Aabhas Jain, the current Assistant Director- Culinary Studies of the Indian School of Hospitality, has always wanted to be a pastry chef. He began his career in cold cuisine at Oberoi hotels and Resorts and perfected his culinary abilities for three years before being able to work in pastry and coming to the realization that his other passion was education. “I joined the School for European Pastry, Mumbai alongside two absolutely amazing chefs. I always knew that I wanted to be an academic because it would allow me to explore, learn, excel, and share knowledge with future chefs because to understand science of every ingredient and technique is the key to success”, he explains. Two and a half years later, he joined the Indian School of Hospitality in Gurgaon, which is the École Ducasse India campus. “It has been a thriller of a ride since, apart from being a pastry school, it is inarguably the best culinary and hospitality education school in the country. At ISH, we believe that we are helping to nurture the future leaders of the industry”, he says.
Jain also believes that pastry is an art that combines the heart, mind, and hands. “I aspire to take Indian Pastry to the world stage by entering the Pastry World Cup and winning it for the country”.
We spoke with him about the reality and level of pastry in India, as well as the sector’s worldwide trends.
What is the most satisfying thing about teaching and transmitting knowledge?
When you work in operations, a major chunk of your creativity gets exhausted in delivering what your guests require. There are almost no avenues to express yourself to the fullest extent of your capabilities.
Being part of an academic environment allows me to let my creativity run free. I enjoy the buzz of learning and exploring.
And I get an amazing amount of happiness and satisfaction when I am able to transfer techniques and knowledge of the art of Pastry to my students.
“Being part of an academic environment allows me to let my creativity run free. I enjoy the buzz of learning and exploring”
What is the reality of pastry in India?
Indian pastry has been growing strong over the last couple of years and the artistic appeal has improved incredibly. It has, however, not got the popularity and platform to be showcased the way it deserves. I believe if we get more international and national opportunities to exhibit our competencies, we will scale great heights and will carve our name in gold on the world pastry map. Creating an India centric theme as a part of various international pastry competitions, magazines, events, and more. will bring out the best in our fraternity.
Could you describe to us what traditional pastry is like in India?
Traditionally, India has been home to some amazing pastry traditions. We may not have looked at pastry through a contemporary lens but employed a rather rustic approach. Samosas for example are created from a modified shortcrust pastry and the ‘pattice’ that we voraciously devoured in schools was made out from puff pastry.
Our kheers travelled to Europe and were referred to as ‘riz conde’ and we imported custard and put a vegetarian spin on it by using something as simple as corn starch. Indians have their own version of everything that fits under the ‘pastry’ banner. We have our own buttercream cakes that are designed to be comparatively temperature resistant, and we choose ‘mawa’ cakes as our traditional tea cakes.
We have taken sugar art to the highest levels with ‘soan papdi’, ‘ice halwa’, and ‘bin paani ke roti’.
We have had our own version of ‘taffy’, we adore the finesse of our ‘jeera golis’ and hard-boiled sweets. We are a nation filled with proud and innovative people and it shows in every facet of our food.
“If Indian pastry chefs get more international and national opportunities to exhibit our competencies, we will scale great heights and will carve our name in gold on the world pastry map”
What do consumers look for when they go to a pastry business? Do you want to try new things or are you closed in terms of tastes and formats?
From an Indian consumer’s perspective, a large number of them play safe by buying the traditional bakery products. Although during recent years with travelling, global education, and social media dominating every aspect of our lives, people are now more open to try out new things. This is a good time for us.
I have always believed in being open to ideas, exploring, and taking new challenges because that’s what helps me grow. I am particularly passionate about amalgamating Pastry with traditional Indian desserts and the surprise element it creates. The euphoria of being able to create something new every day is a guiding force in my life.
And what is the educational level in the country?
Pastry art in India is still in its nascent stage and impressionable consumer markets are limited to metros and type A cities, our towns and villages are yet to open up to pastry products. But we are a growing economy with a major migrant population that is receptive to try new vocations. Multiple pastry schools and institutes with professional bakers and chefs from the industry have pooled their expertise and experience together in order to equip young budding pastry chefs with the knowledge and skills required.
“Trends in pastry worldwide are very dynamic in terms of innovation, ideation, ingredients, recipes, tools, and equipment”
What do you think are the current and future trends in patisserie worldwide?
Trends in pastry worldwide are very dynamic in terms of innovation, ideation, ingredients, recipes, tools, and equipment. Today, the opportunities have widened with the support of travel and social media that broadens the spectrum of learning. It is up to an individual to decide what they can explore, learn, and excel. Pastry is an art and art only improves with exploring new ideas, innovating, and most importantly, the willingness to try something new every day despite the possibility of bad results.
Are these trends followed in India?
India has seen a tremendous paradigm shift in terms of our approach to the Patisserie business. We see younger and younger students approaching us with the dedication and seriousness that would stupefy a comparatively mature individual.
Social media has made the world a global village and the younger generation is rather quick to catch onto trends and innovations that may be emerging in even the remotest corner of our planet. India may not be at the forefront of the world Pastry business at the moment but with the right support and attention, we could see it evolve into a reality within the next decade.