Vinesh Johny is India’s most trending pastry chef, Forbes Under 30 Asia 2016. CNN 20 under 40 and Expert for WorldSkills India. As co-founder of Lavonne Academy of Baking Sciences & Pastry Arts, India’s first international baking academy, he is an industry pioneer bringing world-class education to the country he holds dearest.
HEY CHEF! THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO IS VINESH JOHNY IN YOUR OWN WORDS?
Apart from being a Pastry Chef, I’d personally like to think of myself as someone who is heavily invested in food & food-related engagements. I spend a lot of time in eating and creating food. Also, a lot of my conversations with my people are mostly all about food.
I have built a business around not just food, but dessert; probably the most complex of them all, in my opinion. If you’ve been to my café in Bangalore or have attended any of my Masterclasses, you’d know my style. I’d like to think of most of my dessert creations as modern and stylish with contrasting flavour notes and alternating textures & temperatures. So being in this creative space, constantly experimenting and innovating is what excites me the most.
As an educator/chef/ entrepreneur, there are times when you are having to play various roles to bring out your creative best. Sometimes you are creating a dessert, sometimes you are tempering chocolate to make a sculpture, sometimes you are defining techniques and methodologies for plating and so forth. For me it is extremely imperative to stay inspired and creative.
WHERE DO YOU START WHEN CREATING A NEW DESSERT?
It usually starts off as a faint thought, or a passing idea from some old conversation. Sometimes it’s in the shadows and the play of light on the colours around, while sometimes it’s in the asymmetry of objects, textures, patterns and colours. Sometimes it can also be a memory or even a scent. Inspiration is where it all begins from and Inspiration is always fleeting. Making mental notes and discussing ideas with my incredible team of chefs is what keeps the momentum. So, every day we are constantly innovating and working on something new.
WHAT INGREDIENT DO YOU FEEL IS UNDERUTILIZED?
Honestly, I think its ingredients of the right kind that is most commonly underutilized. Replacing quality produce with substandard or mediocre ingredients is the one of the biggest mistakes we could all be making. A simple example being the use of Compound Chocolate over Couverture. A lot of times, due to economic stress or even market pressure, we may give into substituting some of the ingredients with low-grade substitutes. Cost-wise it may work out and we may be able to make our margins, but in the long run, it may not work out so well. In an ever-developing industry like ours, quality always rules.
HOW LONG BEFORE YOU REALIZED YOU WERE GOING TO BE MAKING PASTRIES INSTEAD OF ANYTHING ELSE?
It was back during my hotel management days, when I realized my love & passion. Every experience I have had during university, internships and my hotel days, through the people I have met and worked with has only helped in strengthening the bedrock of passion I have towards the sweet things in life. I’ve always loved being in the Pastry Kitchen.
YOU ALWAYS TREND ON INSTAGRAM, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE SO POPULAR?
Haha..honestly, I don’t think I’m that popular on Instagram as you say. However, it does feel good to know that a lot of my followers love the kind of content I put out. Their messages, likes and comments are extremely motivating and it surely helps me find new inspiration each day! It’s absolutely amazing to see the number of people from all age groups trying to replicate some of my recipes in their home kitchens. I love the fact that they find my work relatable and are able to bake em & post em on their social handles, while tagging me. I feel extremely humbled to know that I’m able to inspire so many of my followers to try baking at home!
WHO IS THAT ONE PERSON OR EVENT THAT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR GROWTH THE MOST AND HOW?
There have been so many moments and people who have influenced my career. But, there’s that one moment I believe has helped pave way to where I am today; Choosing pastry arts as my field of specialization during my hotel management days.
As a Hotel Management student, it was a tough decision for me to choose between pastry and culinary. With so much going on around, it is so easy to be distracted or misled. In retrospect, today I’m so thankful I picked Pastry as my subject of interest! I realized how much I loved being in the pastry kitchen as compared to the hot kitchen. Being able to create beautiful desserts intrigued my passion. So when the time came, making the decision was easy. There on, one thing lead to another which has all contributed to my personal growth.
WHAT IS THAT ONE THING THAT YOU ALWAYS KEEP IN YOUR MIND WHILE PREPARING YOUR CONTENT FOR SOCIAL MEDIA?
A lot of things that we do at Lavonne is extremely complex or ‘next-level’, as a lot of our chefs like to call it. Unless you have in-depth knowledge or are part of a professional kitchen, it’s sometimes impossible to pull off the kind of stuff we do at Lavonne Academy. However, for my social media I have consciously put forth my best effort in keeping it as simple and as beautiful as possible for my audience.
I know a lot of my followers love to come to my café to try out the sophisticated entremets & petit gateaux’s. But at the same time, I know they’d love to bake a simple brownie by themselves at home. I’m very aware of their pulse and by now I kinda know what they like. So, I’d like to think my posts are very relatable with folks who love to bake at home!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER YOUNG PASTRY CHEFS JUST STARTING?
If you are looking at being a chef or part of the baking world, it surely means that you have already been inspired in the past and you have developed a certain degree of passion for the craft. This in itself is amazing.
However, it is extremely imperative that you solidify your dreams and aspiration with some formal education and learning. Understanding the art, the chemistry of ingredients and the science involved, is what will set you apart from the rest. It will also help you understand the fundamentals of basic subjects like storage, safety, hygiene, shelf life, costing, entrepreneurship, etc.
Learning never stops. Therefore, my only advise to all is to constantly keep seeking and learning.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Dessert, I believe is way of life. There is no right or wrong and neither is there an overuse or underuse of any ingredient. As long as you have put in honesty, creativity, thought and love into the creation, the integrity of the dessert will shine for itself. I’d love to see more people realise their passion and dedicate themselves to the art.
To know more about Chef Vinesh Johny don’t forget to follow him on Instagram @vineshjohny
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