She can’t help but steal a quick glance at the tray of cream cheese topped cupcakes sailing atop a baker’s head, as he makes his way to the industrial refrigerator that announces its presence with a gentle rumble every now and then. Once the steel tray is set in, she turns around to briefly inspect the plate in front of us, which is a riot of colours and sinful delights. Le15 Patisserie’s executive chef, Pooja Dhingra, leaves nothing to chance, everything is extensively planned and executed to perfection in this central kitchen; very much like the young entrepreneur’s business plan that she penned down at the age of 22. Right from the colours of her brand’s logo, the upholstery of the café, the items on the menu, the places she wanted to set up shop, to the publications she wanted to be featured in, the pastry chef had jotted it all down before she began.
Dhingra was a six-year-old when she became an informal apprentice to her aunt, who initiated her into the culinary art of baking. She soon added brownies, pastries and chocolates to her repertoire thanks to some inspiration from her mother, who ran a small business of homemade chocolates back then. Apart from the entrepreneurial spirit of her mother, Dhingra also had a chance to witness first-hand the business realities of the hospitality industry when she accompanied her father to the Mexican restaurant he co-owned. “Right from that time, I knew that I wanted to run a business of my own. As a child, I had already seen the risks involved but also the success,” says the owner of one of Mumbai’s finest patisserie chains.
Finding the right consistency
As a teenager, Dhingra would not only bake for herself but would also carry along treats to school for her classmates to sample. During her days at Bombay Scottish, she dreamt of opening a café of her own and all the incoherent scribblings by her friends in her yearbook are enthusiastic wishes for the future baker. “It was one of those cases, where everyone around you knew what you should be, except you,” she confides. While her affair with chocolate continued, she enrolled at law school after two years of studying comme