The big cheese of gurugram- The New Indian Express

The big cheese of gurugram- The New Indian Express

  28 Dec 2023

Express News Service

George Bernard Shaw had said with his typical Irish sense of humour: “There is no love more sincere than the love of food.” It certainly was the case for the original Gurgaon Foodie, founder and marketing professional, Aalok Wadhwa. Soon, he was joined by former banker Shefali Saxena and marketing professional Shivendu Mittal, and the group, as we now know it, was formed.

Their collective effort led to the growth of Gurgaon Foodie, a private Facebook group of food ‘critics’, cooks, enthusiasts, diners and followers. Members come together often — on Facebook and off it — since 2012, and have lively conversations and interventions on matters culinary. It has drawn people from outside Gurugram as well.

Manisha Mukherji’s Chicken Kalimirch

Since then, the group has come a long way. Initially, the group rated eateries in the vicinity of their homes. As its member population became more diverse, the scope of the group’s restaurant ‘reviews’ began to spread across the whole country. “We call it reviews now, it wasn’t a review when we started,” says Mittal.

“If somebody went to a nice place to eat and wanted others to know about it, they would start talking about it. People would question them in the comments and the discussion would revolve around that particular eatery,” he adds. They also celebrated milestones of the group. From a group of a hundred members in the first few days, it currently boasts of nearly 90,000 members on Facebook.

The group does have a lot to celebrate, setting an example in living well, and are certainly not shy of putting up videos and photos, almost on a daily basis, of what they are putting on their plate. Gyaneshwari Sharma, a homemaker who joined the group in 2019, says the group’s popularity is due to its dedication to building a community as it is to review restaurants.

“Food is at the centre of the group but there is also a beautiful community feel to it. I meet fellow foodies regularly and we enjoy our discussions on food,” she says. However, what she loves most about the group is its way of functioning. “All Gurgaon Foodie events are paid for. We don’t believe in eating free food. Only if a restaurant or an establishment wishes to host the top contributors, do we have everything on the house,” she explains.

Not critics, learners
Yet, most members of the group refuse to be called critics. They say they have no food ideologies. Most joined the group to learn about great food options and to pen their thoughts on what they ate and where in Delhi-NCR and around the world.

A kind of consumer writing back on food they were served, what they liked, what they didn’t. It has members from different walks of life – bankers to homemakers — and on the FB page, opinion is free. It is not uncommon to find that a majority opinion about a culinary experience, whether in a restaurant or at home, has been dissed by another member.

Sometimes they also re-review a restaurant to revisit an earlier opinion. Or look back at the city they may have come from, whose food they now recreate in their kitchens. The group is also a place for budding chefs. Durba Ray, a top contributor, says she regularly follows the social media accounts of celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson, Marion Gats by, Ranveer Brar and Sanjeev Kapoor “to see if they have posted any new recipes. Then, I try to recreate them in my own kitchen and post on the group”.

At a Gurgaon Foodie event

Foodie awards
The group is guided by a democratic spirit. The opinion of the members matter. Its founders thought the best way to honour the popular choices would be to present them with an award – and thus started the Gurgaon Foodie awards in April, 2015. There are separate nominations for restaurants, bakeries and cafés. Contributors, too , are awarded on the basis of popular choice.

Incidentally, Gyaneshwari Sharma won the Top Contributor Award— a certificate that can be displayed virtually and physically— for 2022, for her consistent contribution to the group. Which restaurant gets which position is not just up to the founding members. The eateries which get mentioned the most in the year are nominated and an open poll in the FB group decides the winners.

Recent joinee Manisha Mukherji says reviews posted on the group gets noticed throughout Delhi-NCR, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Noida. “Such is the influence of Gurgaon Foodie that I have seen restaurants owning up to negative reviews,” she says with a touch of pride. Ray says that she was shocked to find fans of her contributions in Bengaluru.

“I was at an event in Bengaluru when a few people came up to me and said that they follow my posts on Gurgaon Foodie. I know that there are some fans overseas too!” she says. As the group gears up for Gurgaon Foodie Awards 2023, scheduled to be held in January 2024, not only the members but the restaurants in Delhi-NCR too, wait with bated breath to know the results. But the competition is not too intense. After all, it is all for the love of food!

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