Somebody very wise had said that age is a just a number and it completely applies to young and enterprising Louis Zhimomi from Nagaland. She may be all of 25 but she is the proprietor of Apron Strings Cooking Class and Cafe in Dimapur. And if you are wondering whether the capital to start the cafe and school came from her parents, you would be wrong. Louis worked everything out on her own, with a little help from friends and cousins, setting an example for countless young men and women across the region who are just one little push away from achieving their dreams.
Louis did her schooling from Dimapur and graduated from Calcutta University. She got a diploma in Culinary Arts from the International Institute of Culinary Arts, New Delhi and also interned at the Westin, Gurgaon. In addition to that, she also enrolled in a short term course in Thai cuisine from Blue Elephant, Bangkok.
It was her father who had first suggested the idea of opening a cooking school in Dimapur. ‘I had no plans of starting a cooking school but my dad saw scope in this industry, so he told me to think about it. I really liked the idea because I was not interested in working outside the region. I wanted to come back to my hometown and start something on my own where it can be beneficial for me and for my people at the same time. So, that is how my cooking classes came into being,’ shared Louis. She not only gives private cooking classes but also trains college students and people from the Village Development Board (VDB).
She first thought of opening the cafe mainly to promote her cooking school but with time, she grew fond of serving people comfort food. ‘Serving the food that I created gave me immense joy. Food can speak volumes about who you are and where you come from.’
Being an industrious young woman, she refused to take any financial help from friends or family to open the school or the cafe. She started out instead by taking home orders and started saving money little by little. She also took out a loan to get her school started. After successfully running the school for a few months, she had enough saved up to open a small cafe. ‘I didn’t have to spend much because the designing, interiors and all other work were done with the help of my family and friends.’
Of course, like all entrepreneurs, her journey has not been without its challenges but she has managed to get over the small bumps on the road. ‘In my initial days, I had to face a lot of problems because it was a one-of-a-kind school and not many people were aware of it. But it has turned out to be a boon for me as people were curious to know what the school had to offer and many people signed up for classes.’
She finds happiness in teaching people and also finds her work particularly exciting when her students are enthusiastic, want to know and learn more about the art of cooking. She also feels that her parents are a constant source of motivation. ‘The best advice I have received so far has been from my mom. She has always advised me and my sister to explore every possibility and learn from our own mistakes. No work is small or great, the experience that we earn is far greater because it is something which money can’t buy.’ When she is not teaching her students or managing the kitchen in her cafe, she enjoys shopping and spending time with her family.
In the future, she hopes that her school will grow and reach out to more people. She also has plans to open a fine dining restaurant. ‘Though that may take me some a few more years.’ With her skills and passion for what she does, we know for sure that she will continue to be an inspiration for people of all ages.
Words: Meeta Borah
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast (Feb 2017) issue