Miam, which means yummy in French, is an off-beat pâtisserie in Delhi run by Le Cordon Bleu trained, Bani Nanda. Through her neo-classical style of cakes, she’s challenging the way Delhiites devour their cakes and eat it too. She says, “My style is an amalgamation of old concepts where different elements are put together in one cake and then finished off with a glaze, which is fairly new concept developed over the past 15 years.”
Bani launched her baby in June 2015, when only five years ago she was studying Physics at Gargi College. In her second year, she undertook an internship at The Leela Palace in Chanakyapuri. “It’s where I discovered my creative side,” she says, “and I had no idea I had one till then”. After that, as you can imagine, the last stretch to the Physics degree was a difficult one. “I found it really hard to focus towards the end because I was completely set on what I wanted to do and Physics was just happening for the sake of it. Baking became a welcome escape in my third year.”
From there Bani whooshed off to Paris to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu for nine months and then landed herself an internship at Dalloyau, who, Bani tells us, invented the opera cake. She definitely considers herself lucky for working with a pâtisserie whose origins date back to 1682. Soon after returning to India, she joined The Oberoi as a commis and worked there for a year and a half before branching off to start Miam.
For Bani, Miam is keeping her grandmother’s wish alive. Her granny wanted her to start her own pâtisserie, and even though Bani just jumped into it last year, she still had a very clear idea of what she wanted to do with her brand. She says, “I was very sure of what I wanted to do with it whether Delhi likes it or not. I knew I wasn’t going to make cupcakes and fondant cakes. And it’s because I can since I don’t work for someone and don’t have a boss or the pressures of running a big company over me.” That’s the biggest positive, she adds, about starting small because of minimal overhead costs.
Chef Bani’s Miam specialises in French desserts and along with unique cakes, she also bakes delicious macarons, which we had the privilege of tasting, and tarts among other traditional pastries like choux buns. Her bestselling ‘entremet’, she says, is the Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel, and then there are the bold experimentative clients who want exciting flavours like Kaffir Lime & Coconut Cake or the Jasmine & Raspberry.
In just under a year, Bani has built a loyal customer base, who now suggest different flavour profiles to her. She says, “I don’t think Delhi is quite there in terms of experimenting with wild sweet flavours and that’s why the Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel is my best seller, but their palates are definitely evolving. At least my clients’.” She laughs and adds, “There is a long way to go though before people understand citrusy desserts”. Bani keeps her work creative and is constantly learning new skills. As a passionate traveller, she picks up tips and ingredients from her travels to keep her work interesting and creativity on its toes. She returned with yuzus and matcha stuffed in her suitcase from a recent trip to Japan. Travelling, Bani says, is an even bigger passion than baking. Next, she wants to hit South America!
DSSC asked her whether one can achieve excellence if they are a self-taught dessert chef. “Of course,” she says, and cited the example of Heston Blumenthal as a successful self-taught dessert chef, going to a proper culinary school, “does shorten your journey in a way”. She says, “It shortens your journey by almost three years and you don’t have to start at the very bottom of the food chain”.
For now, Bani is very happy with the way Miam is going and the direction it’s headed in. She’s “getting a kick out of digging deep” into her creativity by playing with unique flavour combinations.
In true DSSC style, we asked her some quick fire questions:
What is the most unique flavour combination you’ve played with?
Bani: Hazelnut with grapefruit and dark chocolate; and Raspberry and jasmine tea
One dessert that you don’t like:
Any kind of licorice desserts
Your favourite summer flavour:
Your most comforting dish:
Paneer or Maggi
Your favourite fruit:
One cooking gadget that you cannot live without:
Small palette knife
Your top 3 favourite ingredients:
Teas, sea salt, citrus fruits
This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation Series, where we get candid with the ace of base industry disrupters.