Food Friends! - Punarnavi Bhupalam and Rasvin Sawhney

Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach was right! And since it also applies to women, we put together a fun shoot for our special food issue with actress Punarnavi Bhupalam and a home-based baker, Rasvin Sawhney. While Punarnavi spills the beans about what she eats to stay in shape, Rasvin shares some tips on confections for those baking fanatics out there. Here you go…

Punarnavi Bhupalam

How did you get into acting?
It was just plain luck, I suppose. I finished my schooling, came back to Hyderabad and got myself into theatre and acting. I really loved directing and doing the backstage stuff while I was in Samhaara. My uncle and Virinchi Varma (director of my first movie, UyyalaJampala) are good friends, and one day, he simply called me to check if I’d be interested in his movie. I auditioned, got the role, and now here I am, shooting for your cover!

Tell us about your recent projects. Were your expectations fulfilled?
In the past few years, I’ve done projects like Pittagoda, Manasuku Nachindi, Enduko Emo and one more movie that’s yet to be titled. It was quite the journey! Coming from a family without any movie background, it was rough initially. But I got to learn from my experiences, and as a Telugu-speaking girl in the industry, it gave me a lot of scope to improve my acting skills. Although I did struggle a bit, my expectations were always high and positive.

Who’s your role model?
My role models are my grandmother and my mother. They’re two hard-working women who taught me that life can be tough but you need to become tougher.

Which film remake would you like to be part of?
Probably Sakhi. My 12-year-old self would be squealing right now.

What’s your dream role?
Wow, this question always gets me thinking. I was inspired by a lot of wonderful women in my childhood, and the most touching role was Sridevi in Aakali Rajyam. I don’t have a dream role as such, but this movie is really special to me.

What would you do if not for acting?
I would’ve become a mental health practitioner (psychologist)! I finished my bachelor’s in psychology with journalism and English literature, and I’ve always prioritised my education. But being part of plays and theatre is something that I really liked when I was in my teens.

What are your hobbies and interests?
My hobbies are mostly baking/cooking, dancing, reading, and playing badminton. I manage to play some video games, too. You’ll also find me watching docuseries for days in my room.

Do you follow any diet to stay in shape?
I am quite particular about what I eat and how much I eat; I don’t follow a specific diet but I watch what I eat. I mostly drink breakfast smoothies, take wheatgrass shots, and follow intermittent fasting. I take my supplements like collagen, vitamin E, and evening primrose oil every day. I run, play different kinds of sports, do pilates and a lot of yoga. All in all, I can say that I’m always active and moving.

What’s your comfort food?
I love food, and love eating different kinds of cuisines! My favourite is a combination of Mexican and Dominican food, and I’m a sucker for all kinds of spaghetti. I’m a wonderful cook myself; I managed to learn cooking Indian food, which is also my comfort food. I learnt cooking from my mom, and watching her cook is my favourite pastime!

What’s your beat cheat meal?
My best cheat meal is Indian street food and all kinds of sweets and sour candy. It’s all fun when I’m hogging some junk, and not so fun later when I feel really bloated!

Rasvin Sawhney

Tell us a bit about Pastel Baking Co.
Pastel Baking Co. is a home-based bakery that I operate out of my exclusive baking studio. A passion-driven profession, the idea is to create oven-fresh cakes, crafted with the finest quality ingredients from scratch. I specialise in cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cake jars.

What was the first thing you did after deciding to take the plunge into home baking?
I decided to take a year off and dedicate myself entirely to the process of learning baking on my own. I read a lot of baking blogs and books, watched endless videos, and practised them hands-on to simply understand the science behind baking, which involved trial and testing of various recipes. I also took a month-long icing course from White Lotus School in Pune to perfect my finishing skills.

Who inspired you to pursue baking professionally?
My biggest inspiration has always been Pooja Dhingra, the owner of Le15 patisserie in Mumbai, whose work has constantly motivated me to bring out my best on an everyday basis. She has achieved so much in the baking industry, beginning her journey in the field at a very young age. Being a woman entrepreneur herself, she has scaled major heights of success and proved what we are really capable of doing in the business world out there.

Who is your target customer base and why?
Cakes have a very wide client base since everybody loves cakes, and no birthday is complete without them. So I enjoy baking for every group, whether it’s parents ordering for their kids, youngsters for their loved ones, friends, or family.

What about marketing?
In the era of social media, Instagram surely takes credit for my medium of marketing. I try to keep my profile as updated as I can with drool-worthy cake pictures, behind the scenes videos and client reviews.

What are some of your signature products? What’s your personal favourite?
My signature products usually include all things chocolate – from rich ganache cakes to decadent fudgy brownies and cupcakes. The red velvet with luscious chocolate has a special fan base! I love playing around with added flavours of Nutella mousse, Ferrero Rochers, fresh fruits, and nutty caramel. The vanilla and fruit-based cakes are also bestsellers, blueberry being my personal favourite.

How good is the homemade cakes market for home bakers in the city?
Budding cake artists and bakers are in for a treat, as the home-based cake market has been expanding quickly of late. Also, there has been a shift in the ideology of a career to being more passion-oriented, pushing more talented people to follow the professional paths they were always meant to be on. The beauty of home-baked foods lies in the freshness of cakes, no preservatives, just classic baking ingredients and the added freedom to personalise the taste and appearance.

Please share some baking tips.
The basic baking tips include having a lot of patience while you bake, since baking is a complex process of blending many ingredients! Keep trying until you figure what works best. Always have your ingredients at room temperature and sift dry ingredients. Creaming butter and sugar religiously is where the magic begins. Give your cakes time to bake; opening oven doors while the cake is baking may cause it to sink. It is important to always use quality and fresh ingredients. A good pair of spatulas and whisks, a weighing scale, and parchment papers are also must-haves.      --- as told to Sumana

Photography: Harishankar Photography; Location: Feu - Dessert Bar; Makeup and Hair: Gazal Surana;
Clothes and Accessories: Archana Rao; Styling and Shoot Direction: Rubaina Bilgrami