Indian Desserts Rule the Roost, Says Chef Vinesh Johny

Short Description
Vinesh Johny, Co-Founder and Executive Pastry Chef at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry, says restaurants should start using new techniques in desserts.
  • SARA KHAN Feature Editor
Vinesh Johny, Co-Founder and Executive Pastry Chef at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry,

Vinesh is a World Skills Expert and was on the inaugural Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2016, made it to the All-Star Alumni list in 2019 and 2017, and was one of CNN's 20 Under 40 in the same year. One of India's top homegrown pastry chefs, Chef Vinesh brings the best practices and products internationally to the audience in India with an aim to expand horizons of desserts in India, and create a dessert culture on par with the greatest across the world.

Through Cafe Lavonne, Indian consumers can experience globally acknowledged quality and taste and unique desserts rivalling international products. Vinesh has recently participated in World Skills UK competition that transforms the opportunities for apprentices and students. 

In an interview with Restaurant India, Vinesh Johny, Co-Founder and Executive Pastry Chef at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry, talks about the ingredients that make a successful pastry chef.

Culinary Journey So Far

After graduating from culinary school, I went on to work with The Oberoi Group of Hotels and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, in various capacities of their respective pastry kitchens for a period of two years. 

Soon after, in 2012, we set up Lavonne Academy - India's first international specialised baking academy.

Lavonne also has a Café, where we serve up some world-class pastries, savoury bakes and delicious food. A lot of this is down to the teams at Lavonne, who have been part of our push towards our success. The Cafe has consecutively won the prestigious 'Times Food & Nightlife Award' in 2016 & 2017, in the Best Confectionery category. We were recently, once again, awarded by them for being the Best Café in Bangalore for 2019. 

Ever since then, my journey in the culinary world has been quite intensive. In the course of these seven years, we have hosted some of the best international pastry chefs at Lavonne, in the likes of Chef Andres Lara, Nina Tarasova, Antonio Bachour, Frank Haasnoot, Andrea Dopico, CarlesMampel, Kaysie Lackey, and many more. 

Meeting and working with some of the top chefs from around the world have been among the most fun and educational things I have experienced.

Additionally, I have had the privilege of travelling around the world to showcase my craft and to inspire and teach young talent.

The Icing on The Cake! About World Skills Competition and More

In 2017, I was chosen by the Government of India to be the World Skills Expert, officially representing our country in the international arena for skilled "Olympics" in the realm of Pastry. It was held in Abu Dhabi in October that year, and we won our first Silver medal ever during the championship.

We will be participating again in August 2019, in both Bakery and Pastry, and I look forward to bringing home a few more medals!

In 2016, I was featured on the first-ever 'Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia' in the Arts category. Soon after, I was given the honour of being part of the 'Forbes All Star Alumni' for the year 2017 and now again in 2019. In 2017, CNN honoured me with 'India 20 Under 40', a series of vignettes that features 20 young Indian entrepreneurs who are re-shaping how India does business. I am still overwhelmed and kind of reeling from all of this, because it was never a part of the plan… You can call this the icing on the cake!

"Find Yourself a Good Mentor"

The most important thing you need to do is recognize yourself and find yourself a good mentor. Once you have done that, it's very critical to listen, understand and do as you are told. Make the most of what your mentor has to give you!
During this process, the most important thing, according to me, is to get your basics right and identify your style, strengths, thought process and weaknesses. This will set up solid bedrock as you move forward in your life. 

Ingredients to Be a Successful Pastry Chef

Success is a very subjective concept. My parameters of success will differ from a fellow pastry chef. I feel successful when I can fix a recipe, instead of switching to a different one.

But if I had to look at my own journey, and those of key professionals, I would say some things are like kitchen basics:

- Identifying your mentor

- Love, passion, and respect for your art

- Recognizing your style of work

- Constantly impart knowledge to the ones who seek to learn

- Keep learning and practicing

- Write down every thought and idea that comes to your mind

- Never be afraid to try something that's never been done before

Baking Style

Since most of my experience has been for pastry shops, I enjoy making desserts that are simple, clean and delicious; flavours that my customers can relate to and want to buy every day. Only, I present them with a more modern contemporary look.

Having said that I don't shy away from using intriguing and complex new flavours with an aim to create avant-garde desserts, which I mostly showcase in restaurant popup menus and my classes. 

I also like experimenting with formats, styles of cooking, and traditions of cooking. My end motto is to enter the kitchen and really have fun with what I'm doing.

View on the Desserts Served at Restaurants in India

For the most part, Indian desserts rule the roost. However, for restaurants that do world cuisines, it would be great to see them move forward from traditional lava cakes, panna-cottas, tiramisus or even brownies. The world of pastry is so massive, with an unlimited scope for creative and original ideas. There is just so much more in terms of ingredients, styles, flavour profiles, textures and even temperatures that many restaurants can easily adapt to. Also, restaurants should get using new techniques. It can really push boundaries to give that wholesome, immersive experience to the customers.

The Idea of Eating Right

The word 'Diet' seems to be topping charts of the current most stressful words. Following a diet is hard for most of us, primarily because the idea of it is often misconstrued. The most important thing to remember is that health can be easily achieved if we understand how our body reacts to the kinds of food we consume. There is no single formula for eating right. You need to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and mindset to accommodate your bodily requirements. Consulting a professional nutritionist can surely help get you on the right path.

And in conclusion, it is important to ensure we keep burning the calories, as we eat. Never under-estimate the value of exercise. 

Approach Towards Zero Wastage Food Policy

Food wastage is a major concern for all chefs who run restaurants and hotels. It is just agonizing to watch the food being thrown away, in the kitchen, as well as from tables. As a chef, it is very important to first, plan menu based on what is most easily procurable from your region. Secondly, set up processes to ensure 100% use of all fresh produce. Thirdly, ensure you only indent what you need for the day, based on daily forecast. Following simple and traditional processes will give you the desired result. It is important to remember that as professionals of the food industry, it is our responsibility to curb wastage as much as possible. 

Five Mistakes that Pastry Chefpreneurs Must Avoid

- Never stop learning. Be it in your own creative space or another. Creativity stops when the will to learn does.

- Invest wisely in quality ingredients and equipment. Without these, your end product is always at risk.

- Network with other Chefpreneurs in the industry and share good practices and knowledge.

- Create a valuable work culture and training plan for your team, so they can learn a lot more than what they do while at work.

- Don't hesitate to invest money into sourcing a good photographer and social media expert.

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