When I look back sometimes I can’t believe that it has been two years since I decided to take the big plunge and enter the uncertain but exciting world of business. My family tells me I am the first entrepreneur in the family and that is both great to hear and a heavy responsibility to shoulder!
The seeds of my career in the food industry started at the age of three or four, when I pottered around in the kitchen where my grandmother prepared endless, delicious meals for us. Coincidentally, the school I went to also had a monthly cooking class where even students as young as six or seven were introduced to making snacks, under the supervision of a teacher. That further piqued my interest in food and the art behind it.
Fast forward to my college days doing my degree in Mass Media from Sophia College and I discovered that they had a polytechnic which had a course in pastry in the evenings that I instantly enrolled for. By then I already had a huge fondness for sweets. A big part of the holidays with my parents was about stopping by at various dessert places and trying out different types of desserts. In the middle of my Mass Media degree I realised that I wanted to be a pastry chef and make my own desserts and so, I signed up to study the art and craft of pastry at the iconic French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu (LCB). I was lucky to have parents who bought into the idea immediately, even though it was tough for them financially to send me to London for the course, but mom has always been a believer that we all deserve to follow our dreams.
In the middle of my Mass Media degree I realised that I wanted to be a pastry chef and make my own desserts and so, I signed up to study the art and craft of pastry at the iconic French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu (LCB).
LCB was tough but very, very exciting and we learnt everything from how to keep the kitchen platform clean, to cracking eggs perfectly to tempering chocolate. To learn from the French masters was a great thing.
Setting up Parisserie
Back from London, I worked with a wonderful group of women who ran their own little baking studio in Mumbai but somewhere at the back of my mind, I wanted to create something of my own, design pastry the way my heart told me to. The thought gnawed away at my insides. It was at this point that I met with my future business partner, Farah, who I had worked with briefly and we decided to pool in our talent to start our own venture. It has been almost two years since we set up Parisserie, a place in Mumbai where we make French pastry, entremets and desserts. It was a dream come true when two months ago Parisserie started its first café inside a stylish store in Khar.
Being an Entrepreneur
It has been incredibly tough, the last two years, because small businesses struggle for working capital, find suppliers to supply good quality ingredients and dependable talent. Pooling our hard work and talent was the easy part – the tougher part was getting everything together – equipment, vendors, sourcing, and most of all, recipes that would stand the test of time. And, we had to make sure we build up a customer base who will keep coming back for more of our goodies.
Pooling our hard work and talent was the easy part – the tougher part was getting everything together – equipment, vendors, sourcing, and most of all, recipes that would stand the test of time.
Thankfully for us, we already have a growing list of customers who are hooked to our products because of not just quality but also the fact that we bring to the table desserts that our clients are used to during their travels in different parts of the world. The journey of Parisserie began with our shared fascination with the French tradition of pastry and baking and our focus is on presenting a range of entremets where the play of myriad textures and complementing flavours takes centre stage.
Our determination to use only the purest ingredients and our ability to cater to specialised requirements of customers, be it Gluten and lactose-free products or simply a very specific flavour profile they like, has helped us find repeat customers.
What keeps me motivated
What keeps me motivated is my conversations with some of the greatest pastry chefs of the world. On a trip to New York with my mom a few years ago, I had the rare opportunity to meet Dominique Ansel, the iconic French chef who created waves around the world with the Cronut – a decadent, scrumptious cross between a donut and a croissant, that is now being copied the world over. Listening to him talk about his days spent in relative poverty as a child and his extraordinary and tough journey to take center stage in the pastry world has been a constant source of inspiration for me.
In Manhattan, we also met Bobbie Lloyd, the celebrated baker who made cupcakes all the rage across the city with her Magnolia Bakery. Afterwards, we walked into Eileen’s Cheesecakes, a wonderful bakery in lower Manhattan where Eileen, who has been baking since the seventies, has customers eat out of her hands with her range of decadent cheesecakes. The diminutive woman is a towering figure when it comes to the rankings of chefs in the city and I came away dazzled by her enthusiasm and passion.
Mom insists that the best way to learn is from simply observing and listening to the stories of people. I have had the good fortune of meeting legends such as chef Sriram Aylur, the brain behind the award-winning Quilon and chef Atul Kochhar of the famed Benares, both in London, both of who have another thing in common: an unwavering dedication to their chosen path.
Mom insists that the best way to learn is from simply observing and listening to the stories of people.
These days I have to often remind myself to remain dedicated and in love with my work when I am sleep deprived and bone weary. But when someone writes a Thank You note saying how much joy our cake brought them, it is great motivation to better ourselves. Persistence and perseverance is the key. And the determination to never be pulled down or demoralised by the naysayers. I have made it only because I believe in myself.
Picture Credit: Nayantara Thomas
Nayantara Thomas is the co-founder of Parisserie, a Mumbai-based patisserie cloud kitchen known for its gourmet, French-style entremets, cakes and pastries.