Sriram Nair from Ahmedabad has always had a soft spot in his heart for food. He grew up with a family that bonded over food which helped him pick up his spatula when he was only 6-years-old. When he headed off to Europe to get his Masters in International Business, and later for work, he started to explore a whole new world of food whilst trying to learn new cultures. What he was most inspired by was their concept of fresh farm to table meals. Sriram was overjoyed by how much the freshness added to the flavor of the dishes and how it also affected his health positively.
When he came back home to Ahmedabad, he decided to share his joy for these newly discovered ways of life. He wanted to create awareness and educate people about the harm processed food can do for you and how making things from scratch will usher a healthier lifestyle. With this goal in mind, he began Terra cafe, which is known today for its dishes from diverse cultures and their healthy guilt-free meals. We caught up with Sriram to know more about his journey and his passion venture.
Say hi to Sriram from Ahmedabad – our foodie and passionate health-focused entrepreneur, and owner of ‘Terra Food’ Cafe.
It’s wonderful to finally meet you, we have had so many people raving about your food! Let’s start with a little bit of bio.
Hello, my name is Sriram Nair. I’m a 30-year-old cafe owner living in Ahmedabad. I am a Malayali by birth but I have lived in Ahmedabad all my life. Owning a cafe was not always in the plan for me – I completed my Bachelor of Engineering and I headed to France to do a post-graduate in International Business.
“During my one and half years of living and working in Europe, I met and worked with people from different backgrounds from all over the world. That’s when my curiosity and open-mindedness started to develop.”
In December 2012, I came back to India and started working in the family business, which is an electrical contracting company dealing with government contracts. This definitely enriched my entrepreneurship skills, building a solid foundation before entering the food business.
Sriram and his friends gather around for some great food.
Tell us about a little bit about your cafe
I launched my cafe, Terra, in August 2017. It began with the goal of providing healthy food using the freshest ingredients. When we launched, the response was overwhelming. I had thought my food would only be catering to a niche in Ahemdabad – who would want all-natural smoothies and proper salads with seasonal dressing (not mayonnaise). But surprisingly, we got a lot of people who started becoming regulars.
In July 2019, we took the next step and relaunched Terra at a new location. It was a bigger setup and a wider menu. We now serve Colombian, Filipino, Japanese, Lebanese, Korean, and much more.
What inspired you to begin a cafe?
My initial inspiration was to open a place where people can grab-and-go – the time is not wasted for ordering, sitting, and dining. It was modeled after Pret A Manger from the UK. Unfortunately, the concept did not work due to the lack of corporate culture in Ahmedabad and people have a lot more time for their meals compared to a metro city. But what worked was the food! People started to understand what I was doing.
The lovely grab and go cafe Terra used to be, now transformed into a full restaurant with a warm ambiance where people can sit and enjoy for hours..
What’s the story behind the name ‘Terra’?
Terra essentially means earth. Our ideology both as a brand and personally revolves around everything being all-natural – recipes that could be made from scratch in our kitchen. We thought the name, ‘Terra’, represents this vision and thought perfectly.
What is uniquely Terra?
Terra is unique because of the ecosystem we developed. Our food and ingredients are one-of-a-kind in the city as it comes from different parts of the world. We provide healthier food by using health-conscious ingredients, while, keeping it tasty and appealing. For example, we have ‘Blue Spirulina Hummus’. The hummus is blue in colour which makes it look eccentric and appealing on the plate. At the same time, blue spirulina is a rare ingredient with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
How have your roots influenced you?
My love for food started at an early age. I grew up in a household where food is treated as something ‘sacred’. It was taught to me as part of my South Indian culture, it also became a way to bond with family. I started cooking when I was 6. I spent many hours in the kitchen with my grandmother learning different cooking techniques, ingredients, flavour combinations, and a lot more. I enjoyed every bit of the cooking experience and learning with my grandma.
After moving to France, I was introduced to gourmet food and the concept of farm to table. My fascination for the culinary arts grew dearer. I was exposed to the best possible environment to nurture my love for food. My travels have also inspired a lot of the dishes in my restaurant. I want to bring different cultures and taste palates to the people in Ahmedabad.
What’s the most special thing on your menu – according to you!
We offer a diverse range of cuisines and change the menu every 6 months to keep it exciting. If you do visit, we have two special things in the menu that have their own stories to go with.
While researching and curating the salad menu, I could not find a single place in Ahmedabad that made fresh nutritious salads with a proper dressing. This was when I decided to make the Superfood salad which was meant to contain 3-4 superfoods – and served as a burst of nutritional value. It has mixed lettuce (romaine, lollo rosso, green leafy etc), avocado, edamame, millets, sweet potato, almonds and cranberry, and feta. Up till today, this salad has been one of our top-selling items.
Terra’s most popular ‘Superfood salad’ packed with good health – with a mixture of fresh greens, avocado, edamame, millets, sweet potato, almonds and cranberry, and feta
I was introduced to this dish through a Colombian friend in France. It is made with plantain bananas which are twice-fried and flattened to make a thick crispy chip. This is then accompanied by salsa and guacamole. I was excited to bring this delightful recipe back home. With the help of another Colombian girl I met in Ahmedabad, we could finally authentically introduce it in our new store – we got an amazing response!
Patacones served with salsa and guacamole. | Terra cafe, Ahmedabad
Your favourite moment at Terra so far and your biggest struggle?
My favourite moments are when I meet people who recognise Terra, and tell me about the food and are curious about it enough to have discussions with me. So that keeps me motivated to keep introducing more unique things on the menu.
My biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge about food and nutrition amongst locals. Most people avoid eating healthy because they are under the impression that it doesn’t taste good. The culture is also such that unhealthy food is part of daily life. So educating people on what they eat and what they should eat will always remain my biggest challenge.
Tell us some new projects that you are experimenting with?
In March, we launched our cloud kitchen company to provide affordable gourmet cuisine delivered to your house, with the goal to have multiple brands serving different cuisines to cater to a wide range of audience. Our goal is to be India’s first plastic-free food company with 100 kitchens in 15 cities by 2023.
We are so excited to see this cafe grow and spread its message of fresh and flavour-full food over a lot of the processed food we eat on the go. Follow Sriram and Terra’s journey on Instagram! Also, if you are ever in Ahmedabad do pop by for a satisfying meal, or place your order on Swiggy and Zomato!
Ground floor No. 15, Shivalik Shilp, Iskcon Cross Rd, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380054
- “While Studying in France, I Discovered Farm to Table Concept, and That Inspired My Fresh Food Venture” – Chat With Sriram Nair, Owner of Terra Cafe, Ahmedabad - September 14, 2020
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