Gopal Kumar Kushwaha- the man behind the famous Champaran Meat House is painting the streets with unseen hues of Bihar. Known for his humble yet unique approach in culinary skills, Kushwaha believes in mixing traditions with spices, emotions in service and gratitude in success while preparing his concoctions of flavours which are taking him to places and beyond. Welcomed by success and warmth after struggling hard in his initial days, Kushwaha unpretentiously accepts that he never thought that his endeavours would scale such heights.
“It was in 2014 when this idea struck my mind. I was in government service and I was dissatisfied. It took me a while to convince my family to let me follow my dreams and passion but after convincing, I began with catering. After taking initial footsteps, it was difficult for me to make ends meet due to unavailability of work round the year and then I decided to open a restaurant and never looked back,” says Kushwaha.
Melting all his experience, hard work, love and cultural heritage into an earthen pot, Kushwaha’s idea of Ahuna Handi Mutton brewed success for him. Not only it found its unique place in the culinary map but also got a tremendous response from food aficionados and established itself on the shelves along with Mughlai or Awadhi cuisines. “Any cuisine becomes popular first at a local level and then it expands. Hyderabadi Biryani became famous first in Hyderabad and later in the country. Similarly, it was vital for Ahuna Handi Mutton to become popular first in Champaran, then in Bihar followed by the entire country,” says Kushwaha. He further explains that he was little doubtful about his experiments due to the slow cooking process and simple taste of meat with limited spices boiling in a handi but due to the nutritional value and authenticity, they received tremendous response, carving a niche for themselves.
Stressing on the ancient and unique cooking techniques, he adds,” I used to wonder how people ate 1-1.5 kgs of meat and lifted heavy swords in ancient India. I spent hours reading about the cooking techniques of the Rajwadas and devised similar ways of mutton preparation.” No wonder his menu which includes Ahuna Handi Mutton, Ahuna Handi Chicken, mutton stew, fish curry, among others cooked with humble sarso ka tel, namak and pyaaz are hugely popular drawing a large number of food lovers.
However, climbing up the success ladder was not easy for him. Soon after witnessing initial glory, he stumbled upon a harsh reality when he witnessed that his idea was being copied everywhere in Bihar as well as different regions of the country. “ I had no idea about patents. I was taken aback when I saw people copying my idea. The result was that the market was swarmed by innumerable Champaran Meat House shops selling my ideas and recipes,” he says.
Instead of getting demoralised and infuriated, Kushwaha again merged his challenges with opportunities. He started teaching people the correct way of cooking and also trained many through videos which he shared via WhatsApp. “I was feeling lost in a space which I myself had created. But then I thought of using the situation as an opportunity to help my people and I started teaching through online videos. I am happy that through my endeavours, I am able to help people to get sources of employment and also do something for my community.”
Not only did he start making videos in 2016, he also came up with his trade-mark spices and spice-making mechanisms to make things easy for beginners. As he gradually ramps up his efforts to put Bihari cuisine on the global platter, he is also making sure that his efforts make an equal impact on every stakeholder to revive the culinary heritage of his motherland- Bihar. “My dream is to put Bihar on the world map. In order to boost tourism of any region, it is crucial to revive the lost traditions of our culinary heritage. Every Bihari household has its own recipe which is unique and special be it Tilkut, Khaja, Litti Chokha, makhana, sarso aur chane ka saag and many others, Unfortunately, we have limited them to festivals and significance is fading away. If we bring every culinary speciality of particular regions, under one roof then we can definitely reach a global audience and help Bihar regain its lost glory,” says Kushwaha.