Circa 2004. A picturesque-looking pastry shop opens in the gourmet city of Mumbai. Located on the sidewalk of Colaba Causeway, the stand-alone restaurant with its wooden facade stands out not only for its interesting title, but also for the sweet aroma of vanilla that weaves and floats through its door as curious passers-by enter to throw one glance and come out with a box of what Maximum City would soon call “the ultimate address for a good brownie (and more)”. Inside this colonial-style bakery is a family supporting a friendly, smiling, warm lady who takes care of each of the appointments as one would a guest visiting the house. Pastry, Theobroma; the lady, a gifted and trained pastry chef, Kainaz Messman Harchandrai.
Fast forward to 2021 and Bengaluru is seeing the replay of the same scene as the Kainaz brand, synonymous with the best range of brownies, French croissants, sourdough bread and Mumbai club food (their egg Kejriwal is one of the best in town) is opening its 81st outlet, but with some changes. Kainaz, now mother and married, runs a business that trains and employs over a few hundred people, has attracted investors on her own, and has “grown wise” as an entrepreneur. What remains unchanged, however, is the affection, warmth and smile that characterize her as the day she made her debut as a restaurateur. She remains the handy Kainaz Messman who could brighten up your day with her brownies and, as a friendly helper, help you choose the best of the day – a quality this seasoned pastry chef attributes to her genes. “I come from a family that believes in the importance of feeding people. It’s our constant source of joy and it’s the only way we know how to thrive in life, ”says Kainaz, whose mother Kamal Messman, herself an excellent cook, was a great inspiration. In fact, it was during an internship as his mother’s sous chef that Kainaz found his calling to “treat people with food”. There’s something sweet about watching people devour your creation, says the mentor who has since trained many people to knead their own magic into desserts and more. But who really is Kainaz – a name synonymous with state of mind breakers and needing little introduction today – the author and the mastermind behind Theobroma.
Born into a food-loving Parsee family, Kainaz’s early years of life were idyllic, filled with food, family reunions, and watching her mother do magic every time she took a tune and a casserole. to match it. Her first-hand experience in her mother’s catering kitchen with her sister Tina Wykes has helped her learn the ropes of preparing great meals, especially brownies and the traditional Messman family dish – the pot of chocolate orange generously filled with chocolate mousse infused with orange zest. That and a Rotary youth exchange program in Albi in the south of France turned the then 16-year-old home cook into baking. The following years were like a dream run as the IHM graduate cracked OCLD (Oberoi Center for Learning and Development) and joined the Oberoi group, and started working in a male-dominated kitchen. Among the few women to enter the space still dominated by men, the task was difficult. “You were expected to do all the picking and hours spent bending over tables to work and you didn’t because you had to prove a point, but that was part of the role you had. willingly embraced and towards which you have worked, ”recalls the chocolate maker who suffered a back injury and was asked to avoid anything that was part of the baking profession.
Kainaz, who took a break to recuperate and rework his life around the disease, knew then that it would one day inspire him to design a kitchen that would have the right ergonomics for a pastry chef – someone who is as tall as he is. her too. “Our central kitchen in Chembur is a state-of-the-art facility for chefs, especially those who work in pastry shops. In addition to having break rooms, the cold section has been designed to facilitate the work of the high tables to the levers that do heavy lifting and weighing, a non-slip floor and even temperature control in the section that is carried out not only according to the number of people working there but also the hours spent there. So when you move from one room to another, there is no sudden rise or fall in temperature.
Over the years, Kainaz’s brownies have earned her more brownie points and the undisputed crown of “Brownie Queen”, but she has endured the usual ups and downs of being a restaurateur – of wasting money working about his skills to take seriously in dealing with plagiarism, and even dealing with the standard food trade crisis – from attrition to quality produce to the recent foreclosure. It was a good thing that I’ve always been a hands-on restaurateur who easily tackled the basics, says Kainaz. “I stopped being too hard on myself and instead hired people who had the expertise in the job and left the work to them. “Letting go” was easier said than done, but, she adds, “it was the only way to grow.”