Founder of 77 Veggie Boutique, Roma Megchiani tells us why having kids was the driving force behind developing a healthy, organic, vegetarian restaurant in Dubai.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Dubai, and attended university in Bombay, India, where my family is originally from.
My grandparents taught me how to cook at a young age, and I grew up with a passion for food. While living in Saudi Arabia for three years, I worked as a school teacher and spent a lot of my time developing healthy recipes at home, and showcasing them at school exhibitions.
Where did the idea of 77 Veggie Boutique come from?
The concept of 77 Veggie Boutique originates from when I started touring the world with my own kids. I found searching for healthy food choices abroad extremely challenging, and on my return to Dubai, immediately created new and healthy recipes that I showcased at school exhibitions across the Emirate. This was beneficial, as many of the mums I met along the way encouraged me to take it one step further. I saw the importance of developing a healthy, organic, vegetarian restaurant that offers nutritional meals, low in calories and fats, baked using advanced technologies, and seized the opportunity of turning my dreams into a reality.
What does the number 77 refer to?
With hundreds of vegetables available in the market, I chose 77 of the most nutritional ingredients to create a unique menu; the number of ingredients also offered inspiration for the name.
Do you find it difficult juggling your job with motherhood?
This was my biggest challenge. In the initial stages of setting up the business, I was lucky to have a hugely supportive family. My husband, especially, used to keep the kids’ entertained while I worked long hours. Sometimes I didn’t get an opportunity to see the family for the whole day and only used to see them for a short time at night. However, my 12-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son have been so helpful and offered me so much inspiration; they are proud of their mum and tell everyone they meet about 77 Veggie Boutique!
Did having kids play an important role in your mission to develop an organic, vegetarian offering in Dubai?
My kids’ were the only reason and mission to develop a healthy, organic, vegetarian restaurant. We live in such a fast-paced world which has led to fast food choices. In Dubai, there are so many different unhealthy options at every corner that I believed creating 77 Veggie Boutique was extremely important for my own kids’ health.
Are there any particular things on the menu that prove popular with kids?
I know kids’ love unhealthy food, the most popular choice being French fries, so I’ve made a low carb option available. Pooh Wedges, our healthy alternative, are baked using light olive oil, sprinkled with green dill, and prove popular with little foodies.
What’s the most nutritional dish on offer?
The Spinach Jacket Wrap marinated using eight different types of veggies is packed with vitamins and tastes delicious.
Tell us more about the healthy kids’ packs available on the menu.
We have different offerings such as the Crunchy Pack, Iron Pack and Universe Pack, to name a few. The packs each contain information on the amount of calories contained in each dish. And to make sure kids’ enjoy the ingredients, I have created fun names for each dish such as the Monster Cheese Cake: a low fat blueberry cheese cake made with organic brown sugar; Captain Cheese Balls: delicious baked cheese balls made with healthy herbs; and the Football Celery Tonic: made from tomato, asparagus, celery and spinach juice. We also have alternative options for busy parents that go down a treat too.
Who is your own inspiration in the food world – is there a specific restaurant or person’s success you would like to match?
I was born a vegetarian, it’s my culture and my kids’ have grown up learning everything there is to know about vegetarianism. My main inspiration goes back to my mum’s cooking; she used to be very careful with calorie intake and always used the freshest ingredients. Reading all about Mahatma Gandhi also offered a great deal of inspiration as to why being a vegetarian is a much healthier lifestyle choice.
Are all of the ingredients sourced locally?
80 percent of the produce is locally farmed, while 20 percent is imported as it isn’t available in the market.
Where do you see the business going in the future?
It’s too soon to say as the business is only a couple of months old. There might be an opportunity to franchise the business in Florida, and I’m open to the whole world.
www.77veggie.com (04 422 4116).