Oliver Mirza, with his German-Indian upbringing is no stranger to food. In fact, he loves it. “My grandmother was a chef in Strasbourg and my Indian father ensured that I was exposed to different kinds of food at all times. The aroma of herbs and spices always hung around and we experimented with lots of flavours and cuisines back then,” Mirza recalls. He even worked as a confiseur and chocolatier as a teenager. Later, he decided to follow his passion for food with his career as a nutritionist (“not the kind who advice”). Mirza completed his Masters at St. Joseph’s University where he learnt to channel his love of food for product development and marketing.
Having spent his time at Heinz’s honey division, he moved on to Dr Oetker for a year before shifting to Barilla in 2000. Sometime in 2008, he joined Dr Oetker once again to help develop its India division. He then moved here with his wife and four children. But, he wanted the kind of upbringing for them that he had as a child. “We’re the size of an Indian household,” he laughs. “I was surrounded by nature as a child. Here too, we have quite a few animals as pets including geese, rabbits and goats. We use the goats’ milk to make cheese. It’s one of the best ways to also get the kids to join me for some family time,” he explains.
Besides goat cheese, he also makes delicious chocolates for occasions. He says, “Apart from the traditional Christmas chocolates, I guess chocolates are also a great reward for when you just need a treat. I also make gingerbread houses with my kids and know how to make truffles, rum balls and the likes. It gives me a chance to involve the children as they love mixing the chocolate. I took the kids along to make chocolates for the office. It was quite fun.”
While India’s tropical weather and his ridiculously packed schedule doesn’t always allow him to make the chocolates and cheese as and when he pleases, he still thinks that the knowledge has helped the R&D side of his job at Dr Oetker. “When I was studying, one of the courses involved building on your sensory perception. I am always available at tasting sessions at work as well depending on the profile of our buyers. In India, for example, we have realised that balancing tastes such as khatti and meethi are important for the buyer. So, knowing this helps to identify the ingredients and find out what is missing.”
So, is he ready to be Willy Wonka just yet? “Right now, the business at Dr Oetker is a priority. Everyone asks me why I don’t start my own business. But, scaling up a hobby like a business is not as easy. Maybe when I have a plan, I will consider it.”