As any coffee-addicted college student knows, the Brew is a happening place. But it was more than just a hot drink that led over 130 customers to downtown Goshen’s coffee shop this past Sunday. They were there for the curry.Thushan Hemachandra and his girlfriend, Jill Stoltzfus, were the chefs behind the counter, cooking up plates of jasmine rice, chicken tikka masala, potato curry and eggplant curry. For a little over eight dollars, customers could choose between three large-plate options of Sri Lankan or Indian food. Lines stretched almost to the door, with some patrons waiting for half an hour as more rice cooked – a sure sign that the curry was worth the effort.
Hemachandra is a 2005 Goshen College grad who works at Everence Financial. He began his public food endeavors when he helped to start Java Junction in 2004.
“I began cooking curry meals while in college, out of sheer desperation for some food that reminded me of home,” said Hemachandra. “The thought of sharing this with the wider community had been developing in my mind over the years. I had some experience in the food and beverage realm, but job commitments and lack of real restaurant experience made sure that it was just a pipe dream and nothing more.”
It took Myron Bontrager, the owner of the Brew, to get the ball rolling. This past June, Stoltzfus heard that Bontrager was looking to serve curry food but needed someone who knew how to cook it. Two weeks later, the couple debuted their Sunday lunch.
“We had hoped to attract about 50 people for this, but were thrilled when we had almost 75 people come through,” said Hemachandra. “Myron was over the moon himself, and asked if we would do it again. So began our monthly curry endeavor at The Brew.”
Since June, The Brew has had four curry Sundays, with a total of around 350 people served, and plans to have at least two more before the end of the year. This past Sunday over 130 customers showed up, marking the largest crowd to date. Many Goshen College students were in attendance.
“Our expectations were high,” said junior Anna Beels. “I ordered the Indian meal, which I really enjoyed. It left me feeling super full.”
Food preparation begins the day before the meal, with The Brew’s baristas cutting and cleaning most of the meat and vegetables. Hemachandra and Stoltzfus then spend 6 to 10 hours cooking and refrigerate the food overnight, allowing the spices to enhance flavors of the curry.
Said Hemachandra, “Three out of four times, we’ve actually run out of food. It’s great to know there is a strong demand for this cuisine.”
However, even with the appearance of strong public support, there are no Indian restaurants in Goshen.
“The Goshen community really doesn’t have many ethnic food options beyond Mexican/Latin American and Chinese,” said Hemachandra. “This is too bad given that Goshen generally strives to embrace cultural diversity and global mindedness. Goshen College stokes that fire quite nicely and events like this go to show that there is a great interest and desire for more diversity in food options. I hope that this inspires area restauranteurs to recognize that South Asian curry cuisine is indeed a viable option.”
While The Brew is certainly a wonderful platform for sharing Indian food with the local community, Hemachandra does dream of one day starting a restaurant himself.
“Maybe someday [my dream] will fully blossom,” said Hemachandra. “For now, it has really been a blessing to be able to fulfill at least part of my dream this way. Jill and I are really grateful for the support and enthusiasm of Myron and his crew at The Brew. None of this would be possible without it.”
Craving Indian or Sri Lanken food? The Brew will have their next two curry events on Oct. 30th and Dec. 4th. If you’d like to help support the idea of an Indian restaurant in Goshen, check out http://www.facebook.com/pages/Indian-Restaurant-for-Goshen/148346941857122.