Agra’s ‘Gourmet Club’ helping 200 home-chefs set new records and evoking shine

Prove your metal and then there’s no looking back.

Certainly! And Renuka Dang has proved her metal. From not being health conscious to turning into a successful nutritionist and entrepreneur she has come a long way. A dedicated doctor she is a naturopath and is now the number one nutritionist in Agra.

Renuka Dang won a National Health award in the 5th National Health Awards 2018, one of her many achievements. She changed the lives of many home-makers who were cooking enthusiasts when she started her own club, ‘The Gourmet Club of Agra’, a platform where the talent of home-makers could be harnessed and further encouraged to be pursued as a career.

A patient had just stopped by and Dr. Renuka Dang chalked out a diet plan for her, explaining how she does not believe in giving out medicine prescriptions. A change in lifestyle and food habits is the most important thing to achieve good health. One should not be dependent on medicines, they don’t help one in the long run.

“I truly believe that opportunity does not knock it presents itself, when you beat down the door. So when I had this thought of starting a club I didn’t look back, just grabbed the opportunity and made it a reality.”

Was being a nutritionist always part of your plan?

Not really. It all began when I became a little health conscious, started eating properly and was a very conscious eater. I used to keep digging what was good for my health, searching on Google as well as reading various health articles. This certainly developed an interest in me and I decided on pursuing this field.

What inspired you to start ‘The Gourmet Club’?

When I would counsel my clients to eat food, the most burning question would be ‘How to cook’. I remember I had asked someone to eat Avocado. And her instant reaction was how to cook it or if I would ask someone to eat quinoa they would ask me how to cook it. So I ended up telling them recipes. Once I had this thought of forming a Whatsapp group and adding all my clients but I thought it would be a jinx as one would be a vegetarian and the other a non-vegetarian. Dropping the idea, I kept telling them recipes verbally. And they would ask me for more food options and recipes. So one fine day when I was in my clinic doing my OPD, I stopped my OPD for five minutes and called up one of my friends who was into food and asked her if she would join me in starting a food club. She got excited and said it’s a brilliant idea. Within one week we arranged a meeting and then called up the general managers of all the hotels in Agra. We teamed up and met at the commissioner’s residence and here we are. So it was a very instant thing and not planned.

Monika Luthra one of the members of the club who is known as the ‘Fusion Queen of Gourmet’ also shared her experience with Gourmet.

“Gourmet is the biggest platform for me. I was a home-chef and after being a Gourmet member I got a platform to showcase my talent. Gourmet has given me an identity and has helped me in getting recognition.”

How has Gourmet fuelled your passion and how has the founder, Dr Renuka Dang helped you?

My husband is a foodie. And so I used to cook all kinds of cuisines and experiment with food. 2 years back people used to tell me to go for masterchef but I lacked confidence at that time. Today if I get the opportunity to go for masterchef I would happily grab the chance. I feel home-chefs don’t get the recognition like chefs do and so I feel really proud when chefs compliment me on my food. Gourmet has given me everything. Renuka was a pillar for me. She has helped me in boosting my confidence and giving me various opportunities. She encouraged me on every step and also corrected me when I was going wrong. I credit all that I am now to her and to Gourmet.

What is cooking for you?

Cooking is an art for me. Just like an artist paints his canvas with colours, I paint my platter with food. Cooking is my life.

When asked about expecting such a great response, Renuka said she had expected it. She was confident about the club as she had been interacting with women and she knew the problem that existed and how the club was the ultimate solution. From picnics to workshops each member is happy to attend and the club never diverted from food. Their vision was correct from day 1 and she has members who are keen foodies sharing a common interest.

Gourmet has successfully published 3 books how do you feel?

I read a lot though now I am constrained to my cookbooks and course books. Being a book person, publishing one was the best idea. The best thing about the book is that it features all the members and their recipes. It brings sheer happiness as the book is not about me but about the club, its members and it is a very proud thing for everyone. Our cookbooks adorn the President’s library and it is the only cookbook in India which features more than 200 members.

Another member Richa Ralli was ecstatic talking about Gourmet.

“I was never a cooking enthusiast. I had to cook because my husband was fussy in his food choices. When Gourmet came about I developed a keen interest in food and now cooking is my passion. Gourmet has empowered not only me but all the other members. It is a platform where I showcased my talent, fulfilled my dream of meeting Sanjeev Kapoor and other chefs extraordinaire.”

She further talked about how Gourmet helped her in starting her catering business. Her first contract was to make food for around 35-40 people. And how with Gourmet’s support she managed the order from her home kitchen.

How has your overall journey been?

I was not actively working till my children left for college. For one year I did ‘Health is wealth’ on community radio, Agra’s first community radio and it was a popular programme. I used answer questions related to food and health and which gave me a lot of high in the beginning of my career. I also worked with 90.4 that is Agra University Radio and 90.8 where I did a lot of health stories. The response was overwhelming. I did not post anything on social media at first for my client base. I believed in proving myself through my work and always believed in word of mouth as it is the most genuine way of publicity. Then print media picked me up and people started acknowledging my work. I believe one should prove their metal first. If you use others as a stepping stone to reach the top then you will never be able to achieve success.

What does the future hold for Gourmet?

(Laughs) That is a big question. You know I don’t really think about the future I just go day by day. I keep myself updated with food trends. I follow my members, take into account their interests. For instance if they are talking about deserts then I might conduct a desert workshop for them. Sometimes God puts an idea into my mind and I go on pursuing it. I can’t say what’s in store for Gourmet but I know we are destined for greatness.

Raghavi Jhanjee

Writing found me and has never left since. I love to meet new people and also solve the different problems that people have. Adore dogs. I am free-spirited, fun loving and straightforward as a person.