City restaurateur looks to bring the heat with new spice business

Mukesh Tirkoti, CEO of Tapasya

The restaurateur behind one of the only Indian restaurants in Yorkshire last year to receive a Michelin Plate is behind a new business is aiming to turn up the heat in the spice market and meet the rising demand from top chefs and ambitious amateurs who are tackling Covid-19 by cooking at home.

The team behind Tapasya Spices says it is drawing on its contacts throughout India to import around 50 varieties of spices plus Basmati rice, lentils and other pulses to support the rise is home cooking and demand in other areas, while create 50 jobs, with the potential to increase to 200 roles in the longer term.

Mukesh Tirkoti, CEO of Tapasya Spices, said: “Indian spices are in demand at fine-dining restaurants for various cuisines, not just Indian. They are also important to other sectors, such as the expanding craft gin market, but it is not easy to source the best quality and that is what we will bring.

“There is also rising demand from people who have been cooking at home a lot more since lockdown started. They haven’t been able to go to their favourite restaurants so they have become more ambitious in their own kitchens but have been held back by a lack of variety and quality on the store shelves. We will help them to create the authentic combinations and tastes by supplying the spices and by showing them how to use them.”

Tirkoti has a long history of running Indian fine-dining restaurants including launching the award-winning Tapasya in Hull in 2013 and Tapasya@Marina in 2016.

The new business, Tapasya Spices, is a separate venture and sees Tirkoti joined by lifelong friends and fellow directors Meghdut (Bobby) Biswas and Soumen Hajra, both based in Chelmsford.

The team is completed by renowned chef KK Anand, whose career started at the five-star hotel Sofitel in Delhi before he progressed to similarly luxurious establishments in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States and London.

Anand will lead the drive to showcase the products of Tapasya Spices with cooking demonstrations online and on social media. He said: “Every product has been carefully selected to bring something new and different to the UK market, all tested and endorsed by some of the most celebrated Indian chefs in the world.

“We are using spices of impeccable quality to inspire a new way of thinking about our cuisine – products which promote the health and wellbeing agenda and which display the versatility to match the creative explosion in plant-based cookery.”

The company has appointed Islam Foods in Hull, as its first distributor to reach the Asian restaurant, wholesale and retail markets in the Yorkshire and Humber region. It is also close to confirming a deal to distribute across London and the south east and it is in discussions with partners in Birmingham, Leicester and Merseyside and with a major retailer.

Tirkoti said: “Our headquarters and main warehouse in Hull will support the creation of around 50 jobs initially and we will build on that. We have spent a long time assembling our supplier network in India and now is the ideal time to launch the products.”

Biswas: “We are very excited about the launch of Tapasya Spices. Most prevailing brands are old fashioned and we have come up with something fresh and exciting that will create deep consumer connect arising out of our expertise in global sourcing and supply chain. It is our aspiration to augment our product portfolio and quickly scale up our footprint across the UK and Europe. We are going to shake up the spice market!”

Hajra added: “I am confident about the positive headwinds for this niche market within the food business, especially given the shifts in consumer behaviour towards healthy and plant based food choices, which will be a game changer for us with our unique brand and premium quality offering. I am immensely proud to be involved with a fantastic brand like Tapasya and to lead the growth and transformation of the business.”

Karen Mulligan, Adviser on the European Regional Development Fund Finance for Growth Project at Hull City Council said “I am pleased to have been able to support Mukesh and his co- directors in assembling their plans and financial projections to finance the business to this stage.

“The directors’ expertise, experience and work ethic has given the business a solid start. Added to this, their wide range of contacts means there is great potential for Tapasya to grow and bring more employment to the area. I wish them all the very best for the future.”