Arvinda Chauhan was born to cook. At the age of six, Arvinda tragically lost her mother and was needed to step into the kitchen to help her grandmother prepare meals for her grandfather and four siblings while her father was away studying in Europe. She helped grind spices using a mortar and pestle and learned to prepare chapattis (whole wheat flatbread) on a chulha, a rustic, clay wood-burning outdoor stove. For Arvinda, what started out as a necessity later grew into a love of Indian cooking.
Over the years, Arvinda developed her skills as an Indian cook, learning to create curries according traditional family recipes. She gradually understood the intricacies and nuances of spices, using this knowledge to cook delicious curries and dals that quickly became family favourites. Arvinda lovingly churned out complete Indian meals – savoury appetizers with chutneys, a dozen different types of traditional Indian flatbreads prepared fresh and piping hot, fragrant jeweled basmati rice and of course, delectable Indian sweets for dessert. She experimented with international and Indian recipes to treat her family to home-made meals, each and every day.
HEALTHY GOURMET INDIAN COOKING, 1993
At a Canada Day celebration in Hamilton, Ontario in 1993, Arvinda volunteered to prepare pakoras, samosas and wadas (lentil fritters) to sell to festivalgoers to raise funds for a women’s charity in India. After a number of inquires how to make these savoury Indian treats at home, Arvinda promptly offered ‘ad hoc’ cooking demonstrations at the booth, enthusiastically explaining how to make these tasty appetizers with only a few simple ingredients. Throughout the weekend, more and more people inquired about Indian cooking lessons which sparked Arvinda's and her high school-aged daughter, Preena’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Over that summer, Arvinda and Preena worked to put together a series of cooking classes to run in the fall. In September 1993, Arvinda ran her first cooking class in Oakville, Ontario through Healthy Gourmet Indian Cooking, her new found Indian cooking school. Through her classes, Arvinda aspired to share her knowledge and passion for Indian cuisine with others at a time when Indian cooking was relatively unknown. She demonstrated to prepare healthy Indian foods at home, with easy cooking methods using simple ingredients and a handful of a few key spices. Of utmost importance, Arvinda sought to teach about spices and their use to cook curries of depth, giving marvellous flavour. Cooking class participants delved deeply into spices, the cornerstone of traditional Indian cooking. In an eight-week Indian beginner's course, participants learned about the storied history of spices, how spices are grown and cultivated, how they are used and stored in an Indian kitchen and most notably, that quality spices and ingredients are essential for the best tasting Indian foods. Arvinda and Preena traveled to the exotic spice growing regions of India and Sri Lanka to see and learn first hand how spices are cultivated, harvested and brought to market, meeting passionate farmers, traders and spice merchants along the way.
During Arvinda’s cooking classes, her students noticed the freshness and quality of spices being used and often requested to purchase these spices from her. They also asked for advice on how to make Indian cooking a little easier which prompted Arvinda to mix together a few key spices into a batch of masala (mixture of spices) for her students to try. The masala became so popular with Arvinda's students, often requesting Preena and her brother Paresh to “bring them to market”. The siblings put that idea on the backburner, talking about it from time to time.
ARVINDA'S INDIAN SPICE BLENDS, 2005
In 2005, Preena was in the Master in Environmental Studies program at York University and received a small amount of funds to start-up a small business. Inspired by the Food Network's show “Recipe for Success” that profiled entrepreneurs who were successful in bringing a family recipe to market, Paresh and Preena launched Arvinda’s Indian spice blends. With their savings in hand and some "love" money lent from their parents, they bootstrapped their start-up and managed to locate a small industrial unit in Oakville, Ontario that they converted into a food production facility. Their first showing of Arvinda’s masalas was at the Asian Food Expo in Toronto in 2005, which won the likes of celebrity chefs asking to buy bulk in foodservice sizes for their acclaimed restaurants in Toronto.
At the time of Arvinda’s launch in 2005, many customers didn’t know what a masala was, sometimes mistaking the word masala for "marsala", the famous Sicilian wine. Paresh and Preena tirelessly worked to introduce their blends to the market which was dominated by pre-made Indian simmer sauces and pastes, educating customers how to make healthy and easy curries from scratch using spices at countless cooking demonstrations, farmer’s markets, trade shows and culinary events in the greater Toronto area.
In 2013, Arvinda’s was sold at distinguished retailers in the United Kingdom and France, including the venerable Harrod’s in London, England.
Arvinda’s loyal and passionate following continues to grow amongst foodies, home cooks and chefs across Canada, from California to Brazil, to the UK, France, Germany and other European countries.
Namaste! When I started my Indian cooking classes in the early 1990s, my goal was to teach traditional Indian cooking with the use of health beneficial spices to prepare complete healthy and delicious Indian meals, just like how I cook every day at home.
Indian cuisine is so rich and diverse with so many curries and foods, far beyond what we see on restaurant menus. With a plethora of lentils, pulses, vegetables, exotic ingredients and an infinte combination of spices, I wanted to make Indian cooking more approachable and a little simpler without compromising flavour and time-honoured Indian cooking techniques.
I absolutely love to cook and make fresh, homemade meals each and every day. And not just Indian cooking! Thai, Italian, Mexican, French and Asian cuisine are some of my worldly favourites and I was fortunate to visit these countries and learn cooking from experts. I'm passionate about sharing and love to teach others about my tradition of Indian cooking and culture. For over 25 years, it has brought me much pleasure to inspire others to cook Indian foods at home, bringing me much joy and why we've continued to teach year after year.
If you can't make it to one of our classes, then I hope our masalas inspire you to cook exquiste Indian curries for your family and friends, bringing our family's cooking traditions to your home. My favourite spice is ... ginger!
Click here for Arvinda’s full bio
Namaste! I’m Preena, co-founder of Arvinda’s. I entered the world of Indian cooking in high school while helping my mother Arvinda teach Indian cooking classes. At the time, Indian cuisine was unknown to many, yet there was a fascination and curiosity to learn how different spices come together to create a 'to-die-for' curry--the essence of what makes Indian foods so special. Enamoured by the aromas, health benefits and flavours of spices myself, I wanted to learn about our diverse Indian cooking traditions from my mother and my interest in spices allowed me to journey to the spice growing regions in India through my Master in Environmental Studies Program at York University, immersing me in a storied history that started many centuries ago.
Since then, I’ve learnt the art of mixing, blending and tasting spices from not only India, but cooking traditions all over the world, working with spices day-to-day at Arvinda’s. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of teaching hundreds of home cooks and chefs to cook delectable Indian foods through Arvinda's cooking classes and it was in these very same classes years ago that prompted my entrepreneurial spirit alongside my brother Paresh, to create Arvinda’s spices and share them with food lovers in Canada and beyond. My favourite spice is ... turmeric!
Click here for Preena’s full bio