How COVID lockdown turned this Hyderabad musician into a chef

Hyderabad: The year 2020 was difficult for literally the entire world, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It disrupted our lives, but it also forced many to be more creative and to also look for new avenues.

It was the same for 36-year-old Arun Ruben who is also popularly known as BaaBaa in the Hyderabad’s music scene. Just when the lockdown eased up he began cooking for his friends out of personal interest not knowing that this would change a lot of things for him.

What started as a hobby for him, ended up becoming his profession. Seeing people enjoy his food gave him the idea to turn his culinary skills into a full-time business. And voila, enter the Fat Cat Kitchen, a hamburger restaurant at Yapral, Secunderabad. While many new establishments indulge in a fair bit of marketing before, they start, it was in fact the other way around for him. 

How COVID lockdown turned this Hyderabad musician into a chef

After he began cooking food for friends, word spread wide. Soon, he began getting party orders from friends and got people interested in trying American food (his specialty, among other things) cooked at home.

Ruben’s restaurant and marinade kitchen is one that serves homemade chicken, beef, fish burgers, grills and what not while their burgers being a favorite among many. He also specializes in Kerala beef curry, which is a hit among folks.

How COVID lockdown turned this Hyderabad musician into a chef
The signature burger from the Fact Cat Kitchen

Ruben who has lived in Hyderabad for close to 14-years now, had to shift careers from being a full-time musician to an entrepreneur due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the lockdown eased up, the focus completely shifted towards the food business as I didn’t see music coming back anytime soon,” Ruben told siasat.com. He now has a three-member team that multi-tasks and manages everything.

Running a food business during a pandemic is not easy, but once you have the trust of your customers, it is not very difficult. When people noticed that the place is COVID-friendly and is responsible enough to take care of the hygiene, it did not take longer for people to come in, especially the families.

‘Sainikpuri and surrounding areas my priority’

When asked about plans of expanding his business, Ruben said that he feels Secunderabad is devoid of food options and that catering to the Sainikpuri and surrounding areas will always be his priority.

His choice makes sense, given that most restaurants are scattered in different parts of Hyderabad like Himayatnagar, Jubilee/Banjara Hills and even Hi-tech City, but the inner most areas of the Secunderabad cantonment don’t have a lot of options for food lovers.

How COVID lockdown turned this Hyderabad musician into a chef

Another reason why he doesn’t have plans to expand the business for now are the raw products, which are all fresh and shopped for every day from stores within a 3 to 5-kilometer radius of his restaurant.

“Even if I get a better rate at a wholesale deal beyond 5 kms, I will not take it.  Being a self-employed person during the pandemic, I understand that there are small traders who really lose out and how people struggle. So, the biggest rule for us is ‘local’ and the products have to be only from Sainikpuri.” Ruben quipped.

Issues with selling beef dishes in the locality

Cooking and serving beef in restaurants have been difficult for businesses lately due to the political scenario in the country, given that people have also been lynched to death by fringe organisations.

When asked about the challenges he faced, Ruben said, “I still do have problems, but then we are trying to be stubborn. At the same time, we are trying to be accommodative of people’s sentiments because I understand people have their beliefs. So, using meat approved by the Municipality (GHMC) should not be a problem.”

So, you are in Hyderabad (or especially Secunderabad) next time, and are confused about where to go for lunch or dinner, definitely try the Fat Cat Kitchen.