On the Job: Sehra Bindal, Co-founder, Veg-In YYC
Sehra may be small in stature, but she is a mighty force in the Calgary food scene. At the age of 49, the Hospitality Management grad is the co-founder and creative energy behind Veg-In YYC café, a vegan take on homemade Indian style cuisine and takeout. Calgary Herald restaurant reviewer John Gilchrist called her cuisine "a treat" and Veg-In YYC was named one of Where Calgary's Top 5 Takeout Restaurants of 2017. The downtown eatery is also currently a contender in the 2018 Best of Calgary awards. Here's why:
What life experiences led to this part of your career?
I grew up in India. We were three siblings in a household with a mother who was a widow at 35. Mama always taught me to cook, sew, knit — I hated her for that at the time, but all of those things I am thankful for now because it made me a better person.
I was 24 when I moved to Canada and it was very tough. We were very poor because my husband was becoming a lawyer and was articling at the time. I already had a Diploma in Hotel Management, a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education from back home, but those degrees aren't considered the same level as per the Canadian standards.
So I worked very hard to get into Hospitality Management at SAIT. I had never used a computer before so I had to learn that. We didn't have a computer so a few of my classmates and I would go use the computer at my husband's office.
I have since worked many jobs and have also worked for myself. I have to excel — that's my dedication. All of the work experiences have built up to this.
What is the inspiration behind your cuisine?
My mother — she is an amazing cook and also an amazing baker. I usually start with one of her recipes and then I incorporate new ideas into those recipes. You don't want to be too Indian or too Canadian. Something in between.
My husband works with me every Saturday, and we will sit and experiment together. Then when a dish is ready, we give samples to customers. And if it's a hit, we will add it to the menu. But, I am very impatient, so if it doesn't sell very well in three days, I just remove it from the menu.
Veganism isn't something I knew a lot about when I started. I am vegetarian but I was afraid of cooking vegan — I just wanted to ensure there was one vegan item. But now everything on the menu is vegan.
What do you love most about owning your own business?
I can make my own decisions and, whatever I imagine, I can do it. I can try. If I don't succeed, it's my failure. If I do succeed, it's my success. I don't impact anyone — it's just me. And my creativity is satisfied. I am trying things that I want to do and I have freedom to do that.
I love meeting people and feeding them what I love to make. Because my love is there when I am creating it.