Interviews & Profiles

Become A Celebrity Chef: Meet Jozis Queen of Spice

How to Take Your Food Startup to the Big Leagues

Meet The Woman: We live in the foodie-ville era. Everyone is writing, photographing and talking about food, it really is all the rage. What is it about this basic substance we all need to survive that has become so glamorous? Food is social glue, in that for as long as human beings have been around we have been getting together over food. We rejoice, discuss, debate and lament over food. In business having a persona always helps, in the food business it is by far one of the most important qualities required to stay afloat. In a competitive crowded world market, its the well positioned brands that stand out” says Bernard Kelvin Clive.

Surviving, improving and thriving in an oversubscribed food market is an enormous challenge. Knowing who you are and infusing every aspect of your special quality into your business always helps. South African based author, recipe columnist, celebrity chef, tv presenter and all around foodpreneur Yudhika Sujanani uses her personality as one of her secret weapons. On her website she is described as ‘The Curry Queen of Bling’ elsewhere in social media it mentions the ‘Curry Ninja.’ She has the blogs, books, signature recipes, cooking school, tv shows, restaurants and everything we expect from a successful entrepreneur in the food business. My archaeological pursuits led me to delve into Jozi’s Queen of Spice and further investigate some additional elements of her secret weapon.

Cultural Introspection

Many startups and large organisations are constantly grappling with culture. They describe, create and assess values on a regular basis to ensure it is in line with the culture they are trying to create. They aim to grow within a framework which supports those values. Culture is the adhesive that binds. When culture is strong the business prospers. When culture is weak the business derails. Yudhika has tapped into her Indian traditions and unique experiences to create an entire brand which reflects her roots and upbringing growing up in South Africa. She enriches her brand with every aspect of her culture.

Her books have names such as: Curry Me Home, her culinary school is called Holi Cow and her spice range collection is peppered with titles such as Magic Masala and Nan’s Lazy Day Masala. Cultivating the business starts from within. She has tapped into the fibre of her heritage to bring to the market an unrepentant and bold business woman who is of the culture.

Innovation

Innovation is the catalyst for growth and success for any business. It allows the business to constantly create new services and products that their customers appreciate. Responding to trends quickly and developing their unique selling point are all important factors which allow businesses’ to innovate. Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” In other words, successful entrepreneurs tend to stick to what they know.

Yudhika knows curry, she knows it very well and it is what she is good at. Curry is her commercial advantage but she isn’t strictly limited to it. She plays and has fun exploring new and exciting ways to add value to her curry basin. Her recipes are a melange of Eastern delicacies and European cuisine. She mixes sugar with spice, she recreates old favourites and also experiments with textures and flavours. She gives everything a unique twist. The driving point behind her business is her ability to infuse fresh ideas. These ideas emanate from her distinctive and original character.

Creating Social Value

Creating social value in your business helps to ameliorate some of society’s deplorable conditions. Methods such as collaboration, knowledge capturing or simply using your position to raise awareness can all play a role. Yudhika is committed to fighting hunger, something she experienced as a child. In 2012 she was appointed as a World Food Programme advocate for Southern Africa.

As an advocate she uses her voice to raise awareness about global hunger in the Southern African region. As a part of her work she once traveled to Lesotho to see how the programme is helping communities in said country fight malnutrition, food insecurity and other hunger related diseases. She also donated proceeds from the sale of one of her recipe books to the foundation. Customers want to know why you started and how the business plays into your wider story. The story as clichéd as it has become is fundamental to building a sustainable business particularly in the crowded food market.

Wishing Her Well

Chefs work towards the coveted Michelin star. Food bloggers post cleverly constructed food on the plate to grab our attention. Food authors and columnists write with hopes that they can one day be invited to join the guild. At age 14 Yudhika did one thing, she made up her mind.

Armed with a decisive mind, she created opportunities, worked hard and has empowered many along the way. This is what we can learn most from this woman who wears pretty dresses, gorgeous shoes and perfect make-up as she cooks up her mouth-watering dishes. The kingdom does not function without its queen. Join me in wishing the ‘Curry Queen of Bling’ well as she reigns absolute over South Africa’s City of Gold.

About the author

Jo-Ann A Hamilton

Jo-Ann A. Hamilton is the Founder of SecretBirds, an enterprise, which encourages, empowers and supports girls and women through entrepreneurship. Jo-Ann is a sustainability enthusiast, avid traveler and devoted runner. You can find her cycling around happily on her bike.

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