“When I was growing up in India, you could always tell if other kids’ parents liked you because they would give you the rice on the bottom of the pot,” Mira D’Souza tells me, scraping her wooden serving spoon down the sides and across the bottom of a 4-gallon pot. She scoops the last serving of Indian Biriyani into my bowl and explains that the rice on the bottom gets sort of “caramelized and sticky,” and tastes the best out of the whole dish.
When cooking, Mira loves mixing traditional favorites with new recipes, and right now she’s really into making Indian Pickles from local ingredients. “We’re all trying to create identities in this world. Tradition is important but it’s also important to know where you live.” For the Biriyani, she combined spices that her sister brought from India with yogurt from a local dairy.
Mira is one of the chefs on the Take-In platform, a mission-driven meal delivery startup located in Boston that provides a way for aspiring professional chefs and foodies to come together outside of the traditional restaurant. At Take-In, chefs looking to experiment with new dishes or start their careers intersect with people who want to try new cuisines and support a business that gives back. Customers select a chef from the list on the Take-In website in advance and then the dish is delivered to their door on a specified day. Currently in the beta-testing phase, Take-In delivers cooked meals to Cambridge, Somerville and Boston, delivered in a chilled box with instructions for best enjoyment. You’ll need those instructions, too, since the featured dishes are rarely seen in Boston (e.g. Jordanian Maklouba, Indonesian Rendang, Indian Biriyani).
Charles Vanijcharoenkarn, who founded Take-In in 2015, says “without the chefs, there is no food culture.” When developing Take-In, Charles’ aim was to spotlight pockets of culinary talent, and to make healthier and unique dishes more accessible to the community. After talking to many line and sous chefs, he discovered how difficult it is for nurturing new culinary talent. Take-In helps aspiring chefs pursue their passions by giving them the opportunity to get their name out there, develop their own recipes, and get feedback from actual customers through this unique platform. Chefs can build a portfolio of tested meals and a loyal client base of fans that will hopefully check out their website and pop-up shops, and maybe one day their restaurant.
After their last beta-test run, Take-In donated 15% of the platform’s revenue to the No Kid Hungry campaign, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating childhood hunger. Take-In also gives people the option at checkout to donate an extra dollar to either No Kid Hungry or to Community Cooks, a Somerville, MA organization that matches volunteer cooks with homeless shelters, school programs, and other places in need of a good meal.
Help a young chef get started and support a business that supports your community signing up for the Take-In mailing list to learn about the next test run.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.