Daniel Koshy, executive pastry chef at JW Marriott Bengaluru, bakes poetry in kitchen and has a distinctive style that marks all his creations. Baking for him is an art and a discipline and nothing makes him happier than a kitchen redolent with warm and delicious breads, cakes and pasteries. He chats with Svetlana Lasrado about his career.
How did you start your career in baking?
I always wanted to be a doctor and had even prepared for the entrance examinations in Kolkata. Alongside, my sister had filled a form for the Institute of Hotel Management – I took the test, passed it and joined IHM, Chennai. In my third year, I was selected for the prestigious Oberoi Management training programme which takes only 15 trainees across India. During my training programme, I realised my passion for pastry-making, and I decided to pursue this as my career.
What were the challenges you faced?
Under the traineeship, we were sent to several large and small properties for six to eight months to gain practical experience. While I was a management trainee, I had worked with several senior staff members. However, I was aware that if I were to come back post my traineeship, I would be posted as a manager and would be supervising the same personnel. I knew that one can only gain respect as a manager based on his level of knowledge and skill. I therefore was sure that if I were to be posted after my traineeship, I needed to be at the top of the game and master the skills.
I chose to slog during this period, trying to learn and grasp as much as possible so that I could earn respect from my colleagues. It was indeed a gruelling phase.
Tell us more about Bengaluru Baking Company and your role here.
The Bengaluru Baking Company is my baby – I was instrumental in setting it up right from the start. From conceptualising the menu, setting up the systems, getting the infrastructure in place, I have done it all. I have seen the first customer walk into it and every dish that goes out from here – and so BBC is extremely special to me.
Your first food memories
My first food memories are of my mother’s cooking. I admired her eye for detail. I would always watch over my mum’s shoulders trying to pick her secrets. She was a teacher and when I would come home from school there would be nobody around to cook something for me. So I used to try and recollect how she cooked, from cookies, cakes to pakodas, and would replicate her techniques. Although I did it out of necessity, I always tried to cook something tasty.
Any interesting anecdote you would like to share?
While posted at The Oberoi, Mumbai, during the training programme, I was working under a pastry chef who was moving to the property in Egypt. He handed over his responsibilities to me and I began running the kitchen. Subsequently, a senior woman chef had joined the team. One day, I felt that a dessert was not up to its mark and had to pull her up for the mistake. The fact that she was senior to me resulted in quite a sticky situation!
Where in Bangalore do you shop for ingredients?
In Bangalore, I like to shop for quality ingredients at Foodhall at 1 MG Road.
BBC also regularly conducts baking workshops. What have been the highlights so far?
At BBC, we have been conducting cooking classes for kids, which has been a revelation. The level of knowledge the kids have these days is truly amazing. Right from the ingredients to variety of products, they seem to know it all! I suppose it tells of exposure to a number of food and cookery shows on television and on new media. Even during the classes for adults, I realised I don’t have too much explaining to do.
What do you think has been the key to your success?
Personally, I would attribute my success to the fact that I take complete ownership of my work and put my heart and soul into everything that I do. However, I believe that success is a subjective term, and for me it lies in being able to come each day to work and love what you do. I can showcase my product to people and when they come back with a smile – this is the best form of success that I can possibly experience.
What advice would you give home bakers?
My advice to home bakers is to be sure of using quality ingredients while baking. While you
might be following the method exactly, without using fine ingredients, the end product will
never be up to its mark. They should always remember that good ingredients will always translate into good products.
What’s your top baking trick?
I believe in keeping it simple and following the recipe to the T. The trick lies in adhering to
the method without playing around with it. Once you stick to the recipe, you will know what
the end product will be, after which any adjustments can be made. However, if you don’t
adhere to the method, you will never know how the product will turn out in the end.
What do you like to bake?
I love baking cheesecakes – it is one item that has its own charm. Although it is not a difficult product to make, one has to be very careful about focusing on the nuances.
Recipe for Philadelphia Cheese Cake
Making the base: Crush 150 gm of Hob Nob’s biscuit and mix it with 50 gm of soft, unsalted butter
Making the mixture: Take 650 gm cheese and 200 gm sugar and cream them. Now add three eggs and another egg yolk into it. Mix 100 ml fresh cream, 225 gm curd and 22 gm corn flour separately and add it to the mixture.
Assembling: Take a one kg ring and make a base for it using an aluminum foil. Grease the sides of the ring and put the biscuit mixture inside the ring. Using your hands, level it and keep it in freezer for five minutes. Now fill the ring with the cheese mixture. Bake at 150 degree Celsius for 60 to 70 minutes on a water bath.