It didn’t, as Nandini Mukherjee has said, take a genius to recognize there was market in New York City for good, reasonably priced Indian food. But it did take someone with creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit to capitalize on it and, in short order, turn it into a highly successful café and catering business.
Mukherjee grew up in Jamshedpur, India, earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Institute of Environmental Design and her master of arts in lighting design from Parsons School of Design. Lack of a business background barely slowed her down once she decided to open a “bright, cheerful café,” where all New Yorkers could indulge both their love of Indian cuisine and their penchant for “portable” food. Almost as soon as the aromas of fresh-baked bread, coriander, onions, and tandoor-cooked meats began wafting onto Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, in 2003, the Indian Bread Co. was attracting crowds — and rave reviews, from the likes of Zagat, Time Out New York, The New Yorker, the New York Times, and more.
The restaurant’s services were soon expanded to include catering and Mukherjee’s business acumen grew apace with the popularity of the Indian Bread Co. Night classes in restaurant management were supplemented by coursework at the French Culinary Institute, the Institute of Culinary Education, the Women’s Venture Fund, and the Small Business Development Center at Pace University.
It was the same entrepreneurial spirit, now backed by market savvy, that enabled Mukherjee to deftly navigate the stormy economic waters, which, in 2008, swamped many other eateries across the country. With business slowing and sales falling at the restaurant, she wisely decided to regroup and rebrand. In 2009, with a revamped kitchen and new menus, she reopened as Aamchi Pao (“my bread”), with a focus on Mumbai street food. New customers and old soon found their way to Aamchi Pao, and revenues were again on the upswing. She still operates The Indian Bread Co. as a catering firm only, with such high-profile clients as the Tribeca Film Festival and New York Fashion Week.