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Daniel has spent the early hours of his morning baking some sinful stuff at the Craftery in Byculla. We've requested his team to sneak in and catch him in action. He's carefully hand laminating croissants. Perfecting every inch. After hours in the kitchen, guiding his team and making sure everything is on track, he's making his way to the Bandra outlet. We make our way there too and catch up with an unruffled Daniel on a warm summer afternoon.
His pictures, as you can see are lovely, but he is even lovelier in person - unassuming, warm and amiable. We get chatting and here's how it goes...
Baking was never on my radar. I was healing from an illness and baking started as a slow meditative process of making baguettes, croissants and sourdough bread at home. It helped me get my focus back and gave me something to hold onto. I kept experimenting, trying and it slowly turned into a passion. I started working for bigger bakeries, travel and that just kept growing and growing. Until I reached here. Umm yeah, that's my journey into baking in a nutshell. hahah. (smiles away)
Well, that's a long story. I'll see if I can make it less boring and short. I’ve been running a cafe in Pondicherry called Bread and Chocolate, along with my partners. It started off as a cute little cafe where people come by to have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or a salad and sandwich. It became much bigger and we expanded. In the second year of running the cafe, I met Rahul (founder of Subko). He was just a customer. He walked in and struck up a conversation with me about coffee and cold brew and he suggested we strengthen our brew, he thought it was weak.
Yeah yea. And I was like, wow this guy knows what he's talking about. I immediately took his advice and changed our ratios for the brew and we just became friends, we just hit it off. Whenever he was in town, he'd come home for lunches and dinners and we'd hang out. And at one point he called me to pitch this crazy idea about starting a specialty coffee and artisanal bake cafe. I had grown to see that he was very in line with how I like to do things. Our sense of style, food, taste in food and the other places we admired globally were just perfectly aligned. He was someone I wouldn't question doing anything with. So when he pitched, I said count me in and I flew out and we walked to this place, here in Bandra. It was a run down house. We started to map it out. The kitchen was going to be a problem because of how small it was. But we decided we'd only do a limited bake menu. That was the start. We broke it down, got in architects and got started.
It's a lot of hard work, it's like a workout. Hand laminating croissants takes a lot of effort. My hands were literally bruised everyday. If you see it, it's an incredibly physical task. Like a hard workout every day.
The best part is the relationships I am able to build. I love the guys I work with. It's like a family, we're a team. I have never interacted with people as their boss. We are all in it together. That's how I have always functioned. In that way, I feel that incidentally a culture gets built. In my bake team I have a hundred percent retention. I haven't lost a single baker. We all struggle together. It's a lot of hard work, early hours. It takes a lot of finesse, strength, and perseverance. You form a kind of brotherhood and that's what I really enjoy.
Paperwork. Anything that has to do with signing contracts, accounting, paperwork.
When I am not working, I am working out. Just any kind of movement. Making a meal with my wife and daughter when I am back home in Auroville. I am not someone who can sit down. I can never have a desk job, I'd go crazy. It's just not built in my character. So when I say working out I mean just any kind of movement. I don't take any mode of transport, I love to walk everywhere I can and be on the move.
That's a really good question. There can be so many answers to this, you can go very deep or can go really superficial. But yeah, what keeps one going? There are so many things. What motivates people? And it's a question I ask myself constantly. And I would want to give you an honest answer. I don't even know what that is. It requires a significant amount of self reflection. What keeps people going? There's so many things you know. There's little things, then there's goals - daily or weekly or longer. For me, I love life and learning. I love people, uhh I love relationships. I think relationships are a sacred part of life and that's how we learn, that's how we grow as individuals. It's a constant thrill of growing and learning. That's it, I guess.
Oh yes, I actually am hahah. I really like soft materials, comfortable clothing. I like it to have some stretch. Nothing stiff. I am a t-shirt and jeans guy at heart. I am not just saying this - this is the nicest shirt I have ever worn!! I really love this shirt! It's a very comfortable shirt and I hardly feel any restrictions in this! So I feel like I am wearing a t-shirt but it's dressy enough that I can go out in. It doesn't wrinkle. Especially with the kind of work I do, I'd just look like a mess in a shirt that wrinkles. So this is great. I've ordered one in every colour.
T-shirt and jeans, that's it. Very simple.
Yes yes, that’s my hope. It’s a constant struggle every day, constant problem solving. Because you’re dealing with so many different doughs and temperatures. And that has to be very strictly monitored. But I am super happy, our team is phenomenal.
I hope so! I really hope so!
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