“From the time we opened our hotel in 2003, we have always been doing something innovative.” Over the phone from Madurai, KL Kumar’s voice carries some pride and there’s a reason for it. Their “face mask” parottas have taken the internet by storm making Kumar and his team of parotta masters overnight sensation. Since Wednesday morning, Kumar says he has spoken to at least 50 reporters. “Our phones have been ringing since morning with people asking for the parotta in the morning itself. We have become like the Nesamani trend,” he adds with a light chuckle.
Kumar is the Managing Director of Madurai’s Temple City Group and also the district’s Hotel Owners Association President. With their “face mask” parotta becoming all the rage, Kumar has had to start making them from 11 am on Wednesday. “Parottas are usually made in the evenings, rarely for breakfast. This time, however, people started calling and asking for it in the morning itself. Between 11 am and 9 pm on Wednesday, we must have sold about 500 sets,” he says.
Kumar continues, “Usually our best seller is the ghee roast dosa. The parotta, in comparison, makes only 10% of the dosa’s sale. Today, however, it has been the reverse.”
Kumar’s “face mask” parottas are shaped like two and three-ply masks, the layers falling into place naturally. Making this takes a bit of an extra time for his team of 30, Kumar adds. “It has to do with the cutting. There’s a bit of wastage too,” he shares. But Kumar has priced them at regular rates. “One set parotta (two on a plate) comes with two salnas (gravy) and one onion raita. We sell this for Rs 50 and it is the same for face mask parotta too,” he tells TNM.
The idea, Kumar shares, was suggested by his son. “It is very worrying to see that after Chennai, Madurai has been reporting more number of COVID-19 cases. The other day when my son and I were walking on the road we saw many of them were not wearing face masks. That was when my son said, ‘Madurai is famous for parotta. Why don’t we make it in the shape of a face mask to raise awareness?’ I thought it was a brilliant idea and spoke to my parotta master,” he shares.
But this, however, is not the first time Kumar and his hotel have done something innovative. During the pre-internet and pre-viral era, Kumar wowed fans with “Baba” paneer butter masala dosa - a regular masala dosa but with Rajinikanth’s “Baba” symbol cut from vegetables and placed on the dosai with the flourish and “Tendulkar” dosa, an ode to Sachin’s century with a dosa shaped like a bat. “We’ve impressed Rajini fans, Sachin fans and even recently we made “coroa” bonda (the onions sticking out from the bonda like the virus) and “corona” rava dosa. Some people appreciated it. When the government announced about kabasura kudineer, we made “mooligai” rasam using herbs and gave it free for anyone who ordered lunch to go. We have many such innovative ideas,” he shares.
When we ask what he’s got next, he laughs and adds, “You’ll know when we launch it.”