LAHORE – People cook and eat to live. Rija, however, lives to cook for others and feeds on the appreciation she receives on her haute cuisine.
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Rija is a young entrepreneur who recently started her homemade food supply venture. Within months, she has created a strong fan following and is winning raging reviews for her spicy bites.
A customer, Ammara Ijaz, wrote on Rija’s Facebook page Zesty Bites:
Such encouraging words keep Rija going.
She knew from her childhood that food was her ultimate calling. Not having received any formal training, Rija believes that her first school was her own kitchen, and her first (and last) inspiration is her mother.
“My mama’s cooking is so much loved in our family, Maa k hath me jaadu hai so, I was inspired by her and I loved cooking along with eating from a very young age,” she smiles.
Rija says she soon found that she had inherited her mother’s talent for cooking and baking. “When I cook something and people appreciate it, it drives me to cook more.”
Rija has developed her own food ethics and recipes. She insists that she will cook only those dishes, which she thinks can be done well.
“I’ve not tried cooking Haleem and Nihari. My mother is the only one who can do justice with these dishes.”
For now, she has a limited menu, and her hot-selling items are lasagna, sandwiches, zinger burgers and alfredo pasta, as well as chocolate cake and cupcakes.
She loves pizza, and it is only to be expected that her menu also features pizza cake.
What about cakes?
“I can make any type of cake but Wafers and Caramel cakes are considered to be my best.”
Homemade food industry is just beginning to make its mark in Lahore, and several outlets have created a sizable clientele in Lahore.
It all started in June when Rija’s father gave her verbal and monetary appreciation from her father on a wonderful dish.
“The first time I made zinger burger, my father gave me Rs1,000 though he is not fond of fast food. But can you imagine how much he loved it. My father appreciates my effort in every manner.”
“This idea of supplying homemade food had been in my mind for a long time. Almost six months ago, I invited my friends to my home and cooked everything from starters to sweet dishes and everybody loved it. Then I decided to talk to my parents about starting Zesty Bites. They welcomed my idea.”
She has put on hold her business development plans for now, as at the moment, she wants to focus on the things which give her happiness.
Her business would not have been a roaring success without the support of her family.
“It took almost three months to put my idea of business into reality and I did it with the help of my family.”
There are days when her nerves get to her.
“One day I had to deliver four orders and those orders were so different from each other. Like one was of a cake, the other of karahi. Meeting the deadlines was so hard. Still, I kept on my nerves and delivered the order and managed to completely satisfy my clients. So yes, sometimes I do feel burdened but then again I decided to do it and I am going to make it happen.”
Rija will never hire a helper though her order book is getting lots of entries every day.
“I think I will never need a helper. My mother and sister are enough for my help for now. Also, the spirit of the homemade food lies in self working. A hired hand will make my food tasteless.”
She has plans to get the name, Zesty Bites, registered for copyrights.
“Zest means something that has peppery or hot and sour taste and bites mean the food you eat. So basically by this name I wanted people to realize how scrumptious our food will be.”
Rija is studying communication studies at Punjab University.
Her studies helped her make her business viral through social media. Her page on Facebook has more than 700 followers by now.
“I want to do CSS after completing my studies, INSHAALLAH. Media studies and cooking are certainly not related but I am not going to suppress my talent or my interest because of my studies that is why I decided to continue my passion with my studies.”
And what about price?
“It starts from as low as Rs70 and does not cross Rs600.”
“Since I’m a student and I know pocket money has a value. I want to serve students more.”