Rimpy’s tiffin service is an oasis for Indian students who miss homemade food while studying in Cardiff. What makes her venture Ace foods so popular in student community?
At 10.30 am, it’s just another day in Rimpy Mudgal’s kitchen as she quietly fries puris (Indian bread), for 31 of her students and professionals who have ordered food for the day.
Rimpy, a homemaker, living in Llanrumney for almost a decade now has been providing tiffin service mostly to Indian students and professionals. She is cooking Chole Puri (a Punjabi dish made from chickpeas) for her clients which will be home delivered later during the day.
“I get an average order of 30 persons a day, and the number of students ordering food will increase as exams near,” Rimpy says as she cooks nine kilogrammes of food for the day.
She estimates it will take a little more than two hours to cook the meal as she counts the puris, ensuring there are enough for all. Rimpy realises that the dough has fallen short and will have to use some more flour to increase the quantity before she decides to start with the Chole Curry.
She began the service about four years ago targeting Indian students and professionals living Cardiff.
Having worked at Tesco as an admin, Rimpy says she never planned to open such services in She moved to Cardiff from Chandigarh, a city in north India with her husband in 2006.
Cardiff. “After having my second child, I did not join the supermarket for personal reasons. However, I wanted to work and be busy,” she says.
It all started with her brother giving her the idea, she explains. “My brother had recently moved from Cardiff to London and would face the problem of having homemade Indian food,” Rimpy says.
A graduate in home science, she loves cooking. “This was something I could manage doing with taking care of my son and balancing household work,” she smiles.
Rimpy says that he found a tiffin service in London and passed on the idea. “There would be so many Indians who would be wanting to have homemade food. Why don’t you cater to their needs?” he used to say.
However, the idea remained afloat for the next couple of months and never came into light.
“It was one weekend when my brother drove at our place and took me to the nearest mall. He bought all the necessary equipment required for cooking. He said that once I have the equipment, I’ll start doing it,” Rimpy says how it all started.
Her husband and children have been supportive since then. “There was a weak response in the beginning and sometimes I had to cook for only one student. But slowly, the word of mouth spread and more students started ordering food,” Rimpy says.
Rimpy says she has 90% of the students ordering food on a daily basis. They crave for homemade Indian food, and this is just what they get.
“Earlier only Indian students ordered food. However, as students from other nationalities tried the food, they liked the taste and started ordering it,” Rimpy says. “I had two international students ordering food from me last year. I also take orders for parties, but then it has to be informed at least four days in advance,” she warns.
All the ingredients are fresh and different dishes are prepared every week to offer a variety of food. Rimpy also considers special requests of dishes and desserts coming from students. She is lovingly called as ‘aunty’, by the students. However, it is pure vegetarian food that is provided entirely.
The Chole Curry has been fed with various spices and ingredients while she has spoken and a spicy aroma fills the kitchen. It is surprising to see Rimpy cook the huge amount of food in her family kitchen without using any technological help for the task.
After sending her children to school and seeing her husband Puneet off for work by 10 am, she and her assistant start cooking. It will be a late afternoon with continuous standing till she finishes with cooking.
“The food prepared for the clients will be the same consumed by the family,” Rimpy says as she dismounts the heavy curry pot and moves to pack the tiffins.
However, her journey has not been smooth. Last year she fractured her leg in an incident and was put to rest in bed for three months. “I couldn’t provide services to the students for almost half a year, and then vacations began,” Rimpy says. She decided to restart the services this September.
The homemaker is registered as a self-employ to run the venture under the name of Ace foods. The Cardiff Council for food inspection has rated her with five starts for her hygiene and food quality. Besides, she is proud to have featured herself in London by setting up a stall of Indian snacks such as pakoras and bhajis.
Once packed, she and her husband will drive with all the tiffins across student residences and other parts of the city. “We start around 6.30pm and finish distributing all the food by 9 pm,” she says.
Rimpy charges £5 per meal to students and £7 for professionals. “We do not advertise, but distribute some cards around universities at the beginning of the year. The rest is the word of mouth that helps to get more orders,” she says.
As she packs some of the early orders, she explains that she has not done yet. “I yet have to make a Halwa (dessert), to go along with the food.
Without resting, she quickly moves to pick up another set of items required for the delicacy.