Meet the Bakers of Northeast India
By Ladiangti Rani
It is safe to say that love for food is mutual for every individual. It helps us grow, build our immune system and so on. But, every once in a while, we do spoil ourselves with a sweet tooth and grab a cake or pastry.
It has become a tradition to gift a loved one a cake for a special occasion. With the emergence of new bakers, we have more options, more flavours to choose from.
TNT-The Northeast Today spoke to several bakers of Northeast including Naco Bakes from Meghalaya, Samanbha Bakery from Meghalaya, Baker's basket from Nagaland, Dorothy's bakery and more from Meghalaya, Breaking Bread from Meghalaya, Adar Baker's Delight from Assam and the Food Abode from Assam to get an insight into their experience in the cake-making business.
TNT: What are the pros and cons of being a baker?
Pros: People in Shillong know taste and style. So, we're coming up with new flavours and we're always challenged to do creative designs. It has helped us be better at this work.
Cons: Long hours, weird hours. Days off are rare, lack of social life. We used to joke how the pandemic feels like normal everyday life because we don't go out or see anyone anyway. But that's probably the same for any other baker out there..hehe
-Opportunity to showcase and exercise CREATIVITY every day. A baker's job allows us to play with our artistic bone therefore making our roles monotonous.
-Enjoying MOBILITY: A baker's role keeps us moving. It is not a mundane desk job.
-Access to ORGANIC and INDIGENOUS produces unlike in the big cities.
-The availability of a variety of products (fruits, dairy, accessories etc).
-Branding: We still have a long way in leveraging ideas and avenues to brand our work at a much higher scale and volume.
We think baking is an art and a baker is an artist. Baking requires patience, consistency and creativity and in these 5 months of our baking journey, we've discovered those potentials in us which is definitely on the Pro side. As far as the cons are concerned, well it's hard to make outdoor plans with friends and family most of the time due to the orders we receive for baking.
The Food abode:
* Creative: Each cake is different and pushes us to come up with something different than our previous cakes.
* Can be done at home, without many overheads.
* Gives a lot of satisfaction when cakes are loved by customers.
* People have very high expectations but are not willing to pay for the same.
* Unavailability of products needed for decoration.
TNT: This year has been a difficult one for us due to the pandemic and many people have also suffered financially. Have you faced, or know of anyone else in the bakery business, who has faced difficulties during the pandemic?
Dorothy's Bakery and more:
Quality is my number one priority. As Christmas is also the season of giving, I wanted to go the extra mile on the packaging and making everything both delicious and presentable.
We have seen a lot of new bakers come up during the pandemic, who have either experimented or regularly practised their baking hobby during the lockdown period.
When have you started baking? Has the pandemic pushed you to lookup more creative recipes?
Well, work has been kind of all over the place this year. Although we are fortunate enough to still get orders almost daily, it has affected us financially from the old pace we had when the world was okay. However, work has started to pick up, especially now with Christmas orders and with the wedding season upon us. I'm grateful we can continue to do what we love.
TNT: Christmas is just around the corner and being a holiday season, it is likely to see more orders, especially for bakery items. At the same time, many bakers have come up. How are you planning to deal with your business in this festive season, keeping in mind the competition?
I was first introduced to the Artisanal method of baking three years back when my husband and I were visiting family and friends in South Africa. A close friend of mine, Colette Combrick took the time to share and teach me this ancient 2000-year-old recipe of making bread using only natural ingredients. So, technically I started baking sourdough bread and sharing it with friends, family and colleagues in 2018. Officially my sister Melanie and I started our online micro-bakery business on the 6th of June during the lockdown. During the heat of the pandemic, when the state called for lockdown, most of the shops were closed and those which were opened were selling only essentials. There was no bread in the market and bakeries in the city were not operating. Even commercial yeast was not available. It was then that my husband Jonathan told me to try my special traditional bakes and sell those online. Regarding different recipes, I've gathered knowledge of the different cuisines from various countries that I've had the chance to visit and I do my research of traditional food where wild yeast would have been used as the basic staple for the meals. And with that knowledge, I incorporate those menus in our Breaking Bread Friday special International menu. The idea is to create international meals. Due to the pandemic and a global lockdown, many people who were globetrotters have been restricted to their homes. People want to continue experiencing the world through food. And through our collaboration, we have given people a taste of Germany, Poland, South Africa, Ethiopia, Greece, France, and more.
The Food Abode:
We two sisters, Aparna Kalita and Pallavi Kalita, came up with the idea of starting a foodie page on Instagram around July, just to present some of the dishes that we use to cook at home. Both of us are inclined to baking and, we have been baking at home cakes since a very long time. During this lockdown, some of our friends asked us to bake and ice cakes for them. This was the start of 'The Food Abode' as a home baking unit. As we were all locked up at our homes during the lockdown, we needed something to keep us motivated and baking proved to be very relaxing and stress relieving for both of us. We experimented with new recipes which were in trend; our customers pushed and motivated us to present new flavours, designs and combinations. We thrive to live up to their expectations as we mostly do customised cakes.
TNT: Is baking more of a hobby for you? Or is it like a job?
Baking is both a hobby and a job for me. I have always been passionate about baking. That is why I pursued it as an education and further specialised in it till my masters. I love what I do every day!
This is also the age of Swiggy and Zomato and people get a lot of business from these platforms.
The Northeastern States have also seen many satellite eateries coming up who carry out their business on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Dorothy's Bakery and more:
Baking has always been a hobby for me.
Adar Bakers Delight:
Yes, it's more of a hobby but, off late I have started to pick up as my job.
TNT: Considering the same, have you faced any difficulties in managing your business when it comes to receiving and delivering orders? Do you think business has become challenging with Swiggy and Zomato in the business now?
So far, we haven't tried the platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, yet as far as receiving the order is concerned... Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp are serving us just well enough.
We only handle orders via Instagram and WhatsApp.
It's the most convenient and safe way to operate a business. It's not only easier, but it allows the server and customer to interact and get to know each other at a level where it creates opportunities to form a community.
We believe that challenge should always be welcomed especially in the field of business. Adversaties make way for growth, innovation and creativity.
Despite swiggy and Zomato, we've noticed that our very own local delivery services are doing exceedingly well and managing very effectively.
Adar Baker's Delight:
Well that's partially true...but then unlike zomato or swiggy, customers who are hard-pressed for time, often go for customised cakes with ideas relevant to the celebration..so orders are put a few days ahead to time..so I think that put me in good stead .. there are also some dedicated platforms for ordering cakes online like Ferns and petals of which I am empanelled and doing it for some time now.
(Edited by Iban Mawrie)