The Ingredient Supplier: Anil Chandhok of Chenab Impex
“I love it when a chef says, ‘Wow, I’ve always wanted to make this dish and you’ve brought the ingredients for it into India,’” says Anil Chandhok, the director-owner of Chenab Impex. The company currently has a portfolio of 60 brands and 900 ingredients, from over ten countries and none of them were regularly available in the Indian market until Chandhok decided to import and distribute them. Walk into a grocery store, and the shelves of Blue Elephant Thai paste, La Costena Mexican salsa and French quinoa are likely to bear the Chenab Impex label.
In addition to retailing its products, Chenab Impex, which Chandhok founded in 2002, also supplies its goods to all the major hotel chains and almost every restaurant using imported ingredients in the country. California Pizza Kitchen uses their chipotles and Italian tomatoes, Bungalow 9 uses their peri peri chilli peppers, Burgs uses their habaneros. Borges, the olive oil that has now become ubiquitous even in kirana stores, was introduced to the Indian market by Chenab Impex in 2003, before the 115-year old Spanish company went on to set up an Indian subsidiary in 2010. “None of these products had an existing market or demand,” says Chandhok.
After introducing basic ingredients (like flour and salt), ready-to-eat (cookies) and ready-to-cook (Thai curry pastes) products, Chandhok now plans to expand into cold-chain products such as ice cream and meats, as well as more unfamiliar ethnic foods (Peruvian peppers and Italian mostarda, for example), baking ingredients (speciality flours from Italy for pizzas and pasta), and foods that comply with diet restrictions (gluten-free crackers, pastas and flour). “When a housewife goes shopping, she doesn’t only buy international foods like olive oil,” says Chandhok. “She also buys flour, salt, sugar, pepper, crackers, and so on. I want to offer her the best of the world in all of these products.” And if we have been seeing a little more molecular gastronomy on our menus, some of it is thanks to Chenab. The company has recently become the sole India distributor for Sole Graells El Bulli Texturas, texture-altering ingredients that have been created by celebrated Spanish molecular gastronomists, Ferran and Albert Adria.
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