Cookups BD, an online platform is innovatively connecting passionate cooks with foodies in the city, writes Nibras Bin Sayed
Some say that cooking is a marriage of art and science and in spite of the numerous ontological disappointments of life, most people, if not all, revert to food for the Spanish saying that goes: ‘A full stomach makes a happy heart.’ Needless to say, Bangladeshis are not an exception in this context and are known for their gastronomical inclinations and mouthwatering delicacies.
Not only do Bangladeshis love eating food, but also find an unimaginable joy in feeding others; no wonder hospitality is such a big part of the culture here. Hence, the food business in the country has always been a winner; apart from the new restaurants that seem to be opening up almost every day in some parts of the country, the advent of technology has allowed people to start up online food businesses as well, especially in the urban areas.
Among so many new online food ventures, ‘Cookups BD’ has entered the scene with a twist that makes it the very first of its kind in Dhaka city. Launched on July 25 this year, Cookups connects passionate cooks and foodies in the city.
Namira Hossain and Misha Ali, two young individuals, who seek perfection in food actively, founded the platform. ‘We have been food lovers forever and we are passionate about cooking. We used to cook at home and post our pictures online and received a lot of positive feedback as we all have this weakness for home cooked meals,’ says Namira Hossain, who is also the owner of Cookups. She further mentions that soon after the Holey Artisan attack, people were afraid of going to restaurants and she, just like some of her friends, had decided to buy groceries and cook something at home as people tended to meet friends at home during that time. ‘That is when it struck me that we could do this on a regular basis and provide business opportunities to interested home cooks and that’s how it all began,’ Hossain says. Cookups
The mechanism of this online platform that is rapidly becoming popular is interesting and simple; cooks who are working for Cookups make meals at home and upload their pictures on a Facebook group called ‘Cookups Pilot’. It gets more interesting. Since the featured cooks are not really full-time chefs, but individuals who cook for passion, they choose certain days and times at their conveniences and mention availability of the meals in their posts as well. Once the pictures are uploaded, foodies can place their order as they are delivered fresh to their homes via their delivery partners ‘Oi Khali’ and ‘Go Fetch’. Another great advantage of the platform is that professionals from different sectors can venture into this business on the side of their jobs, as they can choose their convenient time and days.
‘It is fascinating how this initiative has interconnected so many food lovers in such a short time, that too so simply. Not only it has given us an opportunity to interact with new people, but it has also introduced everyone on board with a whole new range of food items,’ says Prescila Rahman, a young passionate cook for the platform. ‘Besides I am getting paid from home by doing what I love doing,’ she adds. She also feels that Cookups is only going to get bigger given how fast they have been growing as a community.
Cookups started off with a handful of cooks, but just within four months, the platform has brought together about 40 cooks on board to satiate the appetite of foodies. Namira mentions that so far the scope of the initiative has spread rapidly by word of mouth. The growing popularity of Cookups can be accredited to the varieties of food that are being offered.
‘Almost anything and everything is offered by our cooks. Apart from our traditional deshi meals, we offer a lot of international cuisines, be it Mexican, Italian, Korean or Thai,’ adds Namira.
Just a scroll on their site gives a vivid idea of their range of products; starting from something as simple as ‘Achar’ to grilled Italian red snapper. You could also indulge in Thai red chicken curry, gluten-free Mexican tacos, Hakka noodles, Sindh biryani, Pakistani style haleem or Spanish paella. The best thing is that perhaps you would never get bored of ordering from Cookups as everyday they have different food items on offer. What is more interesting is that the recipes and the procedures of each of these delicious items are published online, encouraging people to try them at home.
The price range of the meals vary roughly between 200 Tk to 1000 Tk per portion and that seems affordable to most, considering the fact that one does not need to travel anywhere to avail these meals. ‘I have not seen any unjustified pricing of meals we have offered so far. It’s understandable that some items would cost more but then again customers need to be aware of the fact that some ingredients are expensive and different items require different amount of hard work,’ says Deneb Zeenat Latif, another member of Cookups’ diversified team of cooks.
Latif also stresses that they strive to maintain well-balanced prices, which are fair to both the customers and the cooks.
The Cookups BD team vouches for safety, hygiene and quality of food by inspecting kitchens of the cooks thoroughly before they can start selling.
One of the challenges that Tanha Zahur, one of the cooks, faced initially was packing as she emphasised on how important the presentation of a meal is. ‘Over time, I have sorted out this issue and now more than ever, I get overly excited every time someone places an order on my items. This keeps me motivated and busy in my life and positive reviews only push me to cook far better,’ she says.
When asked about future plans and the journey so far, Namira says, ‘I am amazed at the amount of positive feedback we have been getting from customers. Our team members are very happy and we are now working on developing an app for our customers so that they can access us conveniently without us worrying about Facebook posts where older posts go way down the page. I am dreaming big with Cookups BD, I want to see it reach all over Asia in the future.’