Many immigrants give up successful, lucrative careers in their chosen fields to pursue their “American dream.” Juby George is just such a person.
Regular viewers of the TV show “Shark Tank” have seen and heard from countless would-be entrepreneurs, including many immigrants who gave up successful, lucrative careers in their chosen fields to pursue their “American dream,” despite countless personal and financial sacrifices and with no guarantee that starting over from scratch would work out.
Juby George, who recently opened Smell the Curry, Authentic Indian Food, in the Market at the Fareway, behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel, in June of this year, is just such a person (although he has never been on Shark Tank.) Born in Karla, South India, one of the country's few states with a Christian rather than Hindu majority, George at age 6 and his family moved to the U.S., where his father was able to find work in Detroit.
Years later, the family moved to Philadelphia, living in Olney and later in Frankford. George's father had an Indian grocery store near Olney High School, where George worked after school, mostly cutting fish and meat. “My dad did catering on the side,” George said. “He was a great cook, and I did a lot of cooking with my two sisters.”
Juby graduated from Lincoln High School in 1999, then worked a series of odd jobs while attending a business school in Northeast Philadelphia. Then he took a job as a computer programmer at a new start-up, the Red Nucleus Pharmaceutical Company in Lawrenceville, N.J., which later moved to Yardley in Bucks County, a one-hour commute for George. He remained there for 21 years and was a valued and respected member of the corporate team.
However, although he was one of the company's original 10 employees and liked his co-workers and his job and was able to provide for his family of five, something was lacking: passion.
“On the other hand,” George said last week, “I had become more and more passionate about cooking with my sisters. I got to love the process of cooking fast and started doing word-of-mouth catering. Small parties for friends, not just Indian people. I became confident in my cooking flavors.”
George finally quit his pharmaceutical job in November of 2021.
“I told the boss that cooking was a passion for me, and I just had to follow it,” George said. “He said he didn't like me leaving but did understand my passion. I still talk to him.”
Because of the pandemic, George, who has lived in Elkins Park for 18 years with his wife and children and her parents, began offering a monthly meal service. In October 2021, he saw a sign, “Vendor space available,” at the Flourtown Farmers Market. He followed up and opened a stall there in December of 2021, where he only does carry-out and family-size meals.
“But I always wanted to be in the farmers' market location in Chestnut Hill (Market at the Fareway). We'd come here after church on Sunday. I do all the cooking for both places. I signed a lease here (Chestnut Hill) in January and opened in June. The bureaucracy permit stuff took a long time. Here I sell a lot of thalis and dosa, a South Indian savory lentil crepe traditionally served with sambar and chutney.”
So far, customer reviews could not be more laudatory. According to Audrey Kaiser Rosen, “We just met Juby (Aug. 19) and had the pleasure of trying his amazing food at his new Chestnut Hill location. What a fantastic addition to the Market at the Fareway. Everything was so good, and we can’t wait to come back!”
Another customer, Naveen Ithikkat, said, “I tried a few items at Juby’s stall, which were excellent. He then did a fantastic job with my catering order customized to my taste. The guests loved it, too. Biryanis were my favorite. Highly recommend.”
George and his wife, Shireen, who was George's sister's best friend growing up in Logan, work running clinical trials for a pharmaceutical company and does Smell the Curry's social media. They have three children – Noah, 14, Aiden, 12, and Jordan, 9. “Shireen is also a great cook,” George said. “We both taught cooking classes at Abington Art Center for two years and loved it. I'd like to get into fine dining eventually.”
According to “Uncle” Ron Pete, who owns the Market at the Fareway with his wife, Abby, “Juby is a really nice guy with a very good product. It helps when the person behind the counter is a real personality person, and Juby is definitely that.”
Smell the Curry does a rotating menu, with 17 to 18 dishes weekly. They always have vegan and vegetarian dishes. They are open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.
For more information, call 267-422-6948 or visit smellthecurry.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com