A Man’s Quest for Perfection

Yagnanarayana Maiya pursuit for perfection was no less important to him than the quests of heroes of the myths. MTR’s history began in the year 1920 when the three brethren, Parameshwara Maiya, Ganappayya Maiya and Yagnanarayana Maiya left their hometown near Udupi in South Karnataka in search of greener pastures. Having considerable amount of knowledge in cooking, they quickly found themselves in the kitchens as cooks of some prominent people of those times.

It was in 1924, when Parameshwara Maiya with encouragement and guidance from his employer, started a small restaurant on Lalbagh Fort Road in Bangalore along with his brother Ganappayya Maiya. Initially it was called the Brahmin Coffee Club and served coffee and idlis. After a successful run of five years, Parameshwara Maiya passed away leaving his dream in hiatus. Therefore, Yagnanarayana Maiya, or Yagnappa as he was called affectionately, took up mantle of carrying out the business further and joined his brother.

For years to come, Yagnappa’s insatiable hunger for knowledge led him to many expeditions, one particularly to Europe in 1951. There he noted many things about the restaurant businesses and how they function. Upon his returned, he came back as an enlightened man, impressed with the standards of cleanliness, hygiene and discipline maintained by the restaurants there. Concurrently, he brought in a great transformation in his restaurant by raising the bar where he introduced new standards for hygiene, health and sanitation. He also introduced sterilization of utensils, crockery and cutlery. To educate his customers about cleanliness, he distributed small booklets on health and dining etiquettes. But that was not the extent of the changes he brought. He further introduced the radical concept of a walkthrough kitchen back then which made people walk past the kitchen to observe the proper sanitation being adhered to by the restaurant. Later, he renamed the restaurant to ‘Mavalli Tiffin Rooms’, in short MTR which has since become an iconic name for food in Karnataka.

Although Yagnappa can be extolled as a person who redefined South Indian dining back then, he also simultaneously reinvented the cuisines using his creative genius. For instance, during the progression of World War 2, India was suffering from the shortage of rice and the same time Bengal was hit by the worst famine in the history. This put a hard blow to the restaurant as rice idlis were the mainstay cuisine of South India. Then just like an inventor having a stroke of genius, Yagnappa substituted rice with rava, and the result was success. The dish soon became to be a favourite of some of the patrons.

Not just creative with food, Yagnappa also knew how to connect his inventions with the people. A popular story tells of how on his return from his travels, his fascination of everything French led to the invention of a sweet that resembled a layered French pastry aptly named ‘French Sweet’. Unfortunately it did not sell. Then in a flash of inspiration he renamed it Chandrahara after a popular movie of the same name that was running at the time and it was instantly treated as royalty by his patrons.

Yagnappa’s leadership has led MTR to many triumphant victories and along the way he instilled the core philosophy and that is integrity that encompasses all the aspects that exemplify MTR, be it food or conduct in business, emphasis is on ethics and fair play. In 1968, Yagnanarayana Maiya passed away and handed over the mantle to his nephew Harishchandra Maiya where the legacy still continues till date.

MTR is now serving up authentic South Indian Food in Malyasia with its first restaurant opening shortly in Kuala Lampur. To know more about the scrumptious food we have to offer visit http://mtrmalaysia.com/.

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