This summer I had the fortune of meeting the macaron queen of India- Pooja Dhingra, while I was in Bombay. It was a normal four day vacation which became super special when Pooja Dhingra invited me to her studio. We discussed patisseries, took selfies and ate macarons, cupcakes and brownies from Le 15 Patisserie. When I asked her to let me interview her, the ever so generous Pooja instantly said yes. Being down to earth and rooted is one of the many things one can learn from her.
Shivesh, you are such an inspiring and talented person. I am amazed every time I see your Instagram page. I wish you the very best for your future, which I’m sure will be super bright and full of frosting!
Much love, Pooja
1) What is your earliest memory in the kitchen? How did you start baking?
My earliest baking memory is of making brownies with my aunt when I was 6 years old. I was always interested in baking and grew up watching my mom and aunt making delicious goodies! It became a part of my childhood.
2) When did you decide that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life?
I think somewhere I always knew I wanted to do this but I took the final decision when I was 19 and living in Switzerland.
3) How was your experience of being trained in Switzerland and Paris? Any interesting memories that you'd want to share with my readers?
I studied hospitality from Switzerland and then studied in one of the most prestigious baking schools, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. My experience was absolutely wonderful and I loved every minute of it. Staying and working in Switzerland and Paris, I got the opportunity to meet some amazing people and it changed the way I think and made me a different person. My happiest memories are just walking around Paris with my friends and trying different patisseries.
4) How difficult was it to build your own business from scratch? Tell us something about Le 15 Patisserie. How did you come up with this name?
I started out with an initial funding from my family 5 years ago. Ever since then, I have been on my own. The business funds itself to grow. We are now looking at getting investors on board so we can grow faster.
The idea of Le15 was born when I was still living in Paris. It is then that I tasted my first macaron and was completely in love. I decided that I wanted to bring the macaron and make it popular in India. Le15 gets its name from the 15tharrondisement or neighbourhood in Paris. That’s where I lived, that’s where my school is situated and it felt like home for a year. I wanted to translate that feeling and make it tangible with my brand.
5) You started Le 15 Patisserie when you were 23. You were on Forbes India’s prestigious 30 under 30 list in 2014. You have also authored the popular cook book-The Big Book of Treats. Now when you look back, what do you think is your biggest achievement?
Every little thing makes me happy. I work extremely hard and put in all my sweat and blood in every thing I do. So when something works out the way I envisioned it to, that makes me most happy and proud. I think writing a book that so many people can relate to and that is helping them launch their own careers is a big source of pride for me.
6) What is the best part of being a pastry chef? What advice would you give to my readers who plan to take up baking as a career?
The best part is that you have the ability to imagine and create some amazing things. You get to work with your hands and see people enjoy your creations, which to me is the most enjoyable part!
My advice to budding chefs is to first make sure that this is what they want to do – do some research, speak to people, get an internship and then if you’ve decided to go for it, enjoy the ride!
7) What are your thoughts on the pastry culture in the country?
It has evolved so much just in the last 5 years. The Indian audience is more open to trying new and innovative desserts, and this is encouraging pastry chefs to experiment with new flavours and textures and offer something entirely new.
8) Lastly, where do you see yourself and your patisserie 10 years from now?
Hopefully in many more cities in the world!