INTRODUCTION: Mandakini Gupta started off wanting to be a journalist. After a course at the Asian College of Journalism in 2003, she joined NDTV.
Mandakini spent 7 years as a TV journalist; first with NDTV and then CNN IBN. She worked on special features with senior editors like Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagorika Ghose. As enviable as her professional life sounds, clearly it was not enough for Mandakini. So she took a step that would confound most people. She quit her steady job and traded her camera and microphone for spatulas and ovens.
CHASING YOUR PASSION:
Mandakini says her earliest memory is of making “deconstructed lemon tarts” in school but the filling would never set, so it had to be scooped into the shell and eaten. The passion for cooking was always there, but baking specifically became a calling even though until five years back she confesses she couldn’t even bake a simple chocolate cake!
But once the bug bit her, she decided to chuck her lucrative TV journalism job and start at the very bottom, a move that most others would have shied away from. She explains her decision to move on from a paycheck to a passion, stating that she took the step only after careful consideration. She says “it took a lot of thinking and planning, and proving to myself that this is what I really wanted to do: which meant actually going and working in a professional kitchen as an intern before I was convinced that I loved baking enough to work 12 hours a day in a kitchen and still feel happy. Only when I knew that I was capable of doing this, did I quit my TV job.”
She got an internship at the Park Hotel in Delhi and spent hours on her feet, scrubbing filthy fridges and learning the basic skills required to become a pastry chef. She then worked at Indigo Fine Dining and Indigo Deli in Mumbai. She then decided against the usual course of going to Le Cordon Bleu in France like most other pastry chefs. As Mandakini puts it, “I don’t know French so what’s the point? I had no money to go to a culinary institute that charges 50 lakhs a year for a course.” She instead worked at WD50 in New York and also did a basic foundation course in Bread and Pastry Techniques at the French Culinary Institute in New York. She came back to India to work again with L'Opera in Delhi to hone her skills as a pâtissier before starting her maiden venture: Smitten Bakery & Patisserie.
SMITTEN WITH SEA SALT AND CHOCOLATE!
As Mandakini puts it, she loves anything with sea salt and chocolate. No surprises then her hallmark at Smitten is the salted caramel tart, the dark chocolate sea-salt cookies and the lemon poppy-seed cakes which are usually sold fresh off the oven. In the last three years, working from her own kitchen with just a domestic help and the support of her journo husband, she has grown from just ten orders a week and baking for friends to now a loyal and dedicated clientele of hundreds of customers. The most high profile client was the Shahid Kapur and Mira Rajput wedding in Delhi, when she made a hundred handmade artisanal chocolates that had celeb guests like Supriya Pathak gushing and enquiring about Smitten!
Mandakini advises others considering the same path to their passion, to start small and value client feedback, and only use the best ingredients like she does - be it chocolates from abroad, passion fruit and raspberries from France or lemons from her parents’ farm.
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Quotes sourced from: YourStory
Image Credits: cdn3.yourstory
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