“I absolutely love cooking and I never get tired of it,” exclaimed Viji Sana, owner of Viji's Kitchen and Catering, via email.

Visitors walking into The Galley during Saturdays at The Galley are greeted with the delicious scent of healthy, home-cooked Indian cuisine as they approach the kitchen.

She plans her menu so items don't repeat too frequently – if something was on the menu recently, it won't be seen again for several months – which gives customers the chance to try new foods and explore. Sana also tries new things every time she cooks, meaning you can find fusion cuisine you won't find anywhere else.

“I also,” Sana elaborated, “make an effort to cook with the utmost care for my clients, using only fresh vegetables and herbs and avoiding canned goods as much as I can. I only use fresh chicken. Most importantly, I ask every new client beforehand what spice level they're okay with, what allergies I need to be aware of, the flavors that they like, etc. I want to make sure I show them the same care I'd show anyone else in my family!”

Sana grew up in Thanjavur, India and got her love of cooking from her mother, who cooked daily for Sana and her five siblings. Sana's family in India is active in the food business themselves, running upscale restaurants in large cities.

“Whenever I go back home,” Sana explained, “I am able to improve my cooking by directly working with restaurant chefs who work at the places my family owns! I've been really inspired by my sister's restaurant, Rosewater Fine Dining in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.” Sana herself took a different path, studying science in college and coming to Batesville with her husband and two sons in 2003 – her husband works at Hill-Rom.

While she always kept her love of cooking, “close to heart,” cooking three meals a day for her family and learning to prepare a variety of delicious, healthy meals, Sana noted she embraced it more after moving to Batesville. “It made me feel close to home while living many miles away,” she wrote, “but thanks to the kind and caring community here, Batesville soon became home for all of us!”

The catering business idea grew gradually. “Since I would cook a lot anyway, I would often give food to my friends or my boys' teacher at school,” Sana explained. “When people would start telling me how wonderful the food tastes, that was really when I realized my talent in cooking as well as the need for healthy, home-cooked Indian food [in] Batesville! One day, I just thought to myself, why not provide the same tasty and healthy options for my friends in Batesville, while also giving them a chance to try Indian food.” Two years ago, Sana began cooking more, though still mainly as a hobby she shared with friends. “I really had no plans to grow it this much,” she said, “until I saw how receptive people were to homecooked Indian cuisine!”

For Sana, it's never been about the money – her goal with Viji's Kitchen is to satisfy her passion for cooking and provide delicious Indian food to those willing to try it. She's taking it day by day and just seeing how much the business grows.

“There are now clear plans on what that may look like in the future,” she noted, when asked if she'd consider a restaurant. “For now, I am just focused on growing with our current operating model.”

What's most rewarding, though, for Sana, is the happiness and joy she can bring clients with her food. “My clients really feel like family to me when I am cooking for them,” she said. As for Sana's favorite dish? “It's hard for me to pick” she said. “I just love trying new recipes out and enjoy the process of creating a dish. If I think of something new, I first try it out with my family to see what they think – so I'd say I enjoy the process more than a specific dish but I do love biryani!”

Any readers interested in trying Viji's Kitchen can follow them on Facebook at:
Their Facebook page is updated regularly with information on new recipes and upcoming cooking events, including classes. Sana recommends that new customers try food at one of the Saturdays at The Galley events, then if they'd like to order regularly, let her know and she can add you to one of her cooking groups on Facebook. For information about catering events or cooking shows, message Viji Sana directly through the Viji's Kitchen and Catering page.