Catch Us Soon on The Food Network!

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We thank you for your patience last week, if your dinner plans were foiled by our temporary closing. What was the occasion? Just a visit from none other than Guy Fieri, host of The Food Network series, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives! We are so honored by the opportunity to share our passion for delicious, homegrown food with a national audience. The airing date is yet to be announced, but keep an eye out for updates and we will let you know!

Taking Our Vision to the City Level

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Gandhi Mahal relies on our abundant local agricultural community for a huge portion of its ingredients. Here, Ruhel shows off his bounty from the Midtown Farmers Market.

Great curry aside, if there’s one thing you should know about Gandhi Mahal, it’s that it’s not all about the curry. It’s about you and everyone else eating healthy food, now and in the future, spice or no spice. That’s because Gandhi Mahal is not just a restaurant, but an incubator of ideas. It’s both a test lab and a prototype for a thriving local food system. Owner Ruhel Islam has visions far beyond the reach of his own four walls, and as a new member of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, he has a new opportunity to take that vision to the city level.

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A Joyous Homecoming for Ruhel

If you stopped in and something seemed missing at the restaurant this fall, you weren’t mistaken. For almost two months, from late September to mid-November, Ruhel was on the other side of the globe skipping continents and visiting family and friends.

His first stops in Melbourne and Sydney took him all the way from crisp autumn leaves back to flowering trees. Several extended family members have settled here in Australia, including Ruhel’s aunt and uncle, who joined him to travel back to Bangladesh.  Also in the area is our former floor manager, who welcomed Ruhel into her home to visit. A dedicated and energetic part of the Gandhi Mahal team since we first opened, she moved to Sydney last year to join her husband and is loving life in her new city.

Ruhel visits a rally for women's equal pay at the parliament building in Canberra
During his visit to the parliament building in Canberra, Ruhel saw a group of women rallying for equal pay and stopped to show his support.

Next stop: Bangladesh. For Ruhel journeys back home are often business-related, but this visit was for family – and what a homecoming it was! “We were all so happy to see each other,” he beams. “My cousin celebrated my birthday for me. We all had such a wonderful time.” One highlight was his time spent at Dusai Resort, a beautiful travel destination owned and operated by his cousin. “He did a great job with the place. It’s like another world! When you stay there, you don’t need to go anywhere else. You’ll never be bored. You are surrounded by nature, and they serve wonderful food. If my uncle [Saifur Rahman] were alive, I think he would be very proud.” He adds, “…and if anyone travels to Bangladesh, they should tell me! I will connect them with my cousin, and they might get a good deal at Dusai Resort!”

Larry Tweed and Ruhel catch lunch at the family pond
In Dhaka, Ruhel met up with Larry Tweed and his wife Gwendolyn from Minneapolis, who are currently working in Bangladesh. Here, Larry and Ruhel catch fish for lunch at Ruhel’s family’s pond.

Reflecting on this particular trip back home, Ruhel can’t help but notice that the dynamic with family and friends is changing – and for the better! “It was so wonderful to come back and feel respected for my accomplishments,” he remarks.  “As a child, I was used to being teased. People would bully me for having darker skin, and they thought I was strange the way I was always playing in the dirt. I believed I was leaving that all behind when I came to the United States as a young man. Here, I had the freedom to pursue my passion without people laughing at me. Yet, now I return home and people are congratulating me! They are proud of what I have done with the restaurant and in the community.”

In Memory of Saifur Rahman, 1932 – 2009

As the longest-serving Minister of Finance of Bangladesh, past Chairman of the International Monetary Fund, a leader in the Bangladeshi National Party, and the founder of several educational and economic institutions, Ruhel’s uncle Saifur Rahman was a lifelong servant to his people. He was an architect of the Bangladeshi economy, an economy that held stable even during the Great Recession and that still remains a strong place for doing business. In 2005, he was awarded the Ekushey Padak, one of the highest civilian honors in Bangladesh. Today, September fifth, marks the sixth anniversary of Rahman’s death, and Ruhel would like to dedicate this day in his honor.

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Saifur Rahman (center) and Ruhel (left) in Hyde Park, London.

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Gandhi Mahal at Open Streets: August 2, 2015

Sunshine is in the forecast this weekend! How will you make the most of it? If nothing else, be sure to get out on Lake Street this Sunday for Open Streets Minneapolis on East Lake Street. We’ll be at the scene all day, serving up traditional Bangla-style curry from 11am to 5pm. Come listen to live music on the sitar and the tabla and meet some of our farmers and community partners, including Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, MN Community Solar, Spark-Y, and more! Poet and community organizer Louis Alemayehu will present a spoken word performance at 3:00. See you there!

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Celebrate Iftar with MNIPL and Gandhi Mahal on July 6th

moon-centeredJoin us on Monday July 6th, 2015 in sharing and celebrating Iftar, the nightly breaking of the daily fast of Ramadan. We will be co-hosting with Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, an organization that works to bring spiritual congregations together in care of creation as active members of the climate movement. Gather at Gandhi Mahal at 8pm with friends of the Twin Cities interfaith community, where owner Ruhel Islam will recite the Azan, or “call for prayer,” and we will begin our meal at sunset.

What is the Meaning of Ramadan?

In the Muslim faith, Ramadan is a period of daily fasting, the name derived from the Arabic word for “scorching heat” or “dryness.” Observants are not to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, at which time the fast is broken in an act of celebration (Iftar), which is often shared by friends and family. Similar to the Christian observance of Lent, Ramadan is about much more than the outward practice of fasting. The month of its duration is considered a time of spiritual centering and recharging, and of great blessing and forgiveness.

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Meet Kate, Our Garden Coordinator!

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Kate Jacobson at the Gandhi Mahal Climate Garden site on 22nd Avenue at 32nd Street in South Minneapolis.

A long-time voice in the climate movement who has dedicated years of work to local groups like MN350, Kate Jacobson joined Gandhi Mahal this spring as our Garden Coordinator. What does this kind of work look like? What new projects are cooking this year? We met her in the garden to find out!

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A Look Back as Gandhi Mahal Looks Ahead

If you’ve taken a tour of our basement aquaponics lately or visited one of our numerous neighborhood farm plots, you might be thinking this restaurant must have done some serious scheming years ago. Yet, everything you see today was in fact the product of a slow, organic process of discovery. Well, perhaps slow is not the word! Since opening its doors in 2008, Gandhi Mahal has been eager to jump on opportunities as they’ve come, and thanks to the generous support of the community, those opportunities have led to outcomes that were all but unimaginable in the early days. Let’s take a look back in time to see how we’ve landed where we are today.

2008: Urban farming has been central to Gandhi Mahal’s vision since the very beginning. In its very first year of operation, the restaurant began growing its own produce at the Minnehaha Avenue Community Garden. The same year, Ruhel planted a second garden in his front yard.

2009: In an effort toward becoming a zero-waste operation, Gandhi Mahal began recycling its cooking oilto produce biodiesel. Considering the headache usually involved in grease disposal, it’s another practice that not only takes pressure off the environment, but off the staff as well!

2010: This year marked the restaurant’s first venture into year-round farming (a breeze in balmy Bangladesh; not such a breeze in the sub-zero Minnesota winter). When a neighboring business closed its doors in 2010, Gandhi Mahal expanded into its space and planted its first indoor garden in what is now the Community Room.

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Preparing the soil at the HECUA/Gandhi Mahal pilot garden in June 2012

2012: In January 2012, a group of HECUA students visited Bangladesh to learn about sustainable community development. The group, led by professor Julia Nerbonne, met up

with Ruhel in his home village of Sreemangal and conversations began. What could we do back home to put education to action? The plan was to pilot a farm-to-restaurant yard-sharing program. That very summer, ground broke on a plot just blocks away from Gandhi Mahal, and over 2,000 pounds of produce made their way down the street and into the kitchen.

2013: By just the second year of Gandhi Mahal’s yard sharing program, there were already twelve backyard garden plots. Together, they supplied 10,000 pounds of produce to the restaurant!

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Tilapia swimming in the basement in April 2015

2014: Last year, Gandhi Mahal finished construction on what is the first closed-loop aquaponics system ever installed in a Minnesota restaurant.

Since the ribbon-cutting this past March, both tilapia and guided tours are swarming in the storage-room-turned-jungle downstairs. Interested in learning more? Tickets are still available for the 2015 Aquaponics Symposiumat the University of Minnesota, where Ruhel and Zach Robinson of Spark-Y will speak on an industry panel discussion.

2015: This summer, don’t forget to keep your eyes up as you walk in the front door. We’re getting honeybees on the roof!