We were lucky enough to ask their founder, Aadit Shankar, a few questions about Atcha and his story.
Q: What’s the inspiration behind Atcha?
A: After I left school, I went to India for 6 months – I had been to the large cities a lot to see family, but going on a longer trip, on my own, led me to fall in love with the richness and variety of Indian cuisine. On my return to London, I was continually frustrated with the narrowness of the Indian offering. It was either curry house or fine dining. Why wasn’t there good quality, fresh Indian option for lunch on the go? A few years later I quit my first job out of university to try to make that dream a reality.
Q: Where are you from and how has that shaped your business?
A: I was born in London, but my Mum is from Delhi in the North, and my Dad from Bangalore in the South. Having a connection to these areas, that are physically and culturally so far apart, has always imbued in me an appreciation for the vastness of the country and the endless possibilities when it comes to food.
In particular, spice-led, mostly vegetarian cooking makes for amazing, nutritious food-to-go, a kind that we are not seeing enough of on the high street in the UK.
Atcha is not about “authentic” Indian food. Rather, we draw inspiration from across South Asia to create healthy food that tastes amazing.
Q: How would you describe the food from Atcha in five words?
A: Nourishing, Energising, Fresh, Inventive and Addictive
Q: What’s your favourite meal on your menu?
A: The Cauli Sarnie: cauli sabzi, done in quite a simple, Punjabi way; masala cashew mayo; pickled ginger; in toasted Breid sourdough.
Q: What should we order from you when we…
…. feel indulgent?
A: The Paneer Sarnie has a level of unctuosity that hits the spot.
… crave something healthy?
A: Most of the menu, but the Northern Bowl or Salmon Box.
… want to celebrate?
A: I’d have a Grilled Chicken & Lentils bowl, a mango ice cream, and would also probably treat myself to an Atcha cotton tote bag!
Q: What’s your top tip for eating better at work?
A: An Atcha a day…
But seriously, I’ve worked 100-hour weeks in the office and it pays to eat well. Buy a good water bottle that you will use and not lose. Make your own coffee – we stock a beautiful blend by London Grade Coffee that is from an organic estate in Tamil Nadu. Breakfast is key – don’t compromise. And finally, try to eat in groups and make meals an event; it’s awesome for team performance and career development.
Q: What’s the ingredient you always find yourself reaching for when you’re cooking at home?
A: Believe it or not, I don’t do much cooking as I am spoilt by amazing cooks around me. And I eat a lot of Atcha.
But when I do – I love to finish dishes off with “gunpowder”. It’s a South Indian spice blend made with dried lentils, peanuts, jaggery and dried red chili.
Q: What’s your favourite thing to do in your area?
A: I love running along the Thames and my favourite restaurant in London might be Brawn.
Q: When you’re not in the kitchen…
A: When I’m not visiting kitchens with my business partner, Rajat, we’re working on sales, marketing, and other strategy stuff with our Head of Ops & Partnerships, Vaish.
Outside of work, it’s pub with friends, spending time with family and watching/playing football and cricket.
Q: What are your post Covid-19 resolutions?
A: Hmmm…is this a thing? I don’t have any at the moment but perhaps I should.
I think one thing the crisis taught us is how lucky we are to have the basics in life – health, food, family, friends. We donated over 2500 meals to NHS staff during the pandemic but didn’t want to stop this very basic and simple act. Today, we work with Tower Hamlets to cook and deliver 40 meals every week to food banks in East London, which feed asylum seekers, refugees, and other homeless hostels.
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