Monday, 7 January 2013

The Sugar Artist

As a country we have always been attracted by the western ways, their fashion, lifestyle, music and food. With increased exposure over the years, we have seen a shift in our tastes from Indian cuisines to foreign ones, from parathas to pizzas, from tea to coffee and so on. Gone are the days when you celebrated festivals only with Indian sweetmeats (ladoo, pedha etc.), today we have moved to chocolates and cakes. It’s no wonder how popular they have become, given the way they are being marketed. Some are trying to push chocolates by saying ‘Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye’, while others are teaching the art of chocolate making so that people can add a little sweetness to their otherwise bland lives. Discovering Mumbai features Rakesh Saini, a chocolatier, sugar artist and founder of ‘32 DegreeStudio’.

Rakesh Saini

Rakesh had interesting experiences with many things before he got down to making chocolates and cakes. Having spent seven years in London; he went there to learn IT but ended up in retail instead. “I had completed my course but then I realized that IT was not my cup of tea”, says Rakesh. He opted to join Marks and Spencer as a retail manager. He met his wife in London and they got married in the year 2004. The economic recession of 2008 made him take the decision of moving back to India.

While in London, he always dreamt of doing something in the food and beverage industry, though he was not too sure, what it exactly was. He wanted to start a cafĂ© in London but found it to be expensively prohibitive. “In London the best thing in F&B is something related to meat, but being a vegetarian I was not too keen on getting into that line”, says Rakesh. One could pursue a vegetarian venture in certain pockets of London like Wembley, a Gujarati dominated area, but Rakesh wanted to pursue a business, which could be exercised anywhere in the world. One fine morning he woke up with a voice in his head that told him to get into chocolates; and so began his journey.

The initial decision to get into chocolate was through certain attachments in London and enrolling in a professional course in Bangalore. This was further seconded with the idea of getting certified through an internationally renowned body such as Ecole (California) so as to be attested as a fine chocolatier.  With his wife already being proficient in certain bakery items, he thought of entering into cake decoration (sugar craft) and combining it with confectionery. Thereafter, he picked up sugar crafting skills in London.

With prospects of cake and confectionery being bright, both retail and teaching seemed lucrative. So, Rakesh decided to launch 32 Degree Studio.

Always excited by the prospect of sharing his knowledge with others, Rakesh decided to start courses in sugar art and cakes along with his business i.e. 32 Degree Studio. I feel that teaching others improves your own skills, because to teach someone you have to ensure that you stay on top of your game”, says Rakesh. Another reason to start training people was that the knowledge of fondant or sugar craft cakes and coverture (pure) chocolates is at a fairly nascent stage and therefore, the scope of growth is humongous. Recent years have seen a rise in aspirations of people and the middle class has now started shelling upwards of 2,000 rupees for kilogram of designer cake. “Earlier there was a apprehension to spending so much on cakes, for most of the families local community bakery shops were good enough to fulfil their needs”, says Rakesh.

Making designer cakes weighing several kilograms is definitely a challenge. “For the large cakes we have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)”, says Rakesh. This ensures that neither party can go back on their words, something essential, when there is so much time and money at stake. So, it’s not only making the cake that takes time, people take up a lot of time in discussing and finalizing their cake too. “Some families contact me one month in advance of their child’s birthday!” says Rakesh.

Rakesh is gearing up to take 32 Degree Studio to the next level. Plans are to start retail operations soon, the website is almost ready. On the training front he is planning to start online tutorials, which will help spread this art to more people, by making it economically feasible. “Most of the basic videos on the online tutorial will be free of charge”, says Rakesh. The idea to have free tutorials is to help individuals to decide, whether or not they are ready for such courses. Theme based designs at more affordable prices are also in the offering to meet hobbyist needs. So is the plan to launch cupcakes.

32 Degree Studio is bristling with a lot of new ideas and plans right now. We hope Rakesh and 32 Degree Studio will help add a little sweetness to the lives of us Mumbaikars.

You can check out the whole range of exciting courses and services at 32 Degree Studio website.
You can also follow them on Facebook

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