Jasmine Foods: Bringing Affordable, Delicious Indian Food to DC

Seth Hajbi has long held a deep passion for Indian food after being introduced to his mother-in-law's cooking. Building off of his passion for delivering affordable and delicious Indian food, Seth opened Red Toque Kebob in Washington, D.C. But Seth wanted more. He wanted more people to enjoy Indian food and have the same experience he had with the incredible flavors, colors, and textures. “Our challenge has been bringing our authentic and affordable Indian food to as many people in Washington, D.C. as possible,” Seth shared. So this past year, Seth got to work, blending all the lessons learned from his restaurant with stringent taste tests of his mother-in-law to develop packaged frozen Indian meals. His opening line includes chicken biryani, butter chicken, and palak paneer. 

While the packaged products might be brand new, the story of Jasmine Indian Food begins over a decade ago when Seth Hajbi first met his mother-in-law. “My mother-in-law’s cooking was my introduction to Indian food and my inspiration for starting my business,” Seth shared with us as he reminisced on the experience. “She is known among our large family as the best cook.” 

With Red Toque Kebob running as smoothly as a restaurant can, Seth looked at other ways in which he could reach consumers in the DC area and well beyond. He loved sharing the richness and complexity of Indian cuisine. “In five years, we’d like to be selling our products not only on the east coast but all over the United States,” Seth explained.

The biggest challenge? How do you go from cooking for a restaurant to manufacturing? Seth intimately understood producing for a full house, making decisions on ingredients, and building a team. But he needed to learn what it met to produce large quantities of three products, rather than a wide-ranging menu. He needed to understand packaging, freezing techniques, and ingredient labels. It was a different ballgame with one important feature that remained the same, at the core of it all was making amazing food that people want.  

Working closely with the Union Kitchen team and fellow Accelerator members, Seth was able to find a way to extend the shelf life, master managing an inventory rather than made to order service, and determine appropriate pricing. 

“My typical day starts with a cappuccino and a review of the previous day’s business with an eye on making today’s better. Continuous improvement is our best way to guard against complacency and mediocrity,” Seth reflected on the launch process and juggling the many decisions an entrepreneur makes on a daily basis. 

Now, he is ready. His food is mother-in-law approved and his team is set with the right structure to successfully manufacture lots of authentic frozen Indian meals. His chicken biryani, butter chicken, and palak paneer hit shelves at Union Kitchen this month.