When Perth chef Praveen Kumar and his wife, Swarna, were newly married, they realised something: “We can’t get proper Indian food in Scotland.”
“Then,” recalls Praveen, “we thought, there’s a gap here. It was obvious for us to start a restaurant.
“We just wanted to do one thing – change the way people eat Indian food.”
So the first step was creating the still popular restaurant, Tabla, in Perth.
“It wasn’t a success in the beginning, to be honest with you,” admits Praveen, “it was hard work.
“The reason being, the perception of Indian food in the UK is greasy, red colour. That’s not Indian food, that’s British Indian food.”
There are some who still aren’t fans of Praveen’s authentic Indian food, he says.
“Last week a young couple came in and they said: ‘Sorry mate, we’re looking to eat at an Indian restaurant, not this’.
“The perception of Indian food, in Scotland especially, is that bad.
“It’s still there today.”
Perth restaurant, cook school and curry club for Praveen Kumar
But Praveen and his team’s passion for creating authentic Indian food led to their restaurant, Tabla in Perth, becoming the first Indian restaurant in Scotland to be awarded a rosette.
Despite the success of the family restaurant, however, Praveen knew he wanted more.
First came their Indian Cook School, where Praveen and Swarna take turns teaching attendants how to cook their favourite authentic Indian dishes.
And then, with a hunger for providing these authentic dishes to an even wider group of people, Praveen came up with Kumar’s Curry Club.
The meal delivery service allows for people around the UK – not just those who can get to Perth – to enjoy Praveen’s authentic Indian dishes.
They have dishes like Chicken Korma or Vindaloo, as well as the lesser known Lamb Makhani and Keema Matar.
Despite plenty of happy customers, it hasn’t always been easy for Kumar’s Curry Club.
“We had our doubts,” says Praveen, “we had our struggles and our extremely stressful days.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth sailing. Every day is a challenge.”
How are the meals at Kumar’s Curry Club made?
The key, says Praveen, is speciality ingredients, authentic methods and attention to detail.
Also ignoring the haters.
“We’re not targeting every single customer in the UK,” says Perth chef Praveen Kumar, “we’re targeting the customers who appreciate good food, appreciate knowing what they’re eating.
“There’s nothing in our meals that I wouldn’t feed my daughters.
“No preservatives, no additives, no food colouring and no nonsense.”
The meals are cooked by hand at their unit in Perth by skilled chefs like Happy Singh.
“So what happens is we do a small batch in 45 kilo pots,” explains Praveen.
“We cook on the day and it’s all hand-cooked with no machinery.
“There are lots of benefits of frozen food – there’s no wastage, because it lasts longer and there’s no pressure to eat it, like there is with fresh food.”
Praveen has live data from delivery lorries, showing that their method using dry ice does a great job at keeping the meals cool.
One particular batch which they tracked arrived to the customers still very much frozen at -17 degrees.
Many of the spices which Praveen uses at Tabla, his Cook School and the ready meals, all come from his family’s farm back in India.
“My family farms, that’s what they do for a living,” he says, “even my granny is still active in the field.
“Things like chillies, pulses, cumin, mustard, and my extended family grows garlic and ginger.
“My family still hand blend all the spices, so that way it tastes the way it does at home and creates a more authentic flavour.
“It’s also a way for me to support my family back home.
“And I have a farmer who I work with in Coupar Angus who does all our root veg, and the local butcher Yorkes of Dundee does all our red meat.”
‘I’ve not achieved anything yet’ says Praveen
When asked how it feels to have achieved his aim to get authentic Indian food into homes around the UK, Praveen says: “I’ve not achieved anything yet.
“The last few years have just been homework. We’ve been figuring out what our vision is.
“Our goal is by end of 2032 is to get 100,000 online customers, with 5,000 retail partners in the UK.”
Today, they have 6,000 online customers and 350 retail partners.
“We always take credit for what we’ve done so far. We’re very proud of what we have achieved.
“But we’re just getting started. This is just the beginning.”