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Sunday, October 17 2021

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I always believe that you make your luck: Kumud Dwivedi

Do you love cakes and pastries? How does a classic fudgy brownie sound to you? Perhaps, chocolate-drenched sizzling brownies with vanilla ice cream? Are you wondering where you could get something simple yet fancy for your buds? Kumud Dwivedi has just the right answer for you!

Meet the 54-year old professional baker from Delhi and Jaipur, an extraordinarily talented and well-experienced food stylist, patissier, photographer, and so much more! She has participated in baking, cooking, food styling, and photography courses in Netherlands, Spain, Canada, the USA, France, Dubai, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Germany. She has worked with world-class chefs like Christophe Morel. Kumud Dwivedi is the eldest of three siblings who began whisking her story with eggs right from the age of 11! In an exclusive interview with News Karnataka, the chef spoke about her journey so far.

The first bake

Kumud remembers her first baking adventure where she ‘horribly burnt the inedible cake’ but was determined to get it right again. Her remarkable skill with baking and presenting mouth-watering cakes dates back to when her current full-time profession was just a hobby. Despite her passion for baking, Kumud focused more on her academics to build a lucrative career due to family and financial reasons. After thorough academic exploration, right from arts, science, and finally humanities, she graduated with an Honors degree in Economics. She then qualified as a member of ICSI to become a company secretary and work with companies such as Kirloskar Electric, Britannia, and ITC Ltd. “The birth of my son gave me the perfect opportunity (or excuse) to leave behind the mundane corporate life and pursue my passion. I managed to place unpaid internships at bakeries in Oberoi and ITC hotels before getting a life-changing chance to move to Zams in Austria to work in a third-generation bakery of a family I now consider extremely close friends, and herein is where my real journey as a patissier began,” she said. Six months of intensive learning about baking for Kumud in Austria resulted in completing a diploma in Advanced Patisserie from ENSP in France!

It’s never too late

Even when the chef’s academics, career, and motherhood outweighed in the list of her priorities, Kumud never let her passion suffer. With the pursuit to learn and better every dish she made, she began to educate herself through culinary books. In the absence of formal training from a culinary school, Kumud ventured into baking through practice. “By the time I started attending professional courses, I was amazed to find the ease at which I was able to understand and champion all that was being taught to me,” Kumud contended.

Pandemic’s effect

Kumud, who runs a cafe named Cafe Cassia & Deli, Bengaluru, faced the impact of the pandemic. As the food and hotel industry met immense losses during the first wave of Coronavirus, the business with food was somewhat fickle. When the lockdown restrictions came into effect, Kumud had to shut down the cafe temporarily. Nonetheless, she optimistically decided to use the time to research and learn novel techniques in baking. “I started baking my own sourdough bread at home, which was always a goal of mine. I used to host culinary and baking workshops at home. However, I adapted to hosting and recording them online, which people can buy for lifetime access. I also became more inclined to creating baking content for my social media profiles,” the patissier confessed.

What’s Kumud’s special?

Kumud loves all types of cuisines, flavors, and methods associated with different culinary worlds. But her comfort food is Aloo Paratha! “It brings back memories of my childhood, family and resonates with my feelings of a simpler time. As far as my signature dishes go, I’ve been known for my vast array of chocolate cakes such as Chocolate Decadence Cake and Chocolate Mud Cake,” she informed.

Adapting with time

Kumud asserted that she is blessed with a supportive family and has been lucky enough not to have faced many challenges. She realized that she needed to showcase her baking skill; hence began with food photography and styling. With the emergence of modern technology, she needed to build a social media presence and create engaging content. “I always believe that you make your luck, and as long as you work hard and follow your passions, there is no difficulty that you cannot overcome,” the chef affirmed.

The role of social media

Amidst the pandemic, social media has given birth to many small businesses, baking ventures, and thrift shops. For Kumud, social media has played a significant role in providing her an opportunity to share her passion with like-minded people around the globe. “I have met so many people through social media who have inspired me to be inquisitive and continue to keep learning about all the progress in the culinary world. It has also given me the chance to monetize my passion as I can now market my workshops and provide people with snippets of what they can expect from my workshops,” she disclosed.

Who is a food stylist?

Being a food stylist comes with a combination of culinary skills and the knowledge of decoration and accessorization of food. Kumud, a food stylist herself, explained that having an idea of color combinations and lighting techniques used in photography to get that perfect shot is elemental. “There can be a big difference in how a plated dessert appeals to the naked eye compared to the lens of the camera, so it’s crucial to understand how to style a dish,” she said. While food styling remains a niche industry in India where experience is valued, it’s becoming more friendly towards newcomers at its fast-growing pace.

Vegan eating: a competition or benefit?

The rise of vegans and healthy eaters has posed a challenge for bakers, but people are accommodating to this change. “Bakers, including me, have started to adapt recipes to make them healthier and appeal to a large chunk of today’s population that want to focus on their health and fitness without losing out on tasting the divine joy – food,” the stylist expressed.

Dark Side of the Bean

Kumud has also authored a book named ‘Dark Side of the Bean,’ inspired by a favorite read, Sweet Diversions by Yann Duytsche. The book includes 150 dessert recipes, all being her brain-children. She mentioned that the book is a love letter to her baking journey that consolidated the lessons learned in her previous travels. “Writing my own book was a challenging but rewarding experience that helped me pick up new skills along the way as I decided to do everything from the recipes to the photography to the book designing, on my own. In fact, I even picked my publishers and printers myself!” she proudly claimed.

Teaching others

Kumud conducts online workshops about baking and cooking in the premise of the pandemic. Speaking on the same, she maintained that it gives her joy as it allows her to inspire people in a field that she dearly loves. “The pride I feel when someone makes a dish from scratch after having taught it to them in a workshop is unmatched. I’m also very cognizant of the fact that I’ve been extremely blessed to travel and learn about the different baking concepts from so many places and cuisines; hence I believe in passing on this knowledge to people,” the photographer said.

What’s next?

In conversation about her future endeavors, Kumud revealed that she intends to level up her workshops and classes by opening a fully-fledged culinary school in India! “I want to help people learn modern techniques with the best of equipment by democratizing the art of baking. On a personal level, I hope to continue attaining as much knowledge as I can of the culinary world and becoming a better chef, baker, food stylist, photographer, author, and hopefully more,” the chef signed off.

Siri Shekar

The author is a student reporter who is also pursuing Psychology and English Literature. A wanderer searching for faces that inspire an optimistic place about the world, she hunts for different human experiences, not just leads for a story.

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