It was 2:00 AM when I left the uppereast nightclub. No, I am not from NYC, I am from rainy cold Hamburg, Germany. I called Uber, since it’s still a bit cheaper than normal taxi, even if it’s just another taxi sub company which is driving for Uber.
The driver’s name that would be arriving in 8 minutes was Tahira. Sounded Indian, but she was actually from Pakistan (big difference when it comes to food). I entered the car and felt her warm welcoming karma right away. I asked if the roses she had on the passenger seat were for me. She said it’s from her friends with whom she celebrated her birthday yesterday.
She talked about how beautiful it was and how much good food she cooked for them. BINGO! I kept asking questions without saying anything about my idea for CHEF. I recently read The Mum Test by Rob Fitzpatrick, which helped me a lot about how to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you. Thanks for that Rob, you helped me alot.
She talked about how passionate she was and how all her neighbours always joined her for dinner. I then asked directly if she would also cook for strangers like me if we pay her! And she said: “No, I can’t take money from strangers when they are hungry.” Me: “Hey, you drive strangers from A to B and take money for it. Why not take money for food?” She said: “I feel bad.” I said: “Listen, I will come with four friends and we will have dinner next Saturday at your place and I will pay you.” I told her I had a little pilot project and she would be the perfect fit for it. We arrived and exchanged numbers.
So 3 days later we planned everything for next Saturday. I asked to make pictures of the dining room and kitchen, which were pretty nice. We discussed the meal and time. We decided to have a full dining set. I texted my friends that we will have Indian dinner, but I didn’t tell them that this will be at someone’s place I barely knew. It was super awkward and cool at the same time. Experience something new with no idea what could happen.
Saturday morning I asked for the location and it turned out she lived 6 miles away from the city, in a place called Rellingen. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. My friends arrived at 7:00 PM at my place and I told them the story. The responses were different: some said it’s a great idea, some were afraid of food poisoning, or that it might be dirty, uncomfortable, etc. But everyone was excited and hungry enough to ignore the bad thoughts. The drive to Tahira’s place took us 30 minutes, we were a couple of minutes late.
Tahira welcomed us warmly, as if we’ve been friends for years. She was with a turkish/kurdish neighbourhood friend to help her out with all the food. We brought some wine, which was rejected directly since she has a no-alcohol policy in her house and we respected that. So there we were, in the middle of nowhere, sitting in the kitchen together at a stranger’s house, however it really felt anything but strange. We smelled the food and everyone in the kitchen knew it would be great.
This is us, starting from the right table wall; Nathalie, Ertan, Fatima, Dennis, and me.
Everything was already prepared and we were able to start right away. So after 15 minutes after our arrival Tahira already served us with some food:
This is called Loki, it’s made with lamb and homemade fresh Chapati. Besides eating all that delicious food, we started to get to know each other. Tahira was born 1951 in Lahore (Pakistan). She is a widow and has 2 sons. She speaks English, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Persian, and a little bit of arabic. She was a teacher in the 70s and got a doctor’s degree in religious authorities from Abu Dhabi and India. Besides driving for Uber, she published three books about religion and astrology, and has her own Youtube music channel. Yes, she sings, too! And there is more: Tahira is working part time for the police as an interpreter for her language skills.
Here is some more food:
The main course was this insanely nice-tasting rice with Gram daal.
Everyone was blown away by the way she cooked and brought us food to the table. It felt like we were her children and she loved to serve us. As you can see, no one had a smartphone out, or even on the table. We thought it would be disrespectful. But the funny thing is that Tahira was always on her phone talking/texting/emailing. And cooking at the same time. We were laughing pretty hard when we came to the conclusion that we — the “younger” generation — are the ones who keep the phone away, while the “older” ones are totally attached to it.
Tahira is on facebook… !!!
After that amazing main course, we had dessert, which was Raas malai. The Indian people compare it to a cheesecake without the crust.
There we were, full of Pakistan food in a “pop-up restaurant” in the middle of Rellingen, Hamburg. It was a night we will remember for sure, since it wasn’t just eating at a restaurant, it was feeling home with friends. CHEF.ONE was born.
Tahira will be one of our first CHEFs in Hamburg! Don’t miss an opportunity to try her food for yourself. Sign up now.