Biju Thomas, founder of Biju's Little Curry Shop, says he only has two speeds; the hand gestures he uses to indicate them translate to "full-speed ahead" and "full stop." And because he's only one man (although with all his appearances at local and national events, we sometimes wonder), he surrounds himself with an energetic staff who can help him accomplish all of the goals — including a line of retail products, new menu items and new restaurant locations — for his growing company.
To start with, he's aligned Biju's Little Curry Shop with Whole Foods Market and currently operates express versions of his curry shops inside Whole Foods locations at 7400 East Hampden Avenue and 2905 Pearl Street in Boulder. His relationship with the organic-food company has allowed him to create a brand of spice blends and other products that will soon be available on the grocery chain's shelves. And there's also a line of fresh grab-and-go items like salads, wraps, yogurt parfaits and Indian beverages that have already launched — they're currently available at the brand-new Local'ish Market, which opened earlier this week at 1803 16th Street, behind Union Station.
To help him with all of the special events and product roll-outs, he's hired Mary Frances Heck as his catering and events coordinator. Heck is just the kind of multi-tasker suited to Thomas's style; she also a chef and food writer with experience in recipe writing and magazine test kitchens.
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Recent Denver food festivals have been great test markets for new menu items; especially the Kerala-style fried chicken that just hit Biju's this week. Thomas served the fried chicken, a slightly less spicy version of the kind he grew up with in the South Indian state of Kerala, at the Chicken Fight festival in May, and the dish was such a huge hit, he's added it to the menu at his two brick-and-mortar locations. The boneless chicken is brined in a blend of spices before being dipped in a gluten-free batter made primarily with chickpea and potato flours. Once fried, the aromatic chicken can be ordered in a bowl with lentils, rice and sauce (like the new tikka masala sauce), in a sandwich or as a basket with chile-lime tots and a selection of dipping sauces like tamarind chutney or housemade curry ketchup.
That fried chicken — and an expanded menu — will soon be available in a new Biju's that Thomas is calling "version 2.0" of his fast-casual restaurant. He's looking at the Governor's Park neighborhood for the new outpost but isn't ready to divulge an exact address yet.
All that, and the chef/restaurateur still has time for television appearances. You can catch him this Sunday, June 25, at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time, if your cable package includes the FYI Network. He'll be appearing on a Katie Couric-produced show called Scraps, in which host Joel Gamoran (corporate chef for Sur La Table) cooks meals using ingredients that would otherwise be discarded. Thomas says this is something Biju's considers when formulating recipes, using "ugly" produce and things like cilantro stems and carrot tops, especially in multi-ingredient sauces where the vegetables are cooked down and blended. This episode of Scraps was filmed at several locations, including the cattle farm run by Oskar Blues Brewery in Boulder County.