From Flavors to Fusion: An Exclusive Interview with Pan-Asian Culinary Visionary - Hindustan Times

From Flavors to Fusion: An Exclusive Interview with a Pan-Asian Culinary Visionary

Published on Oct 13, 2023 05:23 PM IST

House of Wok: A Pan-Asian restaurant offering a unique culinary experience.

Sajat Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of House of Wok
Sajat Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of House of Wok
ByHT Brand Studio

House of Wok, is a Pan-Asian restaurant and a culinary gem born out of the passion and love for gastronomy that made its debut in October 2019, founded by two childhood friends, who shared a fervent passion for gastronomy. The brand is an amalgamation of aroma and culinary techniques from countries like Thailand, Japan, and China, to provide a unique culinary experience to its patrons in India. House of Wok infuses its travel into its menu, and every dish they serve tells a story. From Thailand's bold and spicy curries to Japan's delicate and refined sushi, the brand strives to bring the world's flavors to your table.

  1. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind starting House of Wok and the journey from being a software engineer to a successful restaurateur?
  • I have been a coder since early childhood and naturally chose software engineering when it came to picking up a major in college.
  • An opportunity came in 2018 where I had an option to leave my venture funded health tech start up (which I started back in 2012), and start over fresh.
  • I have been extremely fond of food, and just like I guess most of us also wanted to have a restaurant of my own.
  • I enjoy travelling a lot, and always make it a point to visit the popular local eateries of the city I would be in.
  • From my travels, I stumbled upon a very tiny place with a huge line outside. The menu was simple, pick either rice or noodle, then pick protein and veggies, and finally choose a sauce. It would then be prepared right in front of you and served in an easy to carry box.
  • From the many restaurants and food experiences I have had, the above one had stayed with me the longest.
  • And therefore before I knew it, House of Wok was born in 2019 with a take on what I had seen and tweaks on what I felt would work best for our market.

2. House of Wok is known for offering global Pan-Asian cuisine. How did you decide on this concept, and what sets your restaurant apart from others in the same niche?

  • I feel that keeping it strictly Pan Asian and that too authentic allowed us to stand out. It also gave us the platform to present various popular dishes we have stumbled across in our travels to Thailand, Japan and China.
  • We don’t shy away from challenges. Back when people were selling curry dim sums with dim sums placed in a box full of curry sauce, we realized that it’s just too messy to eat and we therefore put the curries inside our dim sums. Our Green Curry Veg Dim Sums (a fusion between Thailand and China), are our most popular dim sums till date.
  • We keep innovating with our menu and are extremely brutal when it comes to deciding what stays and what doesn’t. A very recent example is of lobster dim sums which we introduced early this year. While we loved the dim sums and were extremely confident of its flavours, we just weren’t getting enough love from our customers. We realized that perhaps people weren’t looking to try this for delivery and have therefore discontinued them. We will however be bringing it back for our next dine-in very soon.
  • It’s our consistency and perseverance that sets us apart. A validation we keep getting from our loyal customers who keep coming back to us for repeats of their favourites.

3. Your restaurant incorporates flavors from various Asian countries like Thailand, Japan, and China. Could you share how you go about curating your menu and what the process is like in infusing the essence of these cultures into your dishes?

  • We have tried some or the other variation of almost every dish on our menu in our travels.
  • The experience of travelling to all these countries, not only gave us ideas on curating the local favourites, but also helped us create fusions like our curry dim sums and wasabi infused prawns.
  • Whenever we add a new dish to our menu, we put it through several taste tests, even after finalizing the recipe. This ensures that we can consistently provide the same great taste to our customers, no matter which of our kitchens they order from. We also test how our dishes would taste if they have to spend some time in a delivery box, and we consider different delivery times for this as well.

4. Could you discuss the role of technology in the growth and operation of House of Wok? As a software engineer, how have you leveraged technology to enhance the customer experience and streamline restaurant operations?

  • While the cooking happens in the kitchen, we use software to track our inventories and food costs in real time.
  • We use digital tools to manage almost every little thing in our kitchens, thus reducing our dependence on paper along with manual and error prone processes.
  • We also look at data that we get from our channel partners to take decisions on our operational and marketing strategies.

5 . What do you see as the future of House of Wok? Are there any exciting developments or expansion plans that you can share with us?

  • Our journey so far has proved to us that this is sustainable and scalable.
  • We are working on opening more of our outlets across various formats and cities.
  • We have started looking for regional/local franchise partners who are as passionate about food as we are, and are looking to bring House of Wok to their cities.
  • Our first sit down with alcohol would open by the end of this year in Gurgaon. This would be on FOFO model (franchise owned franchise operated)
  • We would also be finally entering the Punjab region within this year, making it our first store outside our home city. This would be on FOFO model as well.

6. . Could you share some insights into the challenges you've faced in the restaurant business, especially in light of the unique circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how you've navigated through them?

  • Lack of experience in the industry led us to burn a lot of money at the beginning.
  • It took us a while to understand the nuances of the trade, and setup processes that would help us to not only offer consistency to our customers, but also optimize operations.
  • We have had great success in setting up base kitchen operations for few of our items, and are planning to build on that to cover more of our menu. The end goal is to have a tighter control on the quality of food reaching our customers which isn’t always possible when procuring from multiple vendors.
  • We are building a supply chain to not only help our company owned kitchens, but also support our franchisees to help them offer the same level of taste and experience to their customers.

7. Lastly, for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the restaurant industry, what advice or lessons learned from your journey would you like to pass on to them?

  • Passion alone isn’t enough to survive or scale. Understand the business, your market, and your customers before spending your hard-earned money.

Disclaimer: This article is a paid publication and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times does not endorse/subscribe to the content(s) of the article/advertisement and/or view(s) expressed herein. Hindustan Times shall not in any manner, be responsible and/or liable in any manner whatsoever for all that is stated in the article and/or also with regard to the view(s), opinion(s), announcement(s), declaration(s), affirmation(s) etc., stated/featured in the same.

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