Crescy Baptista and Oliver Fernandes, with their venture, The Goan Kitchen, are set on showcasing and upholding Goa’s culinary heritage
The Goan Kitchen founded by Crescy Baptista and Oliver Fernandes stands firm on its mission to revive and preserve the traditional and authentic cuisine of Goa.
Crescy owes it all to her mother-in-law, Maria Elisa Menezes Baptista, for teaching her every aspect of what a Goan kitchen should be, from how to select the right ingredients to the tricks that each mother has under her sleeve to create magic for her family. Being a strong exponent of Goan-Portuguese culture, her kitchen has always been busy entertaining family and friends. Since the last 8 years, Crescy has been busy dishing out delicious food across Goa through a home-catering service along with an army of ladies from the Loutolim village.
Oliver’s love for all things Goan got him to enrol in hotel management 23 years back. In all these years he has nurtured this love, and through his travels and experiences has realised the beauty of what he clings on to as his own – the Goan culture. Coming from a family where no occasion is spared to celebrate food, this took centre-stage of his calling.
Crescy’s and Oliver’s friendship over the years saw food dominating their conversations. “It was over these numerous discussions and a Rissois de Camarão that The Goan Kitchen came about. It arose from our deep love of Goan food, especially recipes that we grew up with. We want to go beyond the select dishes on offer at restaurants around Goa and focus on the recipes from our mother’s kitchens across Goa. The Goan Kitchen will be a platform that preserves and presents Goan food, from traditional festive to desserts to Goan goodies – the custodians and repository of Goan food culture.”
In India’s culinary history, Goa was a port that saw the entry of many spices that has become synonymous with Indian cuisine. “Goa has evolved through its own unique history with settlers that brought in so much produce and taught locals techniques and recipes that have metamorphosed to what we see Goan cuisine today. Our inspiration was to be that place which preserves and presents this culinary heritage in its entirety. We have 250+ dishes in our menu that represent dishes from Hindu Goan, local tribal fare and Indo-Portuguese segments. We felt Goan cuisine was only getting its share of visibility to the extent of maybe the 8-10 commercial dishes that one finds on restaurant menus today. Goa has so much more to offer and this needed to be presented to all. Today we see so many acclaimed chefs talking about the cuisine they grew up with and taking this across the world. A lot of people are talking about Goan cuisine and putting in their efforts but it certainly needs many more people to do their bit and put us on the world map.”
The Goan Kitchen operates from Loutolim and they have a full-fledged outlet in Margao. “We have lunch experiences at the kitchen where we have a tasting menu and cooking demos for groups. This is on a pre-booked basis. Our store in Margao has a daily changing selection of snacks and a set menu every day. Apart from this, we have all Goan food essentials on the shelf to pickup.”
The Goan Kitchen takes pride in having a place dedicated to almost-forgotten Goan classics like Atol, Mutli, Mandos, Filos that one does not find commercially as well as classics of yore like Orchata and Bolo Sans Rival. The Prawn Dangar and Sansav from the Hindu Goan cuisine are favourites among their customers. Each day they have rice bread like Polle, Coyloyo, Tandlam Bhakri, and almost forgotten traditional desserts like Doce Bhaji, Atol etc at the store.
The menu at The Goan Kitchen changes every day, they have their pre-order menu that one could order from for a party at home; for which a prior intimation is necessary, a day or two in advance. At the store, they have a selection of snacks, four mains and desserts to choose from and take-away or enjoy at their intimate café setting.
The Goan Kitchen has one of the largest selections of pickles and masalas that have become a big attraction for visitors and non-resident Goans to carry back with them.
The lunch experience at the kitchen is open for groups of 6 people and above. This is a unique experience that offers the guests a peek into Goan classics that are mostly non-existent on menus today; a lunch as seen through a native Goan that is enjoyed through story-telling and conversations about Goan culinary heritage. There are almost 20 dishes and beverages to go through in one afternoon
“We ensure each festival is represented with a corresponding traditional menu… so be it Sao Joâo or Christmas, we lose no opportunity to showcase Goan culinary gems,” they add.
During Christmas, The Goan Kitchen goes all out with their selection of Christmas hampers. Bursting to the seams with traditional Goan sweets like Bebinca, Dodol, Bolinhas, assorted Doce, Perad, Pinak, each item is individually packed and prettily presented in a festive tray replete with a small wreath.
The Goan Kitchen is part of various events that showcases Goa to tourists as well as locals. “We believe that along with architecture and music, we can showcase Goa’s culinary heritage. We have been part of unique Goan experiences, of Music with Sounds from Goa’s Heritage Home Concerts. We are privileged to have been part of events at The Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. Recently we were invited to showcase Goan food through a workshop at the Serendipity Arts Festival by The Locavore,” says Crescy and Oliver.
Oliver and Crescy hope that Goan regional food in all its traditional glory gets a larger spotlight. “Competition is from the contemporary food trend. Even from the very popular fish thali. There’s more to Goan food than a thali. We have very less or negligible locals who are getting behind the range to cook Goan food. We are aware that some restaurants want to have a larger Goan selection but due to lack of skilled chefs from Goa, they do not venture there. Local Goan students graduating from culinary schools do not choose Goan cuisine as their vocation. This is the moment of truth and a point to ponder on. In a few years from now, we might face a scenario where there may not be many Goans cooking their own food commercially.” Regarding future plans the duo wish that more Goans join the brigade so that they can take Goan cuisine places. “Currently we have a fantastic team of local ladies from around the kitchen in Loutolim. We are continuously looking for younger talent who love Goa and its food. This will help us expand what we are currently doing, that is spreading our beloved cuisine to the world”