began quite by accident with Mr Mitra Nitin Walke’s mother 25 years ago in Malvan. “She was a beautician and wanted to start a beauty parlour in Mumbai. Back in Sundhudurg we used to serve food to the tourists during holiday season. Once a school opened, we served the staff who were facing difficulty in finding good food and so we opened a mess and PG. My mom is a great cook and my dad is a foodie so everyone ended up loving the food.
Then one fine day, the school held a conference and we set up a bakda (temporary shop) and catering to almost 2000 people in 5 days. She worked from 6.30 PM to 2 PM without any real staff. That was the beginning of Chaitanya!”
“From there word of mouth spread and we took over a small place and named it Chaitanya. It means the satisfaction the comes from a great meal. When tourists clamoured to have us in Mumbai, my mom came and we set up a 300 sq. ft place at Shivaji Park.”
“Mom is extremely particularly finicky about the food she prepares! There was a time when we bought our king fish, mackerel, oysters and clams all the way from Malvan because we wanted the freshest catch. We even transported water from Malvan for a while to keep our flavours absolutely authentic!”
“It was finally an article in Mid-Day that brought in the crowd in a big way. I was in 10th std. and remember having to drop the shutter because we simply couldn’t serve any more people! We’ve shifted to our current location only 8 months ago. We still source our fish from Malvan but we treat our water with rock salt to emulate the hard water of Malwan.”
“The recipes have remained unchanged for over 25 years and still draw a crowd. The secret lies in hand ground masalas. Malvan cuisine is based on 18 masalas. One may take the recipe but the flavour can never be copied because of the grinding techniques.”
“Other than the authentic Malvan flavours, we strive to give a homely experience both to our customers and our staff. That’s our specialty. Mom still gets very upset with any negative reviews. We actually try to personally give a call if someone has any grievance.
That’s our commitment to giving you a satisfied family experience.” “That’s why, catering to our younger patrons means changing our menu to suit the changing trends. The older folks love the thali but for the younger crowd, we’ve had to turn it into a 3-course meal. For the health conscious, we created the Malvan style steamed pomfret. Overall our younger patrons prefer less ‘kat-kat’, meaning boneless preparations.
“We have a great following! There were times when customers would ask for the same dish my mom was preparing for me. We ended up putting 12 dishes like that on the menu! It is because of such loyal following that we are here today.”
“2018 March brings Chaitanya’s 25th anniversary and we plan to open another branch in Vile Parle. I used to cook and my sister does the promotion designs. We are moving ahead as a family and avoiding the franchise model to maintain our authenticity. We haven’t spent a penny on advertisements.”
“Looing back, it was extremely tough to set up a restaurant in Mumbai alone, but I’m proud of myself for achieving it! And more than that, I feel grateful for all the people I have connected with along the way.”