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South Valley Journal

Culinary guru Lavanya Mahate building nonprofit to share skills with refugees, underprivileged youth

Apr 03, 2022 05:22PM ● By Michael J. Jewkes

In founder Lavanya Mahate’s absence, the Mahate family accepts Business of the Year Award in last month’s Peak Awards Ceremony. (Riverton City)

By Michael J. Jewkes | [email protected]

Riverton is home to many well-run businesses. But only one takes home the Business of the Year award each year. This year, that business was Saffron Circle located at 4594 W. Partridgehill Lane in Riverton’s Mountain View Village.

At this year’s Peak Awards ceremony, many awards were given for many successful local businesses, but one sticks out of the pile.

“We moved here from India. We moved here as a family,” Lavanya Mahate said, founder of Saffron Circle. Mahate was unable to accept the award herself due to a business trip to London last month; however, she was glad to receive the award. “We feel grateful and very, very blessed to…share our food and culture with the local people who have been nothing but so warm and welcoming,” Mahate added.

Shortly after being married, Lavanya and her husband Lakshmi left India for a job opportunity in Salt Lake City. While her husband has worked as a software engineer, Mahate has successfully built a well-liked culinary business with multiple locations. Beginning in South Jordan, the restaurant has expanded to locations in Sugar House, Downtown Salt Lake City, the U of U campus and Riverton.

Mahate’s success came from humble beginnings. “I started with a line of spice blends which I sold at the farmer's market in Salt Lake City, then the restaurant came about,” Mahate said.

“I had a background in business,” Mahate told the City Journals. Beginning with a degree in marketing, Mahate worked for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce for over six years as both a marketing manager and program director.

Following her time in the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Mahate moved on to starting her business with the help of her family. “We are a family run business, so I started the first Saffron Valley Restaurant in 2011,” Mahate said. “Two years later the second one. The third one in 2017 and Riverton in 2019!”

Expanding the business has not been easy, bringing many challenges such as a global pandemic that hit the food industry particularly hard. This, among other difficulties, was nothing the Mahate family could not handle. “You always have challenges,” Mahate said. “There were many challenges along the way, but there’s always a solution.”

Mahate has not done it all alone. Her family has been supportive during the entrepreneurial ride the restaurants have been. Saffron Circle has become a large part of the Mahate family. Lakshmi, Lavanya’s husband, helped found the restaurant. According to Lavanya, “…he quit his job…to be full-time at the restaurants.”

As for the future, Mahate foresees using her success to give back by building a nonprofit. Mahate says the nonprofit will “provide free culinary training to refugees and underserved youth.” This comes in response to a growing issue of a lack of trained personnel in the culinary arts.

The nonprofit is called Saffron Kitchen and is already in the process of getting up and running. Mahate told the Journals “…it’s there for the community to reach out to people who love to cook but maybe don’t have means to go to culinary school. And also, to place them at restaurants that are needing people.”

The nonprofit is currently accepting online donations. More information on the upcoming kitchen project is available on social media under the ‘culinary school’ link at the restaurant’s website saffronvalley.com.

Based in Sugar House, Mahate hopes the kitchen will be fully established in abou