Mumbai: Starting out in 1992 as a chef in Oberoi Hotel, pastry chef Niklesh Sharma has come a long way setting up Academy of Pastry Arts and heading a team of 30 chefs. With centres in Gurgaon, Bangalore, Malaysia and Philippines, The Academy of Pastry Arts has now launched its centre in Mumbai. The launch event saw the likes of Chef Manjit Gill, President of Indian Federation of Culinary Association, Chef Jean Francois Arnaud, an international consultant in pastry & bakery and Chef Christophe Morel, the master chocolatier.
Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Chef Nikhlesh shares his journey so far and how he wants the aspirants to learn the pastry making art, the professional way.
Tell us about your journey so far
In 2007, while working as chef in a hotel, I had attended several exhibitions in Singapore and realised that I have a long way to go. I took a break from my job to learn the international methods of pastry making art. I attended schools in Europe and US and it was there where I learnt what it needs to be a teacher. Later, I got a job in Malaysia as a chef and it was then I thought on setting up a school. It took me a good 16 years to reach here. Back then, teaching the pastry art was not something prominent. This Academy which began with two chefs and now has a team of 30 from across the globe.
Apart from Mumbai, Gurgaon and Bangalore centre, would you be setting up more centres in India?
We now have 5 school in Asia-Pacific. We started our first school in Malaysia, then we have three schools in India and one in Philippines. We will be setting up another school in Jakarta by this year-end and later next year, we will set up another school in Singapore. We are also planning to expand to the Middle East. In India, we are planning to open a school in Kolkata.
Your favourite experience in your journey so far?
I’m a passionate person when it comes to my work. I have never had a dull moment. I meticulously use my time at the hotel and also when I’m teaching.
What do you think about the pastry making and confectionary industry in India?
Unfortunately, there weren’t enough pastry schools in India. I’m sure now there are a few which have cropped up. The way I’m seeing the new generation of pastry chefs getting trained and becoming master chefs is very promising.
Your favourite dish to bake and to eat?
As a pastry chef, I love a good cream caramel or chocolate mousse. Since I judge one the World Pastry Cup competitions wherein 21 countries participate, I get to see and taste the food by chef all around the world.
Any message for the aspiring pastry makers?
A proper training is a must. If one has to become a good pastry chef, one should go to a good school. One must learn in a professional and structured way and then start working for hotels. Before becoming a master chef, become a good chef.