A degree in both physics and pastry making… that is an interesting set of qualifications to have…
Yes, I was studying physics in Delhi University, when I changed my mind midway. I really still love physics but I couldn’t figure out a constructive career path.
So, how did you develop an interest in baking?
I was very attached to my grandmother and we would spend a lot of time watching cookery shows. We loved Nigella and Bobby Chin. I think they inspired me to cook. It was a great escape from my university coursework too. My mother had baked all along and a lot of my motivation came from her.
It is important for budding chefs to be very bold, be very expressive and not let people put you down. Sadly, it’s a male-dominated profession much like many others and it can be hard, so, you have to put in your best at all times.
-Chef Bani Nanda
How easy or difficult was it making a switch from studying physics to pursuing a career as a pastry chef?
It wasn’t very hard to be honest. My parents are very progressive. They believe in their children finding a career path for themselves that make them happy. It did startle them at first and they had many questions and concerns, but eventually they knew I had made up my mind. They wanted me to be fully guided and helped me pick the best culinary school there was. They also provided me with financial aid; I remember the expenses were skyrocketing at the time.
So, what are the requirements for being a pastry chef?
There are many ways of going about it. You can always join a professional kitchen by entering as an apprentice or intern. You can also do hotel management and they equip you with the necessary fundamentals.
You have a degree from La Cordon Bleu in pastry making… is there a school one can attend closer home for a professional degree in pastry making?
Of course, there are plenty of options like IHM Pusa, IICA, Academy of Pastry Arts and also Lavonne Academy. They’re all mostly in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Up until just a decade ago, chefs were largely people who worked in five-star hotels, but with the growing number and types of new outlets and restaurants, the art of cooking seems to have undergone a huge change…
Although many successful chefs started their careers with five-star hotels, they won’t deny that in today’s day and age, hotels are becoming somewhat passé, overpriced and old fashioned. Standalone places I feel are taking more risks, pushing things to the edge with experimentation and also contributing towards educating the consumer. I recently visited a pastry shop at a hotel and they had the same old classical style of cake making. I’m not denying the fact that economically it doesn’t work, and of course, there’s still a market that demands a classic fresh fruit cake, for example. But standalone restaurants and bakeries are the future of dining and many budding chefs are now beginning their careers working alongside newer establishments.
Miam has been a roaring success since it opened in 2015…
A lot of people ask me what I did and how I strategised my moves. I did nothing! I decided that I was sick of the run-down American style of baking (mostly cupcakes brownies and fondant cakes) and I decided to popularise French Entremets which are layered cakes. I went wild with flavour pairings and combinations without caring about what people want. I really had fun doing it. My edge was also my cake designs which weren’t available at that time in Delhi. People really embraced my vision and gave Miam a chance! My high points have been developing the best team any entrepreneur could dream of. I have three chefs with me—Navrup Sareen, Tejasvi Malik and Tanishq Jain. I have two managers Shireen Arora and Upasana Khanna. They are my backbone. In a span of eight months, my team went from a total of 3 to a total of 8!
Is there a creation you are particularly fond of?
I love the macaron recipe we have worked on. It’s not overtly sweet. I also love our Salted Caramel, I can eat spoons and spoons of it. There are some pairings we do that I love—for example, the Passion Fruit, Coconut & Kaffir Lime Cake.
Are you looking forward to learning something in the dessert business?
Of course, I want to enhance my tea time cake menu!
I want to learn different kinds of pound cakes!