Creating exciting food concepts is part of my work.
But developing food concepts in a different country (Nepal) is challenging in many ways.
I created 3 restaurant concepts in 3 months with my business partner there, Subash Dahal. A really talented entrepreneur who already opened a restaurant in Australia (Hungry Chefs) and a couple more in Nepal (Butcher’s cafe and Sweetlane). Funny thing, I helped him create another restaurant concept 3 years ago.
To be honest, I would never think a couple of months ago that I would write this post.
Or that I can say that I created 3 restaurants concepts in Nepal in only 3 months?! Well, we did. Definitely not my easiest couple of months, but I’m proud we pulled it off!
Let’s do a little recap to 3 years ago. 3 Years ago was my first time travelling in Nepal, I did a yoga teacher training and met a guy who apparently was gonna play a bigger part in my life then I knew back then. He was creating the menu for a new restaurant opening in Pokhara, Dunga. I helped him. Such a fun experience and I’m still so proud of what we did. Back then, my visa was running out so I only stayed for a month, too late to see the real opening, but from what I heard, it’s a big success. And it’s still running pretty good.
Before you think it’s an epic love story or something, not really, it’s work-based. But, what we realised from the moment we met is that we are both extremely passionate about the same thing, food concepts. From development, trendspotting, menu creation and food combinations, we work well together. Also, we have the exact same tastes. Foodwise, design-wise and even interior wise, which makes working super fun.
This year, I was travelling in Asia, mostly working in branding and doing photoshoots for different clients, but for the first time in years, I was missing a base. Was the nomad life still the perfect thing for me? Anyways, I set up my mind, I would spend Chrismas in Europe, for the first time in years as well. I booked a flight to Hongkong and was planning on going back to Europe.
As I said, I made up my mind, I was planning to go back to Europe, settle down and another big plan afterwards is moving to Berlin to live there for at least 3 months. (maybe a year?) It was November 13th and the Guy I worked with 3 years ago in Nepal, suddenly gave me a text, out of the blue. He called me and thought about opening a new restaurant together. Make it our place, with our designs, menu’s and build a whole team around it to make it running and then go out.
That was a lot to take in. Not that the offer was weird, I mean I do those things more often, but it was so random. And, 3 months winter in Nepal? No Christmas at home? No normal heating system and hot showers? Also, besides him, I would be alone. I would probably spend my time working and sleeping that’s it. Don’t get me wrong here, but it is different between travelling alone (means meeting so many amazing people), being a nomad alone (means working together with awesome people who you see in coworking spaces and in nomad areas) and opening a restaurant in a village 30 minutes from Kathmandu (means almost no tourist in offseason, no nomads, 99% locals and not so much time to socialise). Also, besides the amazing nature, Nepal is basic. Electricity goes down almost every night, showers are not always hot, the traffic is insane, rooms are cold because there is no central heating system, food hygiene is so different than other countries and so on. As you can see I was making lots of struggles in my head. Some people might wanna say I was making excuses, but it was more summing up the facts. (I’m not good with cold weather)
So, was it worth all that for this experience? I kind of knew that I wasn’t gonna settle for now in Nepal at this point of my life, so that means I’m building and giving all my effort for this project for his place? Of course, we made a deal and I got my own place, but still. It was a lot to think about. (it’s wintertime, definitely a more basic kind of living and a lot colder)
Yes or No?
Doubts, for days. I told him I needed some time to consider the offer. I actually had another job offer possibility back then as well in the Netherlands for a couple of months, paid a lot more than this one, but would the experience be the same? And would I choose money over something like this? Opening restaurants with our ideas, our designs, our food? Creating it from scratch? That would be awesome right. Also, I knew that working together would be really fun. We think alike, we have the same goal, which makes working so effortless. Wouldn’t this be a cool opportunity? And otherwise just an experience I will take with me for a lifetime?
So, I booked my flight, felt a bit bad about paying for the other one, but hey, Hong Kong wasn’t the safest place to fly to anyways because of all the protests (November 2019). This restaurant project became however extremely big, bigger than we both realised. The plan for starting one restaurant became 2 and is now at number 3. And from what I can tell, we’re not out of ideas yet!
Concept development branding (name, logo, concept restaurant) Marketing, photographing, creating menu’s (means also food tastings, coffee search, markets visits, interiors design (I even picked out toilet seats haha) I did food shoots for some of his other restaurants, creating a menu some restaurants, designing menus for other restaurants. We created Youtube video’s and we even set up a whole Marketing team to run everything when I was gone. It was lot’s, lot’s of work and they don’t do weekends in Nepal, so the focus was work!
So many things happened in the first month. Basically, we were gonna do something that seemed a bit impossible. Opening a restaurant in 3 months, that’s not even build yet! To read more about that check out my work blog from the restaurants in Nepal.
Work process Nepal