Kayden Dias’ savvy take on Indian food with Khushee

By Indira Laisram

Despite having worked in many sectors—be it airlines or real estate—Kayden Dias has never received such jolts of happiness or satisfaction as when he holds a skillet, chops, preps and cooks food. In theory, he loves to cook.

Born and brought up in Chennai, Dias says his passion for cooking stemmed from a very young age when he seized every opportunity to cook. Like the time when his mother fell ill, he caught his father running from the bedroom to the kitchen trying to get the recipe right as he prepared food for the family. He too joined his father in the experiment.

It was the 1990s and by then foreign channels like Star TV entered the Indian market. With it came cooking shows such as the popular Martin Yan’s, known for his catchphrase ‘If Yan can cook, so can you’. Dias was mesmerized by Yan and what he remembers of the time is, “Mom’s yummy cooking became boring food for me.”

Kayden and Kristen with all the food from their cooking class Koh Samui Thailand

When he moved to Bangalore for work, Dias felt the world was his oyster. He now found his own space where he could just get back home and experiment with more cooking. “It was a form of relaxation coming back from work.”

Of course, that’s now how things followed each day. Two of his colleagues, who already had a sense of his expertise, followed him home one day as they found him missing every lunch time. A surprised Dias, who opened the door, was literally held at ransom. At the end, he managed to drive a hard bargain and agreed to cook for an X amount of money. “And that’s how it all started,” says Dias, as his culinary journey took a bit of a commercial turn.

While in Bangalore, Dias met his would-be wife Kristen from Melbourne, who was teaching at an international school there and he moved to Australia in 2014. His Australian experience of Indian food would make him realise that correcting the notions of Indian food and getting to cook for his family and friends were itself a privilege.

Kayden and Kristen sharing a meal

“There are so many places to eat but I couldn’t find one good place,” he rues. He also asserts that, “There is no lamb vindaloo in India. The butter chicken, the less said the better. You have Indian grocery stores and still people can’t get it right. I also couldn’t get Mangalorean food.”

That triggered his urge to cook again. And when they moved into their first house in Belgrave, Dias wasted no time. He also says it was one way of keeping his wife in Australia as she was crazy about moving back to India.

But it was in February 2019, says Dias, when he was arm twisted to quit his job at a contract cosmetic manufacturing company and put up a menu instead.

Kayden with his family

“I got orders straightaway. From the advance I was paid I got ingredients, made some money and I thought this was awesome,” he says.

The business grew, he had to get his food safety certificates, get his ABN number and give his business a name—SpideySKitcheN, after his childhood nickname Spiderman.

By November 2020, Dias got fully involved and quit his regular job. “I had the passion growing.”

Kayden Dias

Dias then put his creative ambitions to actually create more menus and rotate them each weekend. From Anglo-Indian cuisines to Mughlai to Mangalorean food to other regional Indian food, Dias had an elaborate plan drawing from his India experience. “I try to do a themed menu, and that got people interested because you are explaining to the people the dish and its background.”

In December, Dias rebranded SpideySKitcheN to Khushee, which is a Tamil and Hindi word that means happiness, delight and joy. “Khushee also means delectable—food that is highly pleasing or delicious, which is exactly my goal for every dish I create!”

Dias admits he has never had a formal training in cooking but it is the passion that sustains his business. “I have dissected everything with my mouth and recreated the ingredients and that’s what we have done for the Hyderabadi mutton liver too. There is a restaurant in Bangalore that serves this dish and I figured out the masala which was nicely sauteed with onions and ginger garlic, tomatoes, garam masala and chilli powder. I recreated the dish and it came out even better than the restaurant,” he says with pride.

“My whole aim is to educate people what Indian food is all about, that Indian food is not only north-Indian. I make bafat masala (the quintessential spice mix found in Mangalorean Christian homes) from scratch. Food has to be flavourful and also good in quantity, it doesn’t hurt the pocket too much.”

With a fantastic response so far, looking ahead Dias wants to introduce his mom’s masala and launch it. He also wants to dispense with plastic containers and replace them with biodegradable ones. “If I have to increase my cost by 50 cent, it is OK because you are contributing your bit towards the environment.”

In the coming months he is also looking at accepting Qoin, Australia’s digital currency, to increase customer base.

Clearly, the food Dias represents is a testament to good food and a labour of love!

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