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Post-Retirement, It’s All Salad Days For Reetha Balsavar

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“This is a post-retirement path that I chose,” said Reetha Balsavar, Home Chef and Founder of Tossed and Dressed, as she caught up with us. This salad-specialist worked in IT for almost three decades and post-retirement, wanted to experiment with a different flavour in life. She started cooking from her own familiar kitchen and bringing home-made recipes to foodaholics.

Early Life

Growing up in Mumbai, Reetha’s father worked in the aviation industry, so travelling extensively was a part of her childhood.  Having spent 10 years in London, she went on to become a software professional and worked in IT for 28 years. Then what made Reetha start-up her own home venture? She offers a daily changing menu of healthy, organic and absolutely filling salads, right at your doorstep.

READ: Catering to your sweet tooth: India’s Best Pastry Chefs

“I worked from 1977 to 1982 in London and then came to Mumbai where I carried on working in the IT industry till 2005. After which I started volunteering with Navdanya, an India-based non-governmental organisation which promotes organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving,” Reetha recalled her days before Tossed and Dressed.

“I have always been making and serving non-traditional Indian food, salads being my go to comfort food.”

Launching Tossed and Dressed

“In 2016, a friend asked me to cater for her party and to make two different salads. These were tremendously appreciated. I also realised that today though most people want to eat healthily, they do not know what to make or where to order. So after discussing the pros and cons with my husband, I decided to start making salads as an option for lunch,” she explained.

Reetha Balsavar, Tossed & Dressed

Tossed & Dressed Salad

On progressing from that point, Reetha said, “I decided on a menu which was one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian salad every day and sent this menu to my contacts. I had thought that I would start with catering even if I got 10 orders. But the first week itself I made 120 salads.”

The orders started pouring in and she has never looked back since

Being Home Chef Is

“For me it was a post-retirement plan that helped me know more about the organic culture in the field. And for the rest, my work experience speaks for itself.”

Life Motto

“Going Organic,” said Reetha. “I have now teamed up with five other home chefs where we take part in pop-up markets and also have a monthly festive fine dining table with an unusual menu. We also cater to baby showers, birthday parties and other events. Plans to open a cafe are on.”

It did not take any time to start. I started at the right time and with the right menu

Also Read: All-Women Eatery In Udupi A Hit With Foodies

When Cooking Is Both Passion and Inspiration

When we asked Reetha how her interest in cooking began, she replied, “Cooking dishes from all over the world has been my passion. My dinner parties always have unusual menus. About 20 years or so ago, my childhood friend asked me to give them some ideas for salads, so I told them that I would cook a meal for them with only salads. I made 20 different kinds of salads and about 15 of my friends came over. They were so sceptical that one person had bought some roti sabji and another had picked up some biryani. For them, salads were cut tomato, onion and cucumber. They were amazed seeing the spread and took down all the recipes. Till date, they have not made a single salad but keep asking me to make them for their parties.”

Reetha Balsavar, Tossed & Dressed

Tossed & Dressed

USP: Healthy, seasonal, fresh, innovative, option to a lunch or dinner

Challenges

Talking about the struggles she faces, Reetha said, “Delivery is always a problem. The salads have to reach my customers by lunchtime and with Mumbai traffic, that is always a huge challenge.”

How This Profession Liberated Women

There’s a norm that men, generally, take up the career of chefs in hotels/restaurants. And yes of course it’s changing. So do young girls get as much exposure as they deserve? Reetha said, “Young girls today should not be satisfied to start their careers as home chefs. It makes more sense to work in hotels, restaurants or cafes to get the exposure.”

So how open are Indians to trying out new cuisines? She explained, “My clientele is of all ages and are happy to try out the different types of salad. So, yes, it’s a rising and growing legitimate profession and especially, women (not young girls) are taking it up to liberate themselves.”

READ: Ruchika Vyas Bakes it Up with Her House of Cookies

Her hot-selling salads: “The most popular ones are smoked chicken with green apple and pomegranate in a mayonnaise dressing, and chorizo with pumpkin and masoor.”

 

Reetha Balsavar, Tossed & Dressed

Tossed & Dressed

So what is a typical day like for Reetha? She said, “As the salads have to be fresh and cannot be made in advance, I only make to order. I make and box the salads by 10:30 am when the delivery boys come to collect them. At around 6 pm, I shop for the next day’s salad. I go to my shop in the afternoons.”

Eat Right, Stay Fit

On choosing ingredients for cooking and how she sources them, Reetha explained, “I plan the menu depending on whatever is seasonal. For example, tender jowar and  green garlic are in season in January, so I would make a salad inspired by that. Or in May, I make a mango-garlic dressing for my salad.”

READ: Love, Sugar & Dough: Meet 5 Moms-Turned-Homebakers

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