Pushing Her Creative Boundaries

In the recent past, Bakery Review had an interesting interaction with Rehana Parveen, the Pastry Chef, The St.Regis Mumbai. In her present tenure, she is handling a team of 22 in the hotel’s pastry and bakery sections, which she is heading.

Earlier she has had worked with Pullman, Dubai, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park, Holiday Inn Resort Goa. Menu design and engineering, detailed analytical skills, time, money and manpower management, training, mentoring and team building are some of her professional strengths.

The interaction provided many new insights on the nature and prevailing trends in India’s bakery and confectionery industry. The excerpts of the interview follow:

What induced you to take up baking and pastry making as a profession?

I became Pastry Chef by an accident rather than by choice. From there on I got hooked to pastry making and bakery because of their scientific and artistic dimensions. I find work in this realm to be therapeutic for me.

Briefly describe the creative joys and challenges of your career. What is/are the aspect/s you enjoy the most in your present job?

The biggest creative joy in my profession comes when after many failures the dish turns into a real success; reflecting my passion, philosophy and journey in the process.

The freedom to push the scientific and artistic boundaries of cooking, without which evolution in this field is not possible, is the biggest perk in my current job.

What are the ongoing trends in India’s bakery and confectionery industry? Kindly briefly elaborate on them

During the recent times, India has seen a sharp upward trajectory, as far as its catching up with the rest of the world in bakery and confectionery products goes.

Some of the recent trends in India’s bakery and confectionery industry are innovative and bold flavour pairing, local produce being increasingly recognised and celebrated, growing demand for healthy options, emergence of fusion dishes with quirky ingredients’ combination from all corners of the world.

Name some of the healthy bakery products (such as gluten-free breads, whole wheat breads, multi-grain cakes, etc.) in the portfolio of the bakery and confectionery unit of The St. Regis Mumbai. What is your take on the growing demand for healthy bakery products in India’s bakery and confectionery industry?

At The St. Regis Mumbai, we do many healthy bakery products like Berry Oat Muffins, Whole Wheat Croissants, all sorts of gluten-free bakery products which include gluten-free breads, gluten-free burger buns, gluten-free loafs, etc. We also do products based on seasonal vegetables, which include pumpkin rolls, zucchini rolls, etc., sugar-free desserts, low fat desserts, use of spelt in different breads, use of probiotics in desserts. 

I think the millennial generation, many of whom are well travelled and are very conscious of what they eat, are driving the demand growth for healthy bakery and confectionery products in India and will continue to do so.

Name two-three of your most popular products in your current tenure

Designer cakes, Lemon Tart with Assorted Berries, Pumpkin Pie, croissants and baguettes are very popular here.

Do you produce customised cakes at The St. Regis Mumbai? If yes, kindly name some of the innovative designs/themes you have introduced during the last one year. How do you gauge the market for customised or designer cakes in India? Is their demand in India only limited to the upper echelons of metro cities of India, or is their demand fast percolating to middle classes of India, and also to the tier-II and tier-III cities of the country? Kindly elaborate

Yes, we do customised cakes a lot of times. We have been asked to make cakes simulating a lawn tennis court, Disneyland, Cinderella, fancy cars, bikes, cigar and many other ideas/objects. Wedding cakes are in huge demand with us.

There is definitely a huge market for designer/cutomised cakes in India. As of now, the demand for fancy designer/customised cakes in India involving costly ingredients, are somewhat limited to the metros and other tier- I cities. Gradually, but for sure, customers in both tier-II & tier-III cities of the country would be exploring for designer cakes for special occasions in increased frequency.

However, in this regard availability of requisite ingredients and skilled manpower to produce and meet guests’ expectations in tier-II & tier-III cities of India are of concern.

According to you, what are the challenges and lacunae in India’s bakery and confectionery industry, which are impeding its growth potential?

There are few major obstacles which are slowing down the growth of India’s bakery and confectionery industry. They are economies of scale, paucity of robust quality supply chain, paucity of skilled manpower, and import restrictions.

Kindly suggest some pragmatic steps, which can give an impetus to the growth of India’s bakery and confectionery industry in the near future, and take it to international levels

There are a number of steps which can give India’s bakery and confectionery industry an impetus and give tough competition to top international bakery markets.

In my opinion, the important ones among them are relaxing import norms, giving more encouragement to domestic and international quality equipment market which would facilitate production at large scale, bolstering of R&D facilities, and more availability of skilled manpower.

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