When I showed up at her kitchen in Elphinston, I was amazed. It was a fully equipped professional baker's kitchen. When she mentioned to me over the phone that she lives in her kitchen- I honestly thought she lives in her parent's kitchen baking. I had not comprehended the seriousness of her business. This charming, soft-spoken entrpreneur is all but 24 years old who went to cullinary school at the Cordon Bleu in Paris before moving back to India and opening her own Patisserie. The name Le 15 Patisserie represents her address is Paris. How charming. More so Pooja has a retail outlet in Worli and next week will open her second one at the Good Earth in Parel. Wonderful!
So why was she icing 3000 cupcakes you ask? Well for a charity event for Salman Khan- Being Human (oh yes! totally yummy). The cupcakes were going to be a thank you for coming kinda thing. As we hung out, I photographed her staff (around 5-6 people) and her all icing cupcakes, we talked a lot about food ideas, experiments, orgainic foods and ingredients. What I loved about her process was that every thing she baked was from scratch. Every ingredient was picked out so much so that the fruits that she uses are grown in local farms around Mumbai. Its the essence of her baking. Its why the passionfruit macaron tasted so amazing.
She even mentioned that in one of her interviews someone asked her what cake mix she uses for her sponge cake and she answered quizzically that she actually uses butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Makes sense why would you not make it from scratch if you are going to make the yummiest sponge cake.
As the evening went on, I watched her staff work quietly and efficiently making fresh icing for each batch of cupcakes, measuring the temperature of the cream, mixing in the ingredients and applying it on the cupcakes. They worked neatly and quickly. Even her dad dropped in to check on her. You could see how proud he was of his young daughter's accomplishments. She told me that he was the big factor where she was today- he always wanted her to be an independent entrepreneur, to take risks and to build herself up on those experiences.
I asked her what her work week was like - she worked in her kitchen 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. (On Friday when I was in the kitchen with her she intended to work late into the night and get back really early next morning). She gave her staff a day off, but she was there everyday. I suddenly felt really silly whining about coming to work one Saturday last month. She seemed incredibly calm for someone who had a huge event the next day catering for the likes of Salman Khan and opening a brand new outlet within a week. No frantic calls, no yelling, no Hell's Kitchen. Every one worked calmly and methodically. Occasionally she would tease her staff that they can't run away since I was taking their photos.
Pooja likes to experiment, using fruits and liquor. Her favourite new discovery was an apple amaretto macaron dedicated to her best friend (favourite drink I believe). What fun! We talked about more food experiments and why we loved what we did. We talked about possible collaborations and such.
Soon mom and dad came to pick me. I invited them in to see her kitchen. Clearly they were impressed. They tried her macarons (their first) and they were also in love. Mom and dad are always proud of young folks doing their own thing and showered Pooja with their blessing. I was also very proud of her. I was happy to be part of her process. And it was a delicious, gorgeous process. A complete joy to photograph.