Chef at 48

Every morning, Sanjana Sahni makes lunch for her youngest son to take to school and for her husband and her oldest son to take to their offices. Then she stays in the kitchen and makes meals for as many as 300 people.

Sahni launched her company with the name ‘Tiff.in’ on last year on Aug. 3, 2015, as she was turning 48. Even though she knows it is probably late to get into the start-up business, she is determined to use her age to her benefit.

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The logo for Sahni and her partner’s company.

“At this age, I am more confident about my cooking skills.,” Sahni said. “If I would have started this young, I wouldn’t have had the experience of cooking that I have now.”

Her friends say that her years of experience as the main member who cooks for the family has given her the necessary experience and made her a better fit for the job.

Neetu Bansal, a frequent customer of Sahni, said that her experience gives her an edge over the young entrepreneurs.

“The best thing about her is her age.,” said Bansal. “Young people don’t know much about cooking. She knows the pulse of what goes into the making of everyday food because she has been feeding her friends, relatives, family for a long time.”

However, Sahni was not always this confident. Till a few months before she decided to launch her own business, she buried herself beneath the societal pressures. She recalls
several instances of parties and social gatherings where people weren’t welcoming of her starting a business.

“People around me didn’t think of cooking as a respectable profession. They would say that if I do this I am working as a maid. I used to care a lot about what people would say. So I was also not very comfortable with doing something of this sort,” said Sahni.

But the three leading ladies in Sahni’s life — her mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law —motivated her to start something of her own.

“After my elder son settled in his job in February and my younger son became self-sufficient, I was sitting idle,” she said. “These three ladies told me how much they love my food and encouraged me to focus on my passion for cooking.”

Her friends were not far behind. “They told me at least start somewhere. One of my friends, Meenakshi Sharma, gave me my first order. She is into baking and she said that her client needs a full meal for the party as well. That’s how I started off,” Sahni said.

She says after the launch, her family’s support helped her improve. “My husband and I are more of friends, each other’s critics. He’ll tell me to increase or reduce the level of spiciness. He tells me how the dish can be better,” she said, adding that her children have almost stopped ordering from outside. “Whenever they want something, they just ask me to make it.”

In July 2016, Sahni’s biggest order yet was to serve 300 people for three days at a local school event last month. While this was overwhelming to the say the least, it also rendered her feeling awkward.

“I think the most difficult part about dealing with the client is advance payment,” she said. “When I take a big order, like this one, I like to take some money in advance for the inventory. Since I am more of a chef than a businesswoman; it is odd for me to ask for money upfront.”

She is adapting more and more to the demands of the business with time and the positive reviews keep her going. “While cooking for students, bachelors, I feel satisfied serving them delicious food and when they say they like it, it puts a smile on my face.”

“She is always waiting for a feedback. She isn’t expecting much but a positive feedback always makes her happy more than anything else,” Vaneja Mani, Sahni’s close friend, said.

Mani also mentioned that because Sahni has a very kind and giving nature, she becomes too liberal with her customers. “Whenever she puts up stalls in our society’s social events, whatever is left she’ll give it off for free to people or just give them extra quantity because they asked for it. Sometimes you have to tell her to stop,” Mani said.

Sahni’s customers are all happy with her jocular nature and delicious food. “I know her
personally, so I know how she makes her food. She doesn’t differentiate between her family and her clients. She ensures the same level of quality for all.” Abhilasha Sahu, a close friend and now regular customer, said about Sahni.

She maintains the uniqueness in her food by using “all home-made spices and healthy oil” in each of her dishes. She says this is to make her customers feel like they are eating home-made food. She plans to expand her business by taking bigger orders and she is sure to get them.

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