French macarons, tarts, pies, meringues, cookies and more—desserts surely put a smile on everyone’s face. Jaipur-based Chef Tejasvi Chandela has been bringing this joy for almost seven years now with her Jaipur bakery, Dzurt Patisserie. Along with running a business successfully, she is also a social media influencer whose feed is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets.
Chef Chandela has also hosted the show The Baker’s Table and has been a part of the second season of Gary Mehigan’s Masters of Taste with Chef Gary Mehigan.
My Kolkata caught up with Chef Tejasvi to know all about her baking journey, her inspirations and how she has been successfully running her own bakery…
What was your introduction to the world of baking?
It all began when I started following Nigella Lawson's show on TLC as a kid. I absolutely fell in love with her and would watch each episode obsessively. There was very little I knew about baking back then. She introduced me to the world of pavlovas, trifles and cheesecakes. Once my love for baking started, there was no looking back. I used to stand in my kitchen for hours, trying out different cakes and pastries, and slowly evolved to become a pastry chef.
What was your experience like working at the Trident, Gurgaon?
It was interesting, I definitely understood the industry a lot better—the long working hours that one has to put in on a daily basis, sacrificing major festivals and holidays to serve the guests. However, I also realised how male-dominated the industry was back then. It opened my eyes to the fact that I wanted to do something on my own. Generally speaking, most chain hotels are fixated on a certain kind of bakery and pastry menu, and until and unless you reach a certain level in the hierarchy, you don't really get to innovate and experiment with your creative skills.
What I really learnt was how to get organised in a commercial kitchen set-up and how to organise production on a daily basis along with mass production.
You studied at the most esteemed culinary school in the world—Le Cordon Bleu, Paris—tell us about your experience there.
Where do I even begin? Le Cordon Bleu taught me so much, not just from a chef’s perspective but also from life's perspective! From owning all the pastry skills to making new friends, every time I think about those days it brings a smile to my face. I learnt from my friends who came from different walks of life but shared the same love for food as me. Walking around the streets of Paris was an education in itself as I got the opportunity to explore some of the best patisseries in the world. There's inspiration all around you, you just have to observe and let it all sink in!
You established your own brand after your time in Paris. What were the challenges you faced initially?
The challenges were varied and on different levels. I was all of 22 when the thought of opening my brand, Dzurt Patisserie, crossed my mind. Even though I had completed my B.Sc in Business and Management from the Royal Holloway University of London, there is no business school that can teach you how to run your own business in India.
I kind of had to unlearn everything that I was taught there to finally figure out how to run my own bakery. Be it communicating with construction workers and refusing to be treated like a child, or building a solid team. Today, with the utmost pride, I can say that even after nine years my team members remain the same!
The next challenge was to build a menu that the people of my city would resonate with considering we were the first patisserie of its kind in the town. The main challenge started after I opened Dzurt when I realised that 70% of my city wanted eggless pastry!
You own three brands— Dzurt Patisserie and Cafe, All Things Chocolate and Cut Chocolate Cake—can you please tell us about the inception of each of these brands?
I started Dzurt Patisserie in 2013 to fulfil my sheer love for pastry. I wanted Jaipur to have a stand-alone patisserie where I bring them into a world that they have not witnessed before! The funda was simple, the pastries had to be comforting, tasty, sometimes experimental and gorgeous to look at.
All Things Chocolates came about when my business partner, Kuhu Kocharv reached out to me. Together we wanted to start a chocolate brand which was a celebration of art every day. Here we try to translate inspiration into a box encasing divine chocolate goodness. Our chocolates draw inspiration from tales of your favourite city, colour, flowers or even the best part of your day. Our muses in cocoa change with each new experience that gets reflected in all new flavours that are launched every few months.
Cut Chocolate Cake, while I wouldn't really call it a stand-alone venture, it is a studio kitchen where I host workshops both online and offline, and shoot content for social media.
What was it like getting trained in making chocolate from Escuela de Pastelería del Gremio de Barcelona (EPGB), Spain?
Spain brought bean-to-bar chocolate making into my life in a real way. It also opened many doors for understanding modern pastry and being introduced to the most talented chefs in the world. What is surreal to me is that now I go to EPGB as a guest chef to give workshops! I absolutely love Spain, the food, culture, architecture and of course the people.
You share a number of recipes on social media, how do you create these recipes? What is your inspiration?
I get inspired by different things during different phases but for the recipes, I like to share my technical knowledge with the people who follow me. For example, I have recently started my IG series called #Spongseries. It is a great way for people to learn sponges from different parts of the world using different techniques. The same series will then progress into fillings and frostings, tarts, choux pastry and so on and so forth. The idea is for it to be a mini pastry learning platform for pastry and baking enthusiasts!
How difficult is it to create content for social media and manage three brands all while maintaining a work-life balance?
The honest and most obvious answer is that it’s very difficult but very important for people like me in order for people to notice our work. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On some days it’s a lot of fun to create content and put it out there for people to enjoy but there are days when you are not inspired to put anything at all!
Having said that, I now have dedicated days to create content for all social media platforms and I don't like to overload people with my content. If I am feeling it, I will upload it, if I am not feeling it, I won't. I don't let it dictate my day, week, month or year!
What advice would you give to young women who want to make their mark in the hospitality and culinary world?
Have clarity on what you want to be and prepare yourself for long shifts. Develop patience as there really are no shortcuts in this industry or any other. The key to success, in the long run, is to be consistent. Don't shy away from taking risks and pushing boundaries. Most of all, work on sharpening your skill set every day.
How important do you think it is to make Instagram-worthy desserts? Does that add or take away from the charm of the pastry?
I think it’s very important to put out aesthetically pleasing images on Instagram or any other platform. I don't think it takes away from the charm of pastry, rather it enhances the beauty of a pastry that you have worked hard on creating. I'm not saying add filters or use editing software to make your pastry look super perfect. All I'm saying is to shoot it in good lighting and have a fair amount of knowledge on how to shoot from different angles.
Rapid fire on Chef Tejasvi’s favourites
Which is your favourite dessert to bake?
Nothing beats a simple tea cake!
Which is your favourite dessert to eat?
It keeps changing but currently an Eclair, also known as choux pastry
Which are your favourite ingredients to work with?
Apart from the staples, I love citrus fruits and spices
Which kitchen tool or equipment can you absolutely not do without?
Stand mixer and palette knife
Which baking technique or trend do you think is a classic and can never be replaced?
That’s a really difficult one, but if I had to pick one, it would be Italian meringue