How I Launched: Kitchen Garden

a woman sitting between two men at table with coffee

Three French-born Soho House Mumbai members discuss bringing a taste of their motherland to the city

By Praachi Raniwala   Tuesday 2 July, 2019

It was a love affair with India that brought Parisians Jérémie Sabbagh, Antonia Achache and Pierre Labail together. Sabbagh and Achache met at university in Delhi, with Labail coming into the picture when the duo moved to Mumbai in 2008. Here, the trio share how they brought a slice of France to the City of Dreams.

The big idea
Jérémie Sabbagh: ‘Pierre and I spent a lot of our childhood in Brittany, the birthplace of crepes, but couldn’t find authentic ones in Mumbai. Back in 2008, India did not have an all-day cafe culture like the one we grew up with in France. We wanted to give the city a taste of that. In 2011 we left our respective day jobs to launch the missing piece of the puzzle: a creperie called Suzette.’ 

Antonia Achache: ‘We were keen to introduce the farm-to-table concept with wholesome offerings when we launched Suzette, but organic produce was rare back then. We came across Offerings Farms’ produce at a market in 2012 and immediately wanted to use their fresh ingredients, but they didn’t have capacity at the time. But we knew there was an opportunity there.’

Forming a plan
AA: ‘Our experiences with Suzette had already shown us that there was a growing demand for healthy food, such as gluten-free meals, green juices and kale salads. We reached out to Offerings Farms once again in 2015 and it turned out that they were delivering their produce to Mumbai twice a week. By this time, we had opened two more outlets of Suzette (in Bandra in 2012 and Powai in 2015); already having this successful brand helped us at every step with Kitchen Garden. We followed the same principles: top quality products, organic produce, made from scratch with no preservatives and timeless recipes. We created a salad menu based on the farm’s supply, and Kitchen Garden was born in October 2016.’    

Creating an identity 
JS: ‘At its core, Kitchen Garden is about home-style healthy meals made from scratch using locally-sourced organic ingredients. We are flexitarian and endorse balanced food and sustainable diets (much like the eating habits we grew up with) over fads. Food is a celebration and you shouldn’t deprive yourself.’  

AA: ‘The name is a reference to the farm-to-table movement, as well as a nod to our personal dream of having our own urban kitchen garden at home someday. The branding is Kitchen Garden by Suzette to establish a lineage between the brands.’
woman behind till at coffee shop
avocado on toast
Building the brand
AA: ‘We are homegrown in every sense — Jérémie and I are the head chefs while Pierre manages operations and HR. I designed the interiors and handle our Instagram account, too. Our social-media strategy is extremely organic — I take the pictures and write the captions to maintain an honest voice. Our brand is about the food, not celebrity chefs, so the three of us rarely engage in influencer-marketing activities.’ 

JS: ‘After our first outpost in Bandra in 2016, we launched another Kitchen Garden in Bandra-Kurla Complex in January 2018 and a kiosk in the same district in October 2018. Juhu (five minutes from Soho House Mumbai) followed in February this year and Lower Parel in May. We started with six staff members in 2011 and will be a team of 250 by the end of this fiscal year.’ 

AA: ‘We hosted a farmer’s market for the launch of our Juhu outpost. The response encouraged us to introduce weekly organic veggie baskets inspired by the ones French three-star Michelin chef Alain Passard does. Every Sunday, customers can expect three kilos of fresh organic produce from our farms that you won’t find in supermarkets across the city.’

Money matters
AA: ‘We set up Suzette with our savings — a capital of Rs. 30 lakhs [approx. £34k/ $43k] – and opened a second outlet with its returns. In 2015, Singapore-based Deepak Shahdadpuri, MD of DSG Consumer Partners and one of our first customers, came on board as an investor. Initially we wanted to move slowly, but we soon realised investment would help us grow at a faster pace and have been working with him since the first Kitchen Garden.’ 

Dealing with drama 
JS: ‘The biggest challenge was finding the right real estate – a good location at a sustainable rent. We have visited umpteen spaces since we started but have been very selective. For example, Kitchen Garden Bandra is in the same lane as Suzette Bandra. We’d had our eyes on the space where the Juhu outlet now stands for a long time. Nothing else in the vicinity matched up to it and the minute it went on the market, we jumped at it.’ 

Eye on the future
JS: ‘We open in Colaba around November this year and it will be the first Kitchen Garden to serve wine, beer and tapas. Suzette Bakery will open in August in Bandra, serving millefeuille, choux pastries, tarts and our signature dark chocolate ganache brownies. We’re also looking into developing our own online delivery platform where we can consolidate the offerings from our three brands and subscription meal plans.’

Lead image: Jérémie Sabbagh, Antonia Achache and Pierre Labail at Kitchen Garden in Bandra (Nachiket Pimprikar)
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