what sets her products apart, Indian food in La Crosse and the public response, how to order online and what’s next for this area of business. You can find more conversations on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy. And I’m Brent. And this is La Crosse Local.
Puja Mehta 00:45
My name is Puja Mehta. I live in La Crescent, Minnesota now very close to La Crosse. I was born in India, but I’m here for 22 years. What led me to cooking is I was missing my mom’s food. So I started learning Indian cooking from her. And that made me cook more and I started loving cooking, feeding all my friends Indian food, and that just kept going.
Brent Hanifl 01:13
Moving to a smaller community I imagine like lacrosse, and there must not be that many opportunities for Indian food. How did the Indian meal kit get its start?
Puja Mehta 01:21
That’s a good question. There is not so many availability of Indian food. That’s true. And that was one thing, which my friends were missing two. I cook for my friends all the time. And they usually ask me how do you cook this? Or one of my friends suggested to me, why don’t you start a cooking class? So I thought, Okay, let me try and put on cooking classes. So I tried and the response was good. But I saw that it was hard to find the Indian spices, lentils and bread. So that made me feel Why don’t I start something like this. And Blue Apron and Hellofresh was already in the market. But there was nothing like Indian meal kits. So yeah, that’s where Indian Meal Kits came.
Brent Hanifl 02:06
Like these Blue Apron, which I’ve seen and I’ve tried before, hellofresh. What sets your product apart from the other sort of mail order kits.
Puja Mehta 02:14
There are a lot of meal kits available nowadays. But Indian Meal Kit is only one that sets us apart. It’s because it’s all authentic Indian food, which is hard to find in Indian restaurants. I’m trying to bring the recipes which I used to eat in my home in India, and trying to make it easier. So now Indian food, anyone can make it at their home with just this box in your meal kit. So that’s what was my goal is to make Indian food easier for people to make
Brent Hanifl 02:46
Going from what seemed like the very popular classes at the People’s Food Coop, what’s been the public response to the meal kits?
Puja Mehta 02:53
The response been good and steady. I have returning customers. And they all wait for my meal kit every week. So we have one meal kit. We change every week, a different meal kit. So I have 15 different types of meal kits. Yeah, and I have a lot of customers in La Crosse, but I have new customers coming from different parts of America. And some of them traveled to India. And they come and tell me that they were looking for authentic Indian food and they didn’t find it an Indian restaurant. So they’re getting this here, Indian Meal Kit. So that’s a that’s happy thing for me.
Brent Hanifl 03:32
So I’ve also heard that, you know, a lot of people, of course, are staying home because of COVID. They’re cooking, they’re learning how to bake bread, they’re doing all sorts of different things that they used to do in the past. How has COVID affected your business,
Puja Mehta 03:44
Positive and negative both like positive in a way that as you said, people are trying new things people, are trying to cook from scratch. So Indian Meal Kit, it’s been popular for that way. But because of COVID we couldn’t find fresh groceries at the same time. So I recreated some of the recipes, some of the recipes I made, which doesn’t need so much fresh produce, groceries. So it just, I have to be more innovative in that but it’s going good. We never closed our business in this pandemic because we wanted to make sure that people have at least this meal kit available so they can make food. We don’t have to go out and buy new things.
Brent Hanifl 04:29
How does it work? When people go to the website they get to choose from a variety of them or how does that work?
Puja Mehta 04:35
Currently we sell one meal kit in 10 days, which is very different from other meal kit services. You have to buy the service and this one you don’t buy the service you just buy one meal kit or however meal kits you want. But we send it to you on the date. It’s, you can see it on the website. It’s mentioned this date it will be available. So yeah, we either deliver to you, or you can buy from Food Coop La Crosse or Festivals in Onalaska. So yeah, it’s one meal kit in 10 days and it changes so there are 15 different types of meal kits as I said before, which you can pick one from.
Brent Hanifl 05:17
So if people want to find out more, where do they head or where do they pick up these meal kits,
Puja Mehta 05:21
They can go online to indianmealkits.com, that’s the website. And also they can go to the store La Crosse Food Coop store, then the Festivals in Onalaska. So those two stores we are selling right now but, and majority of business, is online, where people can buy and also buy subscriptions on the site too where they just have to pay one time every month and we will get it delivered.
Amy Gabay 05:53
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook @lacrosselocal. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com. And you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you’d like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.
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About La Crosse Local
La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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