Young, pretty, and vivacious, Neharika’s baking company, Piñata, is turning one soon. We caught up with this passionate pastry chef to get to know more about her foray into baking.
Your brand, Piñata, is celebrating a huge milestone soon. Hitting the one-year mark must be special. What’s the past year been like?
I’m a baker by profession with an eye for creativity, and my job makes me the happiest. What drives me is the sight of people enjoying what I make for them. I’ve always been the kind of person who gives my best to whatever comes my way, and I would say I’ve given my heart and soul to this. Piñata, my very own venture, is a concept I’ve moulded into what my customers would look for to celebrate happiness. I pursued baking from the Lavonne Institute of Baking Science, Bengaluru, which has first-class facilities and exceptional faculty. I feel one should live around things that excite them, and undoubtedly this is the one for me.
Your passion for baking is evident. Was this always your chosen path?
I was always passionate about baking and found it very fascinating. It’s a gripping concoction of chemistry, flavour and beauty. At the same time it’s challenging; product consistency and quality are the trickiest, because that’s what every customer rightly demands. That’s the great thing about cakes for me; they don’t feel like work. You forget about the work and that’s the magic right there! I believe my strength was my courage to take a leap of faith and finally pursue my passion beyond the mainstream career options. Like most of us, I became part of the rat race as well, and it took me a while to realise what I really want to do. And now that I’m into it, I finally feel like I’ve found my calling.
What is the USP of your brand?
I believe in delivering quality. This has definitely been the USP of my brand. Also, it’s something that is invariably expected by customers. They don’t measure you on how hard you tried; they measure you on what you deliver. Alongside using high quality ingredients, I also try to come up with new and fresh flavours.
What’s the one skill you wish you had developed earlier?
Like most chefs, my initial focus was on the taste and quality of my products, paying minimal attention to health aspects. But I’m glad that now I am skilled enough to take care of my customer’s dietary requirements and fat consumption, while still being able to satisfy their taste buds and cravings.
Speaking of that, is there really an option for health lovers who are watching their weight to enjoy some of your delicacies?
Being a certified fitness instructor and a weight watcher myself, I’m always looking for healthier options to indulge in. Sticking to a healthy eating plan is hard work, and if you’re limiting yourself beyond your happiness, then the good habits won’t last for long. This led me to transform the usual desserts into gluten-free and ketogenic-friendly versions. You can still eat dessert and enjoy it without sending yourself on a guilt trip!
How are people’s palates developing in their choices of bakery items?
In general, people have become more aware about the various trends in baking items across the world. This makes them more demanding of specialised desserts. There has been a lot of expansion in artisanal breads and plated desserts, since more people are able to appreciate this. They are moving away from general bakery products and are looking for people who have more customised products to offer. That’s what makes me realise the importance of creativity, because there are only so many flavours and it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.
So what’s next for you?
I want to open a café soon, and get into customised cakes and desserts. At the same time, I am also looking to expand to other cities like Bengaluru. ---- as told to Suneela