The Best Route to Success Is Through Practice - Kumud Dwivedi

It all started with a failed attempt at my first cake at the age of 11. I horribly burnt the inedible cake and was then determined to get it right. At the time, I could never have imagined that this determination would give birth to passion.

1. Tell us about your background and journey.

Born and brought up in Delhi and Jaipur, I was the eldest of three siblings. Even though I was extremely passionate about baking, and my sister and brother were the best guinea pigs I could ask for, I had to concentrate more on my academics due to my family's financial situation at the time and focus on forging a lucrative career.

Baking & cooking at the time was considered more of a hobby. However, I retained my passion for the culinary arts as I attempted to find something I could love as much, exploring the paths of arts, science and finally humanities and ending up with an Honours Graduate Degree in Economics.

I qualified as a member of ICSI in 1991 and became a company secretary, and worked with companies including Kirloskar Electric, Britannia and ITC Ltd. The birth of my son in 1997 gave me the perfect opportunity (or excuse, depending on how you look at it) to leave behind the mundane corporate life and fully pursue my passion for baking.

I managed to place unpaid internships at bakeries in Oberoi and ITC hotels, before getting a life-changing chance to move to Zams in Austria to work in a third-generation bakery of a family, I now consider incredibly close friends, and herein is where my real journey as a patissier began.

After spending the better part of 6 months learning the ins and outs of baking in Austria, I completed a diploma in Advanced Patisserie from ENSP in France and have participated in further baking, cooking and food styling & photography courses all over the world.

I have been to places like the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, USA, France, Dubai, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Germany and have worked with world-class chefs like Christophe Morel. My passion and thirst for the world of baking and chocolates, however, still remains unquenched.

2. What led you to take up this career path?

It all started with a failed attempt at my first cake at the age of 11. I horribly burnt the inedible cake and was then determined to get it right. At the time, I could never have imagined that that determination would birth a passion that would be the reason that food would still be such a big part of my life today.

Even when my academics, career and motherhood took over as higher priorities, I never let my passion suffer. With my pursuit to learn more and more and improve with every dish I made, I began to read every single culinary book I could get my hands on and made every dish that I thought would come out excellent.

Without any formal training in a culinary school to start with, I realised that the best route to success is through practice and by the time I started attending professional courses, I was amazed to find the ease at which I was able to understand and champion all that was being taught and put before me.

My philosophy has always been to be best in whatever I pursued, rather than just focus on building a career out of it, and ironically, that is what made baking & culinary a successful career for me.

3. What does your typical day look like?

With a fast-paced lifestyle, I like to start my day off with some relaxation through some yoga in the early mornings. After that, the day goes by in a blur between my kitchen, my book library of close to 300 different culinary and baking books, and the day winds down with me photographing and editing all the food that I have made that day.

I am always looking for new things to learn and am yet to get bored with any aspect to culinary & baking. In fact, my family even makes fun of me saying that I have never repeated a single recipe of pasta over the past 20 years.

I am always on the lookout for different dishes to try to continue my quest for knowledge in the world of food!

4. Does one's approach change when cooking professionally and at home?

There is definitely a difference in approach when cooking professionally as compared to cooking at home. However, the end goal of achieving excellence and perfecting a dish to the best of my abilities never changes.

I feel like I do my best work when cooking at home as it allows me to experiment and innovate with less pressure, and go back to the drawing board until I can bring to life my vision for a dish or dessert.

However, cooking professionally has its own set of challenges and demands. Creating a perfect version of every single item on a menu over and over again with no room for error is not an easy task to accomplish, yet is one that excites me nonetheless.

5. Is there a dish you particularly associate yourself with?

My insane curiosity ensures that I enjoy all types of cuisines, flavours and techniques associated with all the different and unique parts of the world.

However, I would have to say that my comfort food that I will always go towards at the end of a tough day will be Aloo Paratha. It brings back memories of my childhood and family and resonates with my feelings of a simpler time.

6. Can cooking be learnt at culinary schools or natural talent is required?

I believe that talent will always set you apart from others in any industry. However, it is not enough to have just talent. That talent needs to be nurtured in the right environment, such as culinary schools, and hard work is the key for you to really reach your full potential.

Talent inspires innovation and creativity, but if you aren't willing to work hard, then all the talent in the world won't help you.

7. Which is your favourite book, and why?

I would have to say that my favourite book is Sweet Diversions by Yann Duytsche. His book inspired me to write my own book, Dark Side of the Bean, that got recently published.

The clarity, simplicity and creativity of this book make it a must-read for every passionate dessert lover, and I still find myself flipping through the pages when in need of some creativity and inspiration.

Interview By - Geetika Bali

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