The Pastry Chef: Pooja Dhingra of Le15 Patisserie
If you’re a dessert-junkie living in Mumbai, chances are that you’ve gorged on Le15 Patisserie’s crumbly, ganache-filled macarons and mini cupcakes with cream cheese crowns. They have gradually nudged out chocolates and pastries to become the mainstay at celebrations, product launches, corporate gatherings and store openings in the city. It’s the outcome Le15 founder Pooja Dhingra had hoped for, when she moved back home to Mumbai in March 2010, after her chef’s training at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris.
While Le15 isn’t the first retailer of cupcakes and macarons in the city, it has played a big part in popularising these bite-sized desserts and sparking a patisserie craze in Mumbai. It’s no mean feat that 25-year-old Dhingra, who has acquired the moniker “macaron lady”, has perfected the recipe of the exquisite French treat using mostly local ingredients, thus making it a replicable model for pastry chefs across town. In addition to lavender, salted caramel, rose, hazelnut, dark chocolate, pistachio and passion fruit that comprise her basic range of macarons, Le15 retails more inventive, limited edition flavours such as Cointreau, Bailey’s, paan, chai, and chilli. In January, Dhingra collaborated with a team of chefs from Spain on a range of gourmet macarons such as beetroot marmalade; hibiscus balsamic vinegar with hazelnut; and tonka bean and passion fruit, which she intends to launch during Diwali. The understated yet chic packaging that Dhingra uses for her products has added to Le15’s wide appeal. Their charming block coloured boxes and carry bags are reflective of the jewel-toned treats enclosed within. “Design is crucial to what we do simply because we realise that people eat with their eyes first,” says Dhingra.
Currently, there are three Le15 dessert counters in the city: one in Worli, and two in Lower Parel, at Raghuvanshi Mills and Palladium mall. The goods are rolled out of Dhingra’s central kitchen in Lower Parel, from which she also runs a flourishing cake business and cooking classes. It bears mentioning that in a short while and with almost no marketing, she has amassed an illustrious list of clients that includes Sonia Gandhi, local politicians and Bollywood celebrities such as Salman Khan, Deepika Padukone, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Lara Dutta, Rajkumar Hirani and Rahul Khanna. While Dhingra will open more outlets across Mumbai, and eventually expand to other cities in India, her two-year plan includes a more personal endeavour: a memoir/recipe book and the opening of a baking studio and ingredients shop.
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