By Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Always smiling and extremely passionate about her work, Chandigarh-based chef Anubhav Sawhney shares news that’s no less than the perfect icing on the cake. Three years since she started plating out specials from her bakery in Chandigarh, Sawhney has won herself the coveted title of ‘Punjab’s best bakery lady chef’ awarded by the prestigious Chef’s Association of Five Rivers. “The win is still sinking in and I think of the days I baked my first cake and ended up burning the carpet,” quips the affable chef who steers the kitchens at AJ Foods and Made@home.
The chef was formally felicitated at the 3rd Chef’s Conclave and Food Awards 2018 held last month. Incidentally, ‘Let’s Go Dutch’, a bakery she helped set up and continues to supply to, was awarded the ‘Best Bakery’ in the region. It’s a sweet moment of success for this young, self-taught chef who has had no formal training and neither does she have the quintessential “degrees” often cited in this line of work. Her recipe for success includes hard work, passion and a hunger for perfection.
“The process of learning never ends. Since the time we started to now, it’s been a learning curve and an evolving experience,” shares Sawhney. From taking baby steps into the culinary industry in Chandigarh to expanding her product range, taking on catering projects and foraying into food consultancy, her graph is on an upward swing.
“This success wouldn’t have been possible without a team effort,” admits Sawhney as she introduces her business partner and husband, Jasmeet Sawhney. While Anubhav holds the reigns to the AJ Foods’ kitchen and the products, Jasmeet takes care of logistics, administration and other areas of the business. Joining the two now is Gunraj Singh, also Anubhav’s brother, who will help with the expanding business.
A Corporate Kitchen: Of paternity leave, medical insurance and dignity of labour
Apart from her lip-smacking products that are made from pure ingredients – pre-mixes are frowned upon here – Jasmeet says they have given the bakery business a corporate structure. “We realised that most culinary setups in the city have an informal structure. We wanted to change that,” says Jasmeet who mentions how the staff members – mostly men – get paternity leave, medical insurance and salaries in their bank. “We are now readying to move into our new state of the art commercial kitchen that has been divided into different areas. Every department has a head in-charge and we will streamline the processes further,” says Jasmeet who would be offering services in food consultancy as well. “We have had a very good run with Let’s Go Dutch bakeries that we set up and hope to take on newer projects.”
What’s cooking in the kitchen?
With a swanky new kitchen on the way, Chef Anubhav has her work already set out. Though her bakery products are already being supplied to restaurants and food outlets across the tricity, there’s room for more. “Initially we started with catering for smaller groups. We are now ready to offer catering services for a gathering of up to 150 people,” informs the chef. She also mentions focusing strongly on a variety of breads. “We would be introducing mint sandwich bread that will be layered with mint chutney and ready to eat. Then there’s chocolate bread that will just need to be toasted apart from a cinnamon bread,” Anubhav lists out the specials.
‘Personalisation is key’
“Often, when it comes to the catering menu, clients are offered a fixed menu of a number of dishes to choose from,” points out Anubhav. The chef believes that it’s important to understand what the client really wants and customise a menu for them. Like a bespoke banquet menu? “Yes, I would like to include dishes across cuisines and offer live cooking options. Interactive cooking is going to be on my list for the coming season,” shares the chef. Jasmeet’s Iranian lineage and Anubhav’s love for Mediterranean food is going to have a major role to play.