Imagine traveling abroad and eating something that changes your life and defines your career after you bring it home with you. Then, years later, you meet the life-changing chef and spend an entire evening talking about the dish. The bonus? The chef writes the preface to your new book and sends it to you on your birthday!
This is what happened to Pooja Dhingra, 35, queen of the macaroon in India, who took her first bite of the Pierre HermÃ¨s macaroon in her Parisian boutique in 2008 and, upon her return to India, opened a bakery called Le15 Patisserie which today is a beloved franchise.
Pooja admits to being a total fan-girl of Pierre HermÃ¨s who has devoured all of her books over the years. “Le15 would not exist in its form if I had not had this badge,” explains the chef-entrepreneur who met Pierre in Paris as part of the Indian delegation. Then the two followed one another on Instagram.
Which brings us to the heavy use this millennial has made of social media to market their business.
âWe are the Internet generation and when I launched Le15 in 2010 my phone was like an extension of my arm. I was 23, didn’t know anything about public relations or marketing. I just took pictures of my products and put them on Facebook. Friends and family would see the photos and order. And then I switched to Instagram, which is a great visual aid when it comes to food, âsays Pooja, who sees social media platforms as a great way to connect directly with customers, understand product issues and to solve the problems.
âMy approach to work is always product first, because if people believe in your product after eating it, they will refer it to other people. Remember, people will only try a place once due to the hype. So word of mouth is what I’ve picked up over the last decade, even on social media, âshe says.
How important is your marketing today? âA combination of making people feel good and offering something unique is crucial. But marketing in any industry is important because that’s how people find out what you’re doing, âshe explains.
Her mantra when she sits down to imagine? âI wonder how do you bring joy to someone with your product? The answer may lie in collaborating with another person or following something you’re passionate about, like K Drama for Pooja. âIt’s about following your gut, doing what you understand and love,â she emphasizes.
Fame and girl gang
Ask her if her association with famous people has helped her and she nods. âIn terms of discoverability, of course. We bake cakes for celebrities and well-known people which helps. And what about his girl gang which includes Masaba Gupta, Rhea and Sonam Kapoor? âIt helps a lot to have a group of people who understand what I’m going through. I’ve always had a great support system of women around me and I’m thankful for the girl gangs in my life, âPooja smiles.
The Covid pandemic has forced Pooja to face tough questions about his business. With the food and beverage and hospitality industries hit hard by last year’s lockdown, she has had to think about possibilities such as shutting down part of the business or even shutting down the business. together.
âI wondered what I would do if I couldn’t do what I’m doing now. What is my identity linked to if I don’t? I have been passionate about pastry for 10 years. But I wondered if I was still passionate about cooking for myself during the lockdown, âshe recalls. “Fortunately, I found the courage to continue and felt a surge of interest after that.”
That’s when she thought about summarizing the whole experience in her latest book, her sixth, called Coming Home.
âI started my career cooking for fun – my family and friends were my customers. I made cookies at 3 a.m. with my brother and ate them. I felt like it had to be in the book, âshe says of the nostalgia segment of her book, which is inspired by her childhood – the flaps from Tarla Dalal’s cookbooks, the halwa her nani would make and desserts inspired by pineapple cake.
Lessons from the pandemic? âDon’t overcomplicate things. At the start of the pandemic, I went from being used to having a kitchen full of ingredients to not being able to find basic ones! And as I started to simplify things in the home pantry, I extended that to my life as well. I’ve learned to take each day as it comes – there are so many fires to put out each day and no sugar coating like in the book, âconcludes the Mumbai girl.
Pooja Dhingra, 35, is a famous pastry chef and owner of Le15 Patisserie, which specializes in French macaroons and desserts.
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From Brunch HT, September 26, 2021
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