Ms. Payal Thakurani’s Commune Kitchen Venture – A Culinary Odyssey
In 2017, Ms. Payal Thakurani set sail on her culinary odyssey, establishing Commune Kitchen in Singapore after running a small home-based food business in Shanghai since 2012. While her professional background was rooted in special education, her burning passion for food and community integration led her to embark on this remarkable journey.
The inception in Shanghai brought with it a mix of culture shock and language barriers. Payal overcame these hurdles by enrolling in Mandarin lessons, which eventually led to the birth of her cooking classes. Through word-of-mouth recommendations, she began offering cooking classes and consulting services while collaborating with an online supermarket to produce her own brand of cooked foods.
In 2017, an unexpected move to Singapore presented fresh challenges. Navigating the bureaucracy of transitioning to Singapore as a dependent pass holder was an arduous task that took 18 months and multiple changes of Directors. However, these obstacles only fueled Payal’s determination. Her journey in Singapore commenced with teaching from her home in Bukit Timah.
However, a neighbour’s complaint led to a setback, prompting Payal to explore kitchen rentals. She started conducting lessons from a humble baking studio in Outram, managing every aspect of the business from setup to dishwashing. Gradually, Commune Kitchen expanded and secured a long-term studio at Downtown Gallery, initially renting it hourly and later transitioning to an annual contractual basis.
Throughout this remarkable journey, the unwavering support and guidance from the OUE marketing and operations teams, including current Head of Operations Elsie Loh and support staff Senah Nyaru, have proven to be invaluable blessings for Payal and Commune Kitchen.
The Culinary Dream Team at Commune Kitchen
Selecting the right team members has been pivotal to Commune Kitchen’s success. Payal Thakurani places a strong emphasis on specific qualities and attributes when assembling her culinary dream team.
One of the standout members is Chef Elsie Loh, whose impressive 30-year culinary journey is marked by her remarkable organisational skills. Beyond her culinary expertise, Chef Elsie’s ability to balance her family commitments, active community service, genuine care for support staff, unwavering dedication to her work, and maintaining her health at the age of 63 is nothing short of inspiring. Her story serves as a testament to what can be achieved through dedication and resilience.
Dedication and commitment are also evident in Senah Nyaru, affectionately known as the “kitchen Ninja.” As a young single mother, Senah’s impeccable organisation skills ensure that the bustling kitchen runs smoothly, even during the busiest moments.
These three individuals, Payal Thakurani, Chef Elsie, and Senah Nyaru, form the core pillars of Commune Kitchen, each bringing their unique qualities to the team.
Adding to the diversity and culinary richness, Commune Kitchen recently welcomed Sadaf, who hails from Afghanistan. Her deep passion for food and her homeland enriches the team’s culinary offerings. On weekdays, Sadaf serves delightful lunches at the Frasers Tower kitchen, proudly making Commune Kitchen the sole Afghan kitchen in Singapore, offering quality lunches at affordable prices.
What sets Commune Kitchen apart is its unwavering commitment to recipe quality and exceptional customer service, prioritising these elements over mere financial considerations. The team is dedicated not only to constant innovation but also to the continuous improvement of existing recipes. The ultimate goal is to ensure that customers not only enjoy a hands-on cooking experience but also leave with the motivation to recreate these culinary delights in their own homes.
Culinary Pioneers: Commune Kitchen’s Dedication to Dietary Inclusivity
Commune Kitchen’s culinary journey is firmly rooted in a holistic and health-conscious approach to cooking. Their commitment to providing a delightful culinary experience for all customers, regardless of dietary restrictions, sets them apart.
At Commune Kitchen, they take pride in offering a diverse range of customizable menus, with more than 90% of their team-building and private cooking class options featuring vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free alternatives. The heart of their culinary excellence lies in the rigorous testing and refinement of each recipe, ensuring that not only do the dishes tantalise taste buds, but they also align with health-conscious principles.
The team at Commune Kitchen embraces the vast world of the internet to uncover ancient grains and age-old recipes, many of which naturally cater to gluten-free requirements. Their dedication to experimentation and innovation distinguishes them as the only culinary school in Singapore specialising in gluten-free cooking and catering. Among their most cherished offerings, gluten-free dumplings stand as a student favourite.
Commune Kitchen’s core mission is to deliver a culinary experience that accommodates diverse dietary needs, ensuring that every customer, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can relish the pleasures of good food.
Commune Kitchen’s Journey of Culinary Diversity
Commune Kitchen’s diverse range of culinary offerings, including cooking classes, team-building sessions, private classes, kitchen rentals, and recipe sharing, is a testament to their passion for food and their commitment to making the culinary world accessible to all.
This evolution was not a hasty decision but a gradual process born out of necessity. Rising rental costs in Singapore compelled them to explore various facets of the culinary industry, ensuring sustainability. However, one constant remained—they prioritise quality over quantity. To maintain the highest standards, Commune Kitchen limits themselves to one booking per day, guaranteeing an exceptional experience for every customer.
Sharing their recipes with the community is a reflection of their belief that good food is meant to be shared. While they strive to keep their classes affordable, they understand that not everyone may have access to them. Thus, they enthusiastically share their culinary knowledge through social media and blogs, fostering a sense of culinary togetherness and inspiring others along the way.
Commune Kitchen’s commitment to offering a wide range of culinary experiences and sharing their passion for food is a testament to their belief that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy and learn from the world of culinary delights.
Where Culinary Community Thrives at Commune Kitchen
Commune Kitchen’s recognition as one of the Top 10 things to do in Singapore can be attributed to a unique and thriving community atmosphere that sets them apart. More than just a place to learn recipes, Commune Kitchen is a culinary hub where people come together over their shared love for food.
This sense of belonging and the opportunity to personalise each dish to individual tastes resonates deeply with their participants. The key to their popularity lies in their consistent enthusiasm, regardless of how many times they teach a dish. They thrive on the energy of every new class and embrace the diversity of variations that each student brings to a recipe.
Commune Kitchen encourages their students to trust their instincts and adapt dishes as they see fit. The magic lies in seeing how the same ingredients can yield such different results in the hands of different individuals. They believe that cooking is a full-sensory experience best enjoyed when fully present and engaged. This philosophy creates an environment where culinary enthusiasts can connect, create, and savour the joy of cooking together, setting Commune Kitchen apart as a culinary gem in Singapore.
Empowering Culinary Dreams – Commune Kitchen’s Inspiring Initiatives
Commune Kitchen is constantly evolving and spearheading initiatives that go beyond the culinary world. One exciting project they’re thrilled to share with readers is their partnership with Sadaf, an inspiring Afghan chef and soon-to-be mother of three.
This collaboration is a testament to Commune Kitchen’s commitment to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of culinary enthusiasts. By providing their kitchen and dining space, they are offering women like Sadaf the opportunity to pursue their culinary passions despite the challenges of motherhood and the high costs of running a restaurant in Singapore. It’s a meaningful way for Commune Kitchen to give back to the community and empower these dedicated women to shine.
The ongoing efforts of Commune Kitchen continue to inspire and create a positive impact beyond the world of cooking.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
For those aspiring entrepreneurs, Ms. Payal Thakurani offers these wise words:
Follow your passion—it’s your ikigai, after all. Start somewhere, enjoy the ride, and don’t stress too much about where you end up. It’s great if your ikigai becomes your job, but keep your priorities straight. Your health and family should always come first.