The Locavore has gathered over six lakhs for The Tamarind Tree School in Maharashtra
The Locavore has gathered over six lakhs for The Tamarind Tree School in MaharashtraChef Thomas Zacharias

Chef Zac On 'The Locavore' Turning 2 With A Sustainable Cause

Chef Thomas Zacharias' 'The Locavore' has garnered over six lakhs for The Tamarind Tree School in Maharashtra, a centre of quality education for tribal children, setting an example of 'learning with sustainability'

Chef Thomas Zacharias' passion for indigenous cuisines led him to open 'The Locavore' in 2022. In what is now touted as a "food revolution," Zacharias' venture has helped him reach out to tribal communities and blend their culinary legacy in contemporary cuisines to offer the urban milieu a taste of regional flavours.

Ahead of its second anniversary, The Locavore initiated a fundraising campaign for a tribal school in Maharashtra known for its nutritional meal program. Surrounded by chikoo orchards in Dahanu, the Tamarind Tree School is a centre of quality education for tribal children and integrates the teaching experience with nutritional meals, setting an example of "learning with sustainability."

With a menu extending beyond the western belt, kids are offered diverse foods like idlis and dosas, which are new to many. When The Locavore partnered with the school in 2022, they were impressed to see its dynamic classroom, which curates learning with practical exposure by engaging kids in meal preparation. "This innovative approach to education, where the student's well-being is considered holistically, aligns perfectly with The Locavore's mission to support sustainable, community-based food systems," the chef told us.

Amid the ongoing fundraising campaign, Chef Zacharias spoke to OT on how their collaborative efforts have helped them garner over six lakh rupees for the school, ensuring that it continues to empower the marginalised and act as more than a meal provider.

Excerpts from the interview:

The Tamarind Tree School in Maharashtra
The Tamarind Tree School in MaharashtraThomas Zacharia

How do you describe 'The Locavore,' and why is it essential in today's culinary landscape?


As a concept, 'The Locavore' traditionally refers to consuming food grown locally as much as possible. However, at The Locavore, we've broadened this definition to encompass a more holistic approach. Being a locavore means choosing locally sourced ingredients and being profoundly conscious and responsible towards our environment and the communities around us. It's about being rooted in the local—valuing and preserving our culinary heritage while actively contributing to the sustainability of our planet and the well-being of local producers.

In today's culinary landscape, this expanded locavore philosophy is more crucial than ever. As the world becomes increasingly globalised, the food journey from farm to plate has grown longer, often disconnecting us from the source of our meals. By consuming locally, we ensure that we eat fresher, reduce our carbon footprint, and support the biodiversity vital for a healthy ecosystem.


Please tell us about the Tamarind initiative. What motivated you to choose the Tamarind Tree School for philanthropy?


The Tamarind initiative, at its heart, is driven by a profound understanding that education and nutrition are two pillars essential for nurturing a sustainable future. This belief is not just theoretical but is something I see as a tangible pathway to empower communities, especially those in rural settings.

Tamarind Tree School stood out for its unwavering commitment to providing open-access, quality education to the children of the Warli tribe in Dahanu, Maharashtra. However, their holistic approach, integrating nutritional meals into the educational framework, truly resonated with me. In a region where malnutrition can be a barrier to learning, the school ensures that every child receives wholesome meals, thereby directly enhancing their capacity to learn and grow.

This innovative approach to education, where the student's well-being is considered holistically, aligns perfectly with The Locavore's mission to support sustainable, community-based food systems.What further motivated my decision to support Tamarind Tree School through our philanthropic efforts was the school's philosophy that mirrors The Locavore's ethos: the understanding that local resources—be it food, culture, or educational content—can and should be leveraged to empower communities.

The Tamarind Tree School in Maharashtra
The Tamarind Tree School in MaharashtraChef Thomas Zacharia

Can you elaborate on the significance of Tamarind Tree School as a symbol of open-access, quality education for the Adivasi community and how it intersects with sustainability principles?


Tamarind Tree School embodies a pioneering approach to education that harmonises open-access, quality learning with sustainability, particularly for the Adivasi community. This educational model respects and integrates the community's rich cultural heritage while promoting environmental stewardship. By weaving sustainability principles into its curriculum, the school empowers students with the knowledge and practical skills necessary for sustainable living. This not only preserves the Adivasi traditions but also prepares students to make informed decisions that benefit their community and the environment.


What specific challenges or needs does the Tamarind Tree School face in providing nutritional meals to its students?


Tamarind Tree School faces several challenges in its mission to provide nutritious meals to its students. The primary hurdle is the ongoing struggle to secure consistent funding needed to sustain the nutritional program. The financial aspect of ensuring every meal is both nutritious and high-quality is substantial, given the school's commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients that support health and the environment.

Addressing this, we've embarked on a multifaceted strategy to tackle the funding challenge head-on. First, we're leveraging social media and other platforms to raise awareness about the importance of the school's meal program, highlighting nutrition's critical role in educational outcomes. By sharing stories from the school and the impact of these meals on students' health and learning, we aim to connect with potential donors on an emotional level.

Furthermore, we're actively seeking partnerships with organisations and businesses that align with our sustainability and community empowerment values.

Chef Thomas Zacharia started 'The Locavore' in 2022
Chef Thomas Zacharia started 'The Locavore' in 2022Thomas Zacharia

Could you provide insights into the strategies that helped you raise over three lakh rupees to support the Tamarind Tree School and its children? How do you plan to utilise these funds?


Our approach hinged on two core strategies: compelling storytelling and active community engagement. We delved deep into the narratives of the school, its mission, and the tangible differences our initiatives have made. By bringing these stories to the forefront, we tapped into the power of empathy, allowing potential donors to see the direct impact of their contributions on the lives of the children.

Social media was instrumental in amplifying our message. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook served not just as tools for dissemination but as spaces for dialogue, enabling us to build a community of supporters who are deeply invested in the cause.

Regarding utilising the funds, transparency and accountability are not just operational policies but the foundation of Tamarind Tree's guiding principles. Every rupee we've been fortunate to raise through the generosity of our donors is allocated to directly benefit the nutritional program at the heart of the school's mission. Their commitment is to ensure that these funds are utilised in ways that have the most significant impact on our students' health and education.

Separately, we're thrilled to share that, through dedicated efforts and the support of a CSR fund from a leading tech company, we've successfully raised an additional six lakhs earmarked explicitly for school salaries.

Students are offered a variety of meals at the Tamarind Tree School
Students are offered a variety of meals at the Tamarind Tree

Looking ahead, what are your plans and aspirations for The Locavore and your ongoing initiatives for climate change awareness?


This financial year marks a significant turning point for The Locavore as we embark on an exciting phase of diversification and expansion. We're introducing a new Organization Partnership Program to foster collaborations with like-minded entities committed to sustainability and positive change. This program will enable us to pool resources, knowledge, and networks, amplifying our collective impact.

In addition to this strategic partnership initiative, we'll kickstart 3-4 new social impact projects in different parts of the country that promise to extend The Locavore's reach and deepen our engagement with communities. These projects are at the heart of our mission, each uniquely designed to address specific aspects of sustainability, from promoting local food systems to advancing climate change awareness.

This year, we're keen on literally and metaphorically taking The Locavore mission to new territories. We're expanding geographically and exploring new realms of influence, from policy advocacy to community education, ensuring that our impact resonates far and wide. Our aspiration for The Locavore is to catalyse widespread sustainable change, creating a ripple effect that encourages communities globally to embrace practices that support a healthier planet.

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