Indoor dining is out because of the pandemic. Outdoor dining is not optimal in winter.
So married couple Sanjay Soni and Shelby Sanchez bypassed the traditional restaurant setting altogether to launch Gayatri Kitchen Santa Fe through a community kitchen.
Customers order a vegan northern Indian specialty online or by phone, Soni cooks every Thursday morning, and then he and Sanchez deliver orders Thursday afternoon.
“Mostly, she drives and I get out and deliver,” Soni said. “It’s personal. We want to get to know our customers. We want to make a connection.”
The couple do deliveries from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, with pickup available at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Soni calls his offerings “homestyle food,” which contrasts with restaurant cooking, no matter the cuisine. He said the recipes are derived from the food he grew up with in the northern Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The menu changes weekly. Recent dishes included chickpea curry and turmeric jeera rice.
“In restaurants, they are not thinking of your health,” Soni said. “I’m not cooking as a robot. I’m cooking as a human. It’s healthy, it’s vibrant, it’s fresh. What we cook that day is served that day. I am following my pleasure. When I’m cooking, I’m doing this because I feel the pleasure.”
Gayatri Kitchen accepts only 50 orders each week. Soni said he’s been filling about 40 orders a week. He cooks at the community kitchen at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
“It’s only been word of mouth,” Sanchez said.
There is a purpose to the Thursday-only service and 50-order limit.
“We’re choosing to live our ideal lifestyle,” Sanchez said. “We’re not letting the outside tell us what to do.”
They launched their cook-and-delivery business Dec. 21. But Soni has been cooking at home for friends and family since he and Sanchez moved to Santa Fe in 2018.
“We would always invite people over and nobody would invite us — because they don’t cook,” Sanchez said.
Soni lost his job as a yoga instructor in the early days of the pandemic. Sanchez does freelance marketing and branding.
Without a job, Soni started cooking at home and delivering to friends and family. He thought, why not make a business of it? Getting all the government approvals took until December.
Santa Fe does have a few popular Indian restaurants. But Sanchez and Soni see room for their vegan Indian meal delivery.
“There are so many vegan groups [in Santa Fe] on Facebook that have a couple thousand followers,” Sanchez said. “People want to eat healthy, eat light. We feel confident because everything we do is unique. This town supports the artisan food business.”