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After four successful years at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market, Curry Delight is opening a restaurant in Mount Pearl.
Husband and wife team, Muhammad Nasir and Afiya Altaf, have market-goers lining up every week for their signature box of quick, nutritious Pakistani food.
Nasir said about two years ago they envisioned opening their own location because they were having such great success at the market.
They’ve now set up shop in the old Chilly Willy’s location at 125 Park Ave.
“Like our product, we wanted to do it right. So, that’s why it took longer." — Muhammad Nasir
“When we found this (location), it was in very rough shape, so we took that as a challenge,” said Nasir, as he unwrapped one of the newly-delivered chairs from a pile at one side of the restaurant.
Nasir and Altaf spoke with The Telegram from their new location, which is set to open its doors for a grand opening at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 17.
The walls have a fresh coat of red paint and a stack of tables are ready to be arranged.
When the couple first began setting up their restaurant two years ago, the wooden foundation was rotted. They had to gut the entire first floor, pour a concrete foundation and rebuild.
“Like our product, we wanted to do it right. So, that’s why it took longer,” said Nasir as he looked around the space.
“It’s now basically brand new.”
While the couple flirted with the idea of doing table service, they realized their farmers’ market model was already working perfectly.
“We want to leverage our brand that we already have,” said Nasir.
“We want it to be fast because people are coming home from work – they’re tired (and) they don’t want to wait, so it’s going to be super-fast,” added Altaf.
“You come in, we’ll prepare your box for you and you can just walk out.”
The foods will be arranged behind a glass window – much like at the market – so people can select the items they’d like to fill their take-out box.
With the kitchen in the back, Altaf will cook the dishes – ranging from standard butter chicken to stuffed jalapeno peppers and everything in between – fresh daily.
The menu will be expanded slightly to include daily specials. While they’re aiming to eventually open for lunch and breakfast service, right now their hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday beginning Feb. 18.
They’ll continue to operate at the farmers’ market every Saturday.
In addition to running the restaurant, the pair also plan to continue working their full-time jobs as software engineers, fulfill catering requests, and raise their two children.
Nasir said he doesn’t like to brag, but they have time management “down to a science”.
Still, to help with the new location, they’ve hired two people – something they said was a “proud moment” to be able to contribute to the community by providing jobs.
Since they posted news of their new location on social media, Nasir said the response has been “overwhelming.”
Altaf said they’re humbled by the feedback they’ve received so far.
“It just warms our heart. We’re so grateful,” she said.
The secret ingredients
When Nasir and Altaf first arrived in Newfoundland as international students, they never dreamed they’d eventually open their own business.
It all started with a simple desire to cook the traditional foods of their home in Pakistan.
Nasir’s mother, Farida Yakoob, visited the couple in Newfoundland. Over time, she taught them the recipes that have been passed down to her through generations.
The couple says back home, Yakoob’s food is equally in demand as it is on Curry Delight’s menu — at least among their friends and family.
Her generations-old knowledge is one of the secret ingredients to Curry Delight’s success.
The other secret to the couple’s success was Nasir’s father.
“It was our dream for us to have our own space, but it was my father’s dream, too,” said Nasir quietly.
"We miss him and that he’s not going to be here on the 17th, but he will see it from somewhere.” — Nasir
His father died last year.
“He was the one behind the project in the beginning,” said Altaf.
“He wanted to see this place,” added Nasir.
“He inspired us. He was all the time (saying), ‘You’re going to work hard, you’re going to make things possible.’ We miss him and that he’s not going to be here on the 17th, but he will see it from somewhere.”
“He’s watching over us,” said Altaf.
They say perhaps the greatest reward for their hard work is the connections they’ve made in the province through such a simple act as cooking.
“Everybody can relate to good food, I say that all the time. Everybody can have a conversation about good food – it passes through boundaries, passes through differences and all of that.
“So, the restaurant will be a common, happy place for people to come and enjoy.”