Gourmands, finicky eaters throng Karachi Eat on opening day

Published January 15, 2022
Visitors savour every mouthful with face masks on. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
Visitors savour every mouthful with face masks on. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

KARACHI: Nearly all of the city’s millennials, and not just foodies, could be found at the Beach View Park on Friday for the three-day Karachi Eat Festival 2022.

And those who couldn’t make it on the first day have the weekend to throng the place over the weekend.

There were as many as 96 food stalls to cater to every palate. But even the most finicky of eaters wouldn’t miss the chance of visiting the place at least once for the ambiance and the outing if not the food.

This year tickets were all sold online, which explained the huge presence of the more tech-savvy younger lot. Still, some like Omar Tariq, although he was surrounded by a bunch of friends, complained that many of his friends had difficulty getting tickets. “Ten to 20 of my friends found the bank link down. They could not get past the bank gateways to book tickets,” he complained.

The tawa food or the big patila, the great debate goes on.—Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
The tawa food or the big patila, the great debate goes on.—Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

Still, the crowds started pouring in early and the place was absolutely crawling by the time it was dark keeping the stalls busy with the cooking and serving. Iqra Yaseen at a stall was busy making burgers at one stall as she also took bites out of one of her own burgers lying by her side. “What to do? I have not eaten myself since morning. I’m hungry too,” she laughed while attracting many to her stall because something that the seller was eating herself had to be good, right?

Organisers check vaccination cards at entrance, distribute masks, sanitisers

It was nice to find little areas with tables and chairs to sit down and enjoy a meal. Since the portions being offered were small, no one was sitting for long, vacating space for the next persons who’d like to sit down there. Since most people were also young they were restless and didn’t want to sit much anyway. The small portions also helped them keep space in their tummies to try out the other delights on offer there.

But some were also found to be complaining about the prices. “I have been to every edition of the Karachi Eat Festival since it started in 2014 and I find it becoming more and more expensive each time,” she said, while informing that she had paid Rs400 per ticket and was now spending more on buying food. Still, that hadn’t stopped her from coming, and this time she was also there with her husband and little baby, who seemed to be enjoying their outing.

Creative names

Meanwhile, the stalls offering so many delicious varieties of food had very creative names. There was Bake it Happen, Seen Se Swaad, Chumchay, Bulls Eye Burgers, Platter Planet, etc. Each vendor paid Rs80,000 for a stall. But, as Omar Omari, CEO of Eat Food Pakistan, told Dawn, they were going to more than make up for it.

He also said that most of the stall vendors were home-based businesses and caterers. “Only 38 per cent are restaurant owners. Many of the others have home delivery businesses as the last two years of Covid have proved to be hard for restaurants,” he said, adding that besides this the vendors on average had hired 10 people per stall.

“About 30,000 persons have found daily wage work for the duration of the festival. There are cooks, helpers, counter attendants, electricians, decorators, etc,” he said.

Corona SOPs

The organisers were also very careful about keeping with the Covid-19 standard operating procedures. They had themselves also appointed 100 Covid compliance officers, who were checking vaccination certificates at the gates, reminding everyone to wear masks and take care about social distancing wherever they saw any problem. They were distributing free masks along with hand sanitisers. There were also around 60 janitors going around picking up trash along with 30 fire security officers on standby besides the normal security.

It is the third time that the festival has been organised at the Beach View Park. “Expecting a huge turnout, we also needed to create parking so we called in bulldozers to flatten the mounds of sand behind the park for this,” Mr Omari shared.

East River, the company in charge of digital marketing of Karachi Eat, was doing its bit by keeping people involved and getting the word out about the festival of various platforms the biggest of which is social media.

Its CEO Faizan Syed told Dawn that there was a big hype about this festival but they wanted the right word out about it. “For this we are also educating people through our PR work. The Karachi Eat Festival is a sustainable ecosystem for testing your ideas or start-ups. So many food start-ups such as No Lies Fries, Jucy Lucy, 2 Guys 1 Grll, Wing It On, all tried, tested and started their businesses from here,” he said.

Shahzaib Ali of Platter Planet also told Dawn that they were the pioneers of making cheese platters and grazing boards in Karachi. “Now we are venturing into new creative food such as potato bubbles and milky nuggets. This is the first time that we are putting up our stall after a successful run operating from home,” he said.

The wholesome dessert stall ofPop Bar, which had pure premium Belgian chocolate in their chock bars and other sweet delicacies and use no preservatives, artificial flavours or colouring, also said that they were also selling from a stall for the first time. “We supply at some select marts of Karachi but this is the first time for us to be selling our own ice cream, gelato and chock bars,” said that young man at the stall. The delicacies sold were a bit expensive, but part of the proceeds is donated to non-profit organisations that support people with disabilities, it was stated.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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