Updated: Jan 12
Regular power cut-offs, lack of water, earthquakes and frequent strikes are but a small list of the difficulties that Katya Kurkina, the founder and chef of a vegetarian cafe in Pokhara, faced. Afisha Daily has interviewed her on the features of doing business with the Nepalese mentality.
From Goa to Nepal
It was in India that I first met my husband: he is Nepalese and already had some experience managing a restaurant. Together we decided to open a cafe in Goa. Our landlord was a police officer, and he lended us the roof of his big house. We put our own water tank, dug the sewage system, placed tables and mattresses around the perimeter, made a roof of cheap Indian canvas. Our cafe looked like a big sunny umbrella, so we decided to call it Umbrella Cafe.
In India, I liked the relaxing atmosphere, those vibes suit me well. I do not need supercomfort, neither do I need a cool car or branded clothing. I appreciate the soulfulness of India - everything is simple but comfortable. Therefore, I wanted to open a cafe with the same principles. The cuisine was simple, focused on Russian dishes: pancakes, sirniki, borscht, hodgepodge, okroshka, and so on. The food was not high class, but, as they say, with the soul.
Umbrella is mostly for travellers
There is no trend for healthy food in Nepal, so they do not need our restaurant. And still Nepalese meat-eaters: for them, the vegetarian menu is a wonder. Wandering, traveling young people usually come to our restaurant. Sometimes volunteers come to us - they paint the walls, help diversify the menu with new recipes. We stay close to an eco-friendly approach, using bamboo sticks instead of plastic ones, refilling bottles with drinking water, rather than selling it in plastic.
My cafe has everything that interests me.
I have always liked yoga: it is a great physical and spiritual practice, after which I become more calm, balanced and healthy. Many Europeans who practice yoga are not vegetarians. They believe that yoga is a sport, helping the body to stretch. When we opened a yoga hall behind our cafe, we only slightly diluted our menu with vegetarian dishes.
Every Sunday we have a second-hand market.
This turned out to be in demand: many people go to the treks, and when they return, they leave behind their unnecessary clothes and gear. Other people buy those things for donations. We honestly give half of the money to Kopila Nepal, a non-governmental organization that helps disadvantaged families. Often people come in the morning and wait for the market to open.
Another regular event is still in the plans, but I really believe in it. On Wednesdays we want to make a market of organic healthy products and various home-made products. We have already found an organization that we want to help - it takes care of homeless animals. It is quite funny that we call it a market: there are only three tables, we have not yet got enough staff; but I believe in success and further development.
The story of organic products is just a beginning. There are farmers who grow organic fruits and vegetables, but they are hard to find. In the future, we would like to buy only eco-products.
My parents constantly said: “Come back, open a restaurant in the Crimea!” We always had an option to escape to Russia, but it was only since the last year that we begun understanding how to work, - now we get not only the pleasure, but also money.
If you do nothing, you will get bored; it is necessary to do something. But you should do only the things that bring you joy and harmony. Quit doing what you dislike. I like communicating with people, I like eating and cooking for others: it's such a joy!
We develop due to the daily care of space, guests and everything that we create.