Mumbai-based Rakesh Saini is living every red blooded man’s dream. Every weekend he’s surrounded by eager beaver women who hang on to his every word, lapping up everything he dishes out – not because of his chocolaty good looks or his disarming smile. It’s more because he shows them how to work magic with the one ingredient that makes most women go weak in their knees – chocolate!
Meet Rakesh, a trained chocolatier from Ecole Chocolat in the US, who conducts workshops on chocolate modeling and sugarcraft at 32 Degree Chocolate Studio, which are well attended by many people. When we say mean people, we don’t just mean women who can’t wait to get their hands on chocolate, but men too.
At prices ranging from Rs 4,000 To Rs 11,000 a pop, each person who enrolls for the chocolate making or chocolate modeling workshops gains hands-on experience on how to heat the compounds, mix it with corn syrup and colors, store it, roll it on in various shapes, etc – and an insight on how to use hand modeling techniques rather than just cutting the shapes out. The reason? Rakesh believes that with the right fingers and palm movements one can give better 3D depth to shapes of items, especially those like a rose flower for example, which is asymmetric by nature.
But a bit more about the man behind 32 Degree Chocolate Studio, an Indian-born student who went to London for his studies and later joined Marks and Spencer as a retail manager. It was in this city that Rakesh Saini met his wife who he eventually married in the year 2004. Four years later, as the fiscal situation worsened in Europe, he returned to India. But the idea of getting into the food business was germinating in his head, having taken root when he was in London. He finally decided that he would get into that one food-related industry which finds favor with most people around the world – chocolate![quote type=”center”]Many of my friends often ordered fancy fondant cakes for their birthdays. So I thought why not take a plunge into this stream since it seemed to be a very interesting business and the very craft fascinated me – Rakesh Saini[/quote]
He decided to first get some professional accreditation and signed up for a course with a Bangalore-based institute and later with Ecole Chocolate in the US and picked up his sugar craft skills in the UK. It helped that his wife was an expert baker too, and Rakesh literally puts the icing on them – in the true sense of the word. In 2012, fortified with his knowledge Rakesh unveiled 32 Degree Chocolate with the objective of imparting more knowledge about the techniques of chocolate modeling and sugar craft because he felt that other cooking class teachers wouldn’t impart more knowledge than was necessary. “I work primarily with people who want to create their own business for cakes and confectionery and want unusual and eye catching designs to top these,” he says. Of course, he also sees people from other walks of life including lawyers and doctors, who want to try their hands at decorative cakes.
Rakesh has already published a book ‘Magical Christmas Cupcakes’ in the US, presenting creations for Christmas cupcakes and plans to have another one shortly for India. He also plans to provide a paid video service where he’ll give tutorials on chocolate modeling, but that’s still in the pipeline. Though his operations are focused in Mumbai, Rakesh sometimes travels to conduct workshops in other metro cities, because he is invited there. “Going ahead we plan to train and appoint city ambassadors in major metros. We might even tie-up with non-competing culinary training schools as well to have our own courses on chocolate modeling and sugarcraft,” Rakesh added.
For a person who spends many of his waking hours coaxing chocolate compounds into unique shapes, Rakesh has a surprising confession to make – he is not really very fond of eating chocolate himself! It’s interesting though that someone can create a flourishing business on the foundation of that one ingredient that he rarely eats anymore! But Rakesh isn’t complaining, nor are the people who participate in his workshops. After all having a charming teacher to coach you through chocolate craft makes it that much more easier to keep going back!
[box] Some chocolate modeling truths by Rakesh Saini
- Heat white chocolate compound for 3 minutes in batches of 60 seconds each in a microwave so it doesn’t burn.
- While making chocolate for modeling, mix corn syrup with molten chocolate and then knead it in your hand so the oil is drawn out.
- While modeling chocolate, your hands should be cold. You can keep rubbing your hands on the sides of a water glass with ice cubes in it to keep your hands cold.
- Don’t mix colors into the white chocolate compound at one go. Chocolate dislikes moisture and since the colors have moisture content the chocolate is apt to curdle if too much color is added.
What workshop participants have to say:
I am into baking for the last 2 years. I started just for my kids but just don’t know how and when I got into it professionally. At the moment I bake cake for orders. I keep attending workshops to upgrade my knowledge, study about the market as I believe that there is no end to learning. Rakesh is a wonderful person. He understands the needs of each participant in the workshop and teaches accordingly. He is also very approachable and helpful. The workshops are wonderful, lots of learning and fun. I loved being a part of it. – Sunita Lobo
Baking is my passion and I sometimes sell cakes to friends in my church or office. I have attended two workshops with Rakesh Saini as I wanted to learn how to model chocolate. My overall experience at his workship was fabulous especially when I did the X’mas cupcake collection the first time. What I love about the class is we do not depend on moulds, since all the craft is hand moulded. Rakesh is quite strict if we do not get the models right and makes us do it again. It’s funny when he just flattens your model and says, ‘do it again’. But thats what teaches us to do it right! – Louella Fernandes