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For years, people have been asking Kalpana Waikar how to make Indian food.
In October 2019, Waikar launched her subscription boxes for Inspired Indian Cooking and two years later, she debuted her store at 812 Dempster St.
Waikar received her MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and later worked as an adviser at the university for seven years. As she and her husband became empty nesters, retail space on the Main-Dempster Mile opened. Waikar said she knew it was time for a change, and she wanted to pursue her business full time.
“I knew if I was going to do it, I had to do it now,” she said. “I always had this interest in education, so I left Northwestern because I knew if I didn’t, I would stay there until I retired.”
Waikar welcomed guests into her open house Thursday evening, Dec. 9. She said she painted the interior of Inspired Indian Cooking while her friends stenciled the shop floor in intricate patterns of turquoise, gold and red.
The rich smell of Indian spices greets customers. Waikar says she is nose-blind from the scents, given that she spends her days roasting and grinding the whole spices she purchases.
The store’s products pay homage to her original subscription boxes, but now with a bit more control given to the cook. Waikar currently sells six portioned spice kits but will be doubling that in the new year.
Her kits include all the spices needed to prepare a specific Indian dish. Because Waikar roasts and grinds her spices in house, the flavor is much stronger.
From Chana Masala to Baingan Bharta, Butter Chicken and more – Waikar said her focus is on making Indian cooking accessible to all those who want to try.
“I want to inspire people to cook the dishes they know about, but wouldn’t attempt on their own,” she said. “It’s all about making it accessible to as many people as possible.”
For recipes traditionally made with meat, such as Waikar’s Butter Chicken recipe, she said selling the spice kits also helps those with different diets experience Indian food. Because the Butter Chicken recipe contains the specific whole spices and spice power needed to achieve the taste, Waikar said tofu or cauliflower can be substituted for those who don’t eat meat, as spices are often the focus of Indian dishes.
Waikar offers pickup for online orders in her store and is open 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for in-store browsing. Inspired Indian Cooking will begin shipping nationwide December 15.