Prasanna Hede – Food Blogger & Recipe Curator

Meet Prasanna Hede – dedicated food blogger, and multi-cuisine home chef. Coming from a small town in Goa and migrating to career-routed locations, she is now is re-discovering her roots. A qualified software engineer, Prasanna is currently a dedicated home-maker and a full-time mom.

There’s something about Goa that drifts you into a world of gastronomy, she says – the city presents a confluence of some of the most exotic cuisines in the world.

Growing up as a child in Goa, Prasanna learnt something new every day from her mother’s repertoire of traditional and across-the-border recipes. She also loved making notes about the way her mother cooked – notes that eventually became the starting point of her food blog.

Q – What is your cuisine of preference? Is going back to your roots important?

Sometimes, where your family originates from can influence what you like to cook, or the way you work in the kitchen. Right from traditional cooking styles, the availability of local ingredients, and preferences that grow on you.

My interests in cooking are a melting pot of what I have assimilated over the years – as we moved from city to city, across time zones. And coming home was always special because it brought us back to the familiar sights and aromas of India.

At my mother’s home, we were exposed to Mangalorean and Maharashtrian cooking, in addition to our staple Goan diet – which was rice, fish curry, sol-kadi and fried fish. Our stay in Bangalore brought me closer to the flavors of Karnataka – thatte idli, puliogare, benne dose, chitranna, ghee roast, chako and dalitoy. Enough to make your day.

Q – Can you describe your journey down memory lane? Who pointed you in the right directions?

Over the years, I have managed to learn about traditional cuisines from elders in the family, who have been only happy to share ideas, methods and recipes. Add to this my own research along the way to create a growing body of work.

My mother has had a big role to play in this journey. She’s been my mentor, idol and master chef – bringing a rare passion into the kitchen every single day. An important part of her cooking lesson was a narrative spiced with history, geography and grandmother stories. So the learning had a fun element to it, as well.

I am keen that my daughter too, is familiar with her grandmother’s art of cooking – Aarvi is four years old and has a mind of her own. But I guess she can add miles and smiles to this journey.

Q – What kind of support do you get from your husband ? More than an extra pair of hands?

My husband, Abhijeet, is my QC head in the kitchen – in other words he is an honest and unbiased food critic. He is the first to taste my food, and usually has the last word. I take his feedback seriously because it’s constructive – not just stray comments on salt, for instance.

And I must say he’s also a great support system – helps with the kids, helps with the shopping and also helps me choose the right kind of cooking accessories and props. At the end of each cooking session, he lends a hand in the clearing and cleaning up process. That’s a relief because it’s nice to see a spotless kitchen first thing in the morning.

Q – Do you like cooking up something special for festivals? For Ugadi & Ganesha Habba?

The food menu during festivals was always carefully planned in our home in Goa. For Ugadi we would make a bitter-sweet drink with neem, and a host of specials the family looked forward to – including Sakharbhat, Sweet Rice Pongal and Puran Poli. This year I tried out a new version of Puran Poli and it came out really nice.

Ganesh Chaturthi is another big highlight on our festive calendar and I usually try out some traditional Goan recipes during the festival. Khatkhatem is a delicious mixed vegetable curry, Moonga Gathi is sprouted moong curry. Manganem is a sweet dish with split gram, jaggery and cashew. Our Chathurthi menu also includes Rice, Sol Kadhi, Mixed Vegetable Pakoras, Nevryo and Modak. Enough to make Ganesha happy, and the family ecstatic over the wide choice of festive food.

Q – What plans do you have for the future? Do you see new directions?

While going back to my roots has been interesting, I have also been in touch with the current culinary landscape. I admire and follow the cooking styles of Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen and Vikas Khanna. These are legends in their own special way and can inspire you to look at things from a whole new perspective

I also plan to take my food blog to the next level – with organized streams of content that include both traditional and experimental cuisines that I wish to explore – currently looking at French and Italian cuisines as windows of learning and delight.

Oh yes, a cook book is on the cards, but I need to work on it as a long-term project – need to explore the publishing cycle and ways to make the book pay for itself.


Apple Mawa Kheer
Usually made by us during Holi. I start with finely grated apple, fried lightly with ghee. This is then ground to a paste and cooked in a sauce pan that has milk, sugar and mawa till you get a kheer-like consistency.







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Prasanna’s blog & social media links
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Riya Patel – foodie, blogger & aspiring chef

Riya Patel is the tiny, shy girl behind Yummy-Inside-My-Tummy – a blog for food enthusiasts, from Mumbai to Mantua. She was nominated for the category of Best Debut Blog and Best Restaurant Review Blog at the 2015 Indian Food Blogger Awards. At 20, she’s among the youngest food bloggers in town.

Riya likes cooking, baking and dining out – not entirely in that order. She is a huge fan of Italian cuisine – loves her pastas and pizzas more than anything else in the world. She calls herself the ultimate Dessert Queen because of her weakness for anything soft and sugary.

Currently a third-year Mass Media student at Sophia College for Women, Riya says that life in Mumbai has been a truly amazing journey, but Bangalore will always be home for her.

Q – You’re so passionate about food and food writing – did you have any other career in mind?
It now seems strange that not too long ago, I visualized doors opening for me at a lawyer’s office – I had seriously considered life in a black tux. But I guess my love for writing and describing food overtook my interest in the legal profession. And when the time came for the big move, I headed straight to Sophia’s in Mumbai for a degree in mass media. This was my calling – to take it to the next level and express my love for writing, and eventually writing about food.

Q – This is interesting – where do you draw your inspiration from?
I do not come from a family that has a food or hospitality background but both my mother and grandmother are great cooks. So from the age of 8, I’ve been immersed in pots, pans and the sweet aromas of cooking. I remember the first thing I tried out from this kids’ cookbook was “fish cakes” – a project completed with help from my dad’s mother. Later on, she helped me bake cupcakes and brownies for my school bake sale – she has so much patience with me. And always being around her and seeing how much she enjoys cooking has been very, very inspiring.

My mother on the other hand is a natural cook and believes in quick and easy recipes. I am invariably her official ‘taster’ giving her my little comments and feedback. She is a real superwoman and works late in the kitchen – till the last dish is washed, dried and put away. I don’t know where she finds all that energy, but can always make cooking to be fun and relaxing. (And that’s a useful thing to remember when you’re writing notes to yourself.)

Q – Do you have any famous chefs in your follow list? What do you admire in them?
My follow list is awe-inspiring and includes names such as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White and Nigella Lawson. These are masters of the craft and names that truly are up there. My idea of ending a hard day’s work is relaxing on my couch and watching their shows – and what they can do is like poetry in motion. Even though I’m still early in the curve, I guess I can chart my own path and destination – because I hope to explore the far corners of the world – in search of authentic cuisines that made way for modern interpretations.

Q – Doing a food review and getting your hands greasy are on opposite sides of the table – where would you rather be?
Doing food reviews at restaurants is one aspect of the kind of work I currently do, in addition to giving kitchen crews some very useful feedback – on aspects like taste, discernable flavors and how food can be served in an interesting way. I also like sampling food experiments at the kitchens of friends in my foodie circle who are serious about cooking. All of this can be tedious but it keeps me on my toes and helps me track the latest trends.

At the end of the day, I love being in my own kitchen – this personal space is my biggest stress buster and has a calming effect on me. I feel like a whole new person in my kitchen and love getting my hands messy trying out new cooking styles. I also love being creative and experimental with flavors, and can come up with the most randomly creative dishes you could think of – my Fusilli-in-Curry is nice I must say, with generous toppings of potato crisps, herbs and cheese.

Q –Did you ever think of food styling as a professional interest?
Today’s career seeker in food styling has two avenues – food styling for photography, and food styling that ends up on your plate at a restaurant. It’s all about looking good. But I think I might explore the path of styling food that looks good on your plate. You’re working with real ingredients and not cosmetic sprays – you’re also working at making something truly appetizing.

I am a perfectionist and for me, everything has to look good and taste great. That’s why food styling is a natural extension of my love for cooking – I also have an eye for detail and sprucing up. If the right doors open for me in food styling I wouldn’t mind taking it up as a career – it’s hard work, but there’s a creative element out here.

Q – You’re aspiring to become a chef, food writer and critic? Where do you go from here?
I graduate in a few months, and working for a year or two will be nice. I might also want to do my masters in journalism, along with a few certified culinary courses. I would have never imagined following this path before I came to Mumbai. This city has taught me a lot and given me wings. I now know what it means to be independent and forward-looking – with a focus on what’s on your plate.

The one thing that never stops me from doing what I want to do in life is my heart and soul. So don’t be surprised when I send you an invite to the opening of my own little bistro – that’s another dream in the making.


Riya’s Chorizo Noodles – A fusion of flavors with hakka noodles, smoked pork,red pepper and paprika – usually served with an authentic Mangalore curry and coconut milk.

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Riya’s blog & social media links
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Mitra Farmand – cartoonist & illustrator

Meet Mitra Farmand – cartoonist and illustrator living in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 2013 she graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT – so don’t worry, she’s certified to draw cartoons.

Mitra has a degree in History from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her work has been published in The Funny Times, The Nib, Seven Days and yes, The New Yorker as well.

I chatted with Mitra about discovering talent, and finding your sweet spot – which is a confluence of what you’re good at and what you’re interested in – and here’s her side of the story. She tends to be understated about her work, but anybody can see that she’s big on talent.

Q – Did you want to become a cartoonist as a child? Were your doodles “inspired” in your growing years?
As a child, I never thought about being a cartoonist. I liked to draw, but I had no special aptitude for drawing. I wanted to draw things exactly as they looked and was frustrated at my inability to draw realistically. For years, the extent of my drawing was doodling in school and the occasional art class.

Q – Is there another side to Mitra Farmand? What makes you funny?
People often ask me if I have a cat and if I’m a vegetarian. No to both those things. Apparently I look like a cat-owning vegetarian. I don’t like the zoo or buttons. If you see someone wearing a button down shirt at the zoo, that is not me. I like supply closets, dogs, and bicycles.

As for being funny, I do think I am kind of funny, just naturally. I think you can get funnier if you are funny, but if you aren’t funny in the first place, I’m not sure it can be learned.

Q – For most artists, a life-changing moment is when you recognize that you’re talented? When did that happen to you?
I don’t think I’m talented at drawing. I’m not the sort of person who can draw everything and I’m constantly Googling things to find out what they look like. I’ve grown somewhat proficient at drawing things I like to draw (like cats and dogs) and struggle with things I’m not good at drawing (like buildings and cars).

I envy people who can just draw something simply and be done with it. I think that gives their art a really easy quality and it looks like they had fun making the drawing. I try to get my drawings to look like that, but I often fail. I get caught up in the details. I think the reason I can draw some things is that I’ve worked hard at it. And the computer really helps.

Q – When did you realize that you needed to zig, when your peers chose to zag? What steps did you take to move in that direction?
I’ve always wanted to zig instead of zag. I just didn’t have anything that I was interested in enough to zig for until I started cartooning. So I don’t think it was something in my life that made me go back to school – like being unsatisfied with my job. It was finding something that I loved to do that made me go for it.

Q – What was your second life-changing moment? Your enrolment at The Center for Cartoon Studies? Your cartoon for the New Yorker?
The New Yorker has been kind of life changing. It’s validating. It gives me more confidence. Even though I was trying to get into The New Yorker for two years, it still seems amazing to me that they published one of my cartoons.

Q – Tell us something about your store on Etsy? What products do you feature?
Lately most of my attention is on my shop on Etsy. I sell cards, stickers, magnets, dioramas, tote bags, garlands, prints, and temporary tattoos. I sold about 250 items in my shop in 2015, but that doesn’t mean I’ve made a profit. I’m hopeful that this year I can take in more than I spend.

Q – How would you take your talent to the next level? Where do you go from here? 
Lately I’ve been trying to Google all the things I do manually in Photoshop and I’ve found that most of the things I do manually, Photoshop will do for me. It’s kind of great and kind of awful to find out that something you’ve been doing manually, you can do with one keystroke. Oops.

Oh yes, I want to get another cartoon into The New Yorker.

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Mitra’s store on Etsy >
Mitra’s website >
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Vihan Damaris – songwriter & musician

Vihan_Image02Meet Vihan Damaris of Bangalore.
A 21-year-old singer, songwriter, musician and painter. As a bright-eyed toddler, she probably learnt to sing faster than she could learn to speak. And when most young girls are giggly teenagers at 15, Vihan was writing inspired lyrics and composing music.

Vihan writes contemporary Christian lyrics to the beat of pop, rock, soul, blues and R&B. Her song ‘Love India’ won her the Best Music Video Student Award at the Indian Cine Film Festival ’15 – against a backdrop of over 600 entries from 90 countries. The song was also aired on Radio Indigo to rave reviews from the hosts of the show.

She is currently experimenting with oils on canvas, under the watchful eye of her mother, Rayla Noel, who is an accomplished painter in Bangalore. Vihan is also helping her mother explore the viability of an online art gallery for her paintings – the project aims to tap into the growing art markets on the web.

Q – You’re musically inclined in more ways than one – how early did you start playing the piano, or the guitar? Do you feel you’re special, or gifted? How many songs have you composed?

I’m not sure about being special, or gifted, because I do come from a very creative family – and there was always music in the house. I sat at the keyboard when I was fifteen years old and wrote my first song. At sixteen, I finished a one-semester course in music with a Grade-1 in piano. At seventeen, I joined my college rock band and learnt to play lead. At eighteen, I was asked to play bass guitar in church, and added bass to my repertoire.

I’ve written over 30 songs over the past six years and singing my own compositions was a natural extension. I’m still discovering my style of music and developing instrumental and composition skills alongside lending voice to this effort.

Q – What kind of music do you like? How has this helped in your little world? I’m referring to Christian music as a medium of expression, or something that truly appeals to you.

My little world of Christian music is influenced by many people, experiences and exposures. I listen to all sorts of music, although rock music tops it for me. ‘Alter Bridge’ comes to mind here – they have the sort of honesty and brilliance of composition that I admire. I do hope my version of Christian music has the brilliance to transcend religion and belief – reaching anyone who enjoys meaningful music.

Sometimes the music I’m listening to has a direct influence on what I might do next. For instance, when my mother asked me to visualize a tune for her poem of prayer called ‘Father I Kneel’, I unintentionally used the chord progression of ‘Love the Way You Lie’ by Eminem ft. Rihanna – the result was a beautiful synergy of two diametric worlds.

Q – Tell us about your “Catch Me” song, and how it evolved into a music video?

‘Catch Me’ describes my personality so well. I was just discovering what it meant to be a Christian and maybe it wasn’t really what I wanted. I told God in a frustrated moment of prayer that I couldn’t be that person and He led me to write this song. He understood my faults and was willing to be there for me each time I failed.

Before ‘Catch Me’, I didn’t even like to see myself in photographs – leave alone music videos. However a new window opened for me at a ‘Parra’ camp (a church, also the name of their rock band) where I chose a video workshop and found to my surprise it wasn’t such a big deal. So I came back and planned a music video. I did it with the help of two people I was willing to be embarrassed in front of – my parents. That was the start of more music videos, and bolder expressions.

Q – Your dad’s a sound engineer, and your mother’s an artist – what more can anybody ask for? Tell us about the supportive environment you grew up in and how your parents did a lot more than point in the right direction? 

My parents are both artists and musically gifted, and they have opposite personalities – practical versus creative – but put together there’s an amazing balance and chemistry. My parents are my fire-starters, they have taught me the right values, and they encouraged me and my younger siblings with our creative interests. When I desperately wanted to join the rock band in college, my father picked up a guitar so I could audition the next day – I discovered later that he had spent all that was left for the month. How we recovered from this was a miracle – and I have seen many such miracles taking us through, from one day to the next.

Q – What plans do you have for the future? Where do you see yourself going? Tell us about the road ahead …

I think everybody has a purpose in life – they may not always be aware of it. They become special when they find that purpose and work towards it. My parents taught me to sing and play instruments through example – a process that helped me discover my inner talent.

It’s hard to not daydream once in a while, but I see a lot of things falling into place around me. In essence, I am a worshipper of the Lord – it’s the most important thing I do because everything else comes as a result. Who or what I’ll finally become, I don’t know – all I know is I’m getting there.

Vihan’s video that won the Best Music Video (Student) Award – Indian Cine Film Festival 2015

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Batul Kapasi – photojournalist & film maker

Batul.KapasiMeet Batul Kapasi, a final year student at Mumbai’s KC College, specializing in Mass Media. As a student, her interest in photojournalism enabled a useful stint at Pudhari Publications – a leading Marathi newspaper. She also works as a freelancer for entertainment websites, and takes on shooting assignments for events, weddings and corporate films.

Batul is a young socially driven movie maker with a message to share. Play simple, play fair and understand the environment you live in. Don’t attempt to sideline people based on caste, religion and circumstance.

I got in touch with Batul after I saw her “Judgemental” film on YouTube, a short film about a young student in a Mumbai first class compartment, questioning a transgender woman if she’s got into the compartment by mistake. I followed that up with an interview with her for my Big on Talent blog, and here are her responses to some of the questions I asked her.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Judgemental film? Was it a specific incident? Was it something on your list of ideas? What was the prompt, or inspiration?

I use the local every day to get to college and move around Mumbai. And when I’m in the train I get to observe people from close quarters. And there’s a lesson I learn every day in understanding people – around their worries, concerns, hopes and aspirations. I also get to observe people’s prejudices. Talking about prejudices I once saw a young student questioning a lady who had got into the train at Ghatkopar Station – only to be surprised that she had a valid ticket. The discomfort and disgust displayed by the girl got me thinking – this was movie material.

This was around the time I was working on my “1-Minute Series” and this new idea was a nice inclusion.

Q: How did you go about the production? What equipment did you use? Did you have someone to guide and help you? How did you put this together?

I used basic equipment for my Judgmental film – a Canon 70D and a 50mm 1.4 lens, which I borrowed from a professor at college. New Sound Films/EEG Talent helped me produce this film. This production house is a great platform for budding filmmakers and writers and is owned by Nick Rajsakha, Tejas Rathod and Kunal Kothari. They are also helping me produce other films I have in mind, including Dharavi Dreams which will be released on a much bigger platform.

Q: How did you arrive at using a transgender person for this film? Did you consider other options?

I did a lot of soul searching before picking the cast for this film – I also chatted with people at college and other professionals I work with. Virtually everyone liked the idea I had conceived – and were curious about my next steps, as it was a completely offbeat film.

Initially, I thought of using typical profiles that would stand out in a first class compartment – but I needed to make a bigger impact. That’s how the transgender narrative came into my storyline – and this was easier said than done. My first option was to use an actor, but that didn’t work for more than one reason. I had to get someone from the transgender community to play that role – I didn’t want to rewrite the script to make things easier.

That’s when a good friend of mine, Isha, came to my rescue – useful because she was associated with the Kashish Film Festival. Isha introduced me to Shreya and I instantly knew I didn’t have to look any further. Shreya was just right for the role of the Ticket Collector in the film, and Drashti Thaker did her part well as the student with discomfort written all over.

Q: Did things get out of hand during the shoot? Curious people? Passengers? Other ticket collectors?

Well, Murphy ’s Law always comes into play when you’re shooting – even when you’ve planned things carefully and are completely equipped. When I was shooting the establishing shots of the film, the police cautioned me twice and warned me that they would take away my camera. They really had no idea what I was doing, and I just wanted to wrap up the project without any incident.

When we were shooting at CST, the train suddenly started moving and I realized that people would start pouring in at every station. Around the space I was shooting, passengers were both amused and curious – to my relief, it looked like they were being entertained.

Q: What has the response been for your film? From the transgender community, from professional support groups, from peers, from colleagues and friends.

I must say that I have reason to be ecstatic – viewer response has been good and encouraging. The film has already crossed 1,00,000 views, much to my amazement. And that’s a lot of people who are seeing your name flashing on the screen – it feels awesome and I think well deserved – because a lot of hard work went into it. Shreya, my lead in the film shared it with her transgender group; people like Harish Iyer also shared the film on social media. I also got positive feedback from other members of Shreya’s group while shooting another documentary. There were calls, messages and likes on facebook – more than I had ever imagined. Even shoutouts from people I didn’t even know. All this makes me feel blessed.

Q: How did you get into story telling with a message? What got you into this space? How many films have you made? What plans do you have for the future?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with stories and story-telling. The stories that I heard from elders at home had to be shared, and I was always thinking of interesting ways to do that. I must add here that my story-telling skills found true expression when I did theatre. Theatre enhances the way you think and develop ideas and makes you realize the importance of time.
Cinema on the other hand is a powerful medium when you want to share your message with a large audience. I have made thirteen films so far – including short films and documentaries. The last film in my “1-Minute Series” will soon be done and I will move on to other projects on my project list. It’s encouraging to have a basket of ideas, waiting to happen – gives you so much to look forward to.

Q: What are your other interests? Where does life take you in the years to come? What you plan to do and maybe, a future perspective…

I love star gazing – I’m a born star gazer. I really like talking to people to know more about their lives and the different worlds they live in. In this journey of storytelling, I hope to understand life better and with more meaning and purpose. I want to travel to places that can inspire my passion for storytelling. I think travel can free your soul and lead you to newer meaningful directions in life – even if you sometimes think you are lost on that journey.

In the not too distant future, I can see myself directing a feature film and a play. To be honest, I don’t know what’s coming – but I am sure whatever is on my way, it would be worth it!

Written, Directed, Shot & Edited by Batul Kapasi.
Cast: Drashti Thaker & Shreya Reddy
YouTube meter: 110,784 (And counting . . .)

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Atamjeet Singh Bawa – paper modeller

AtamjeetSinghBawa_BikeHow to turn a blank sheet of paper into a superbike in eight steps.  Well, as you will soon see, that’s easier said than done – especially when you start from scratch, with a little more than plain paper and board. But Atamjeet Singh Bawa of New Delhi, India, displays a keen eye and a remarkable sense of scale model profiling – something that could get the original designers to drop a jaw and take a closer look.

His range of paper-crafted models includes warheads, space shuttles, fighter planes, warships, motorbikes, and more. The largest model crafted by Atamjeet is the M4-A Pulse Rifle – made to a scale of 1:1 and three feet long. He has also worked on a 1:1 model of a rocket propelled grenade launcher – roughly four feet long. His smallest creation is a 1:48 scale model of the Bell XP-77 Airplane – barely five inches long from nose to tail.

Currently Atamjeet works as a software programmer with an IT firm. He says he loves coding, so there’s no problem with that during working hours. His eyes light up, I guess when it’s time to clock off at work and get home – when he can get his hands dirty with glue and paper.

Q: Atamjeet, how did you pick paper as a medium?

Paper gives me the convenience of ‘doing something from flat’. Look at it another way – paper is also the cheapest and most easily sourced raw stock you can lay your hands on. If I want to make changes, I just take another printout and take things forward.

Paper also enables a remarkable sense of detailing – making it easier to cut, curve, crease and fold. While paper art is largely known for origami, I have attempted to give the medium a whole new dimension.

Q: What is a typical start-to-finish process?

It basically takes seven to eight steps to take my projects from concept to creation – let me try and outline the process for you.

Stage 01: I start with researching my target original for a few days – this includes time spent on looking up product history and understanding design interventions.

Stage 02: Initial 3D renderings of the model on my computer – giving me different viewpoints of approach – this is where I visualize scaling down in terms of form and function.

Stage 03: I obtain a preliminary printout to serve as a planner – this has detailed notes on colors, graphics, paper grades, margins and assembly.

Stage 04 is when I do the detailing of surface graphics, background colors and cutting guidelines. I usually do a few trial print runs here to see how the image prints out on different grades of paper.

Stage 05: This stage can be tedious and labor intensive. Once the printing is done, each component is individually cut out like a jig saw puzzle – I usually end up with an assortment of small to large pieces.

Stage 06 is a validation of the first five stages – to correct the smallest deviations and ensure accuracy in terms of fitment, assembly and form integration.

Stage 07 – This is where I bend, crease, curve and fold to actually form each component and part assembly, based on original profile guidelines.  I also do a soft assembly without glue, to see if there’s a perfect match in terms of interlocking and fitment.

Stage 08: The finally assembly includes a careful step-by-step gluing sequence. This can be tricky, as I have to apply glue spots only on areas that I have pre-identified.

After stage 08, the model still needs to be tweaked, in terms of last minute propping up in terms of alignments. I also need to do cosmetic retouching to mask the white edges visible when you cut out sections from paper or board. This is done using high quality felt pens.

Q: How do you choose your boards, and what cutters do you use?

A: A lot of planning goes into choosing the right paper or board – extreme variations in thickness can result in some level of difficulty during assembly. Fortunately for me you can easily get the kind of paper and boards that I need, right here in India. My cutting tools are actually a growing collection and something I have handpicked over the years. This includes X-ACTO cutters, ergonomically balanced scissors, heavy-duty blades and wooden dowels. When it comes to glue, I like working with ‘Desi Fevicol’ – available in local markets. Fevicol is just right, because it is virtually colorless and gives me enough time to pull, tweak and align before it dries.

Q: How do you achieve that amazing degree of realism in form, detailing, graphics and paintwork?

A: I work with a 6-P guideline that encapsulates Passion, Patience, Practice, Preparation, Perfection and Precision. These are my frames of reference and points of inspiration – whatever I may be doing – playing the guitar, playing ping pong, software coding, or working in my model studio. This level of discipline can be useful, because there are times when you can get tired and want to give up – 6-P helps me go that one level higher in terms of perseverance.

Q: What dreams do you have to take this wonderful talent to new heights?

A: I dream of a Madame Tussauds kind of a museum where all my models could be displayed with a historical timeline. Take the evolution of a bicycle for instance, which I do have in mind as a project. I also dream of working with automobile giants for product launch events that may call for model replicas using my techniques and talents. Just imagine, if Ferrari were launching a new model, I would love to see my paper creation of that car under the same spotlights.


This talk by Atamjeet was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format and independently organized by a local community.

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Prarthana Pednekar – master baker & food stylist

Cup cakes with a Mehendi theme

Meet Prarthana Pednekar from Mumbai. A young, talented master baker and food sculptor who has a finger in every pie – from horoscopes and palm reading, to ethnic cuisines and baking.

While that’s diverse and multi-faceted, she spends all her waking hours in her kitchen-cum-baking-studio. Prarthana bakes the most fabulous cakes and pastries this side of the hemisphere, and what she likes best is listening to the faint hum that starts up when she turns on her oven. Her custom bakery line, run currently from home makes a lot of people happy – especially with the exciting listing she has on her custom order menu.

Here are some excerpts from the long chat I had with her, on what she does, and how she plans to expand her business.

Q: What does your current range include in your specialty bakery line?

A: I currently offer cakes for every rhyme and reason. Cupcakes in all shapes, textures, flavours, muffins that will tenderize the most hard-hearted, and hand-minted chocolates that can turn a frown upside down. There’s a lot that happens in my kitchen-turned-baking-studio, but the most popular orders that come my way are for cupcake bouquets, customized hampers, tiered butter-cream rosette cakes and festive hampers.

Q: Do cakes for special occasions form the bulk of your regular orders?

A: Yes they do, because I bake cakes for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers and themed birthday parties. Each cake comes with a specific brief in terms of theme, ingredient mix, weight, size, shape and preferred icing. The icing can be a major challenge because it needs to add dimension and visual appeal.

I usually refer to a sugar-based topping as icing, and butter based, or thicker cream creations as frosting. Whatever ingredients I use, the icing invariably calls for an art component – to actually render cartoon characters, comic book heroes, glam-girl dolls and unusual variations. The finishing touches are the trickiest thing to do – one false move and you have to redo the whole thing.

Q: How do you plan your ingredient mix? Do you have a regular shopping list?

A: While I do have a regular shopping list, most orders have something special and unique that call for additional shopping. While I love the creative aspect of making my products look good and taste good, I also enjoy the planning and shopping process. I need to be careful here because I work with the best ingredients and the best doesn’t come cheap. Each order is literally assigned a small individual pocket book that contains all the specs and my shopping list. I like my pocket book idea, because this serves as a handy reference, the next time I bake something similar.

Q: What happens during the actual baking process?

A: The baking process can get tricky, because this is when you can bake, or break your order. I need to give special attention to the mix, oven settings, baking and cooling cycles. Even storage methods after baking needs special consideration. While this sounds complicated, things do fall into place as you go along – you know exactly what to do and how to do it.

My process pretty much goes like clockwork, though I face a bit of a challenge when I need to tackle multiple orders at the same time. That’s when I need to prioritize in terms of preparation, grouping similar tasks and scheduling oven sharing, which is easier said than done.

Q: Do you have someone to help you to make life a little easier?

A: Yes, I do – my mum is a lot more than an extra pair of hands – always there, always anticipating all those twists and turns where I might need help. Dad, of course, is really sweet and abundantly helpful – ever ready to shop with me, or help deliver when customers call up with an SOS request. I really should induct them onto my board as senior partners, because they prop me up in the many ways they can.

Q: How do you plan to take this to the next level?

A: Right now, I’m weighing my options in terms of core occupation and peripheral interests. And my gut tells my that I need to make the baking line part of my core occupation. I am in the process of outlining a few business models and need to validate them in terms of return on investment. I sometimes wish I could find a like-minded business partner – it’s always useful to have another person who shares the same passion and can help downsize the workloads. Another option is to be part of a value-based supply chain that caters to upper crust outlets – it can widen your canvas.

Prarthana with her Indian Idol, Vikas Khanna, during one of his visits to Manipal University. Vikas Khanna is an alumnus of Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration.

Prarthana Pednekar has a B.Sc. in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from IHM in GOA, and an M.Sc. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration at Manipal University.
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Scottie Callaghan – latte art champion


Who is Scottie Callaghan?

Look up the winners of the World Latte Art Championship in 2006 and the Australian Barista Championship in 2007, and see who walked away with top honours. Today, the name “Scottie Callaghan” is known in the coffee hubs of the world as someone who really knows his beans.

Scottie has worked hard over the last eight years alongside some of Australia’s most reputed roasters, baristas and barista trainers – learning the art and the science of coffee that looks good, tastes good.

All the hard work eventually paid off. Here’s a quick line-up from Scottie’s personal hall of fame.
2007 – Australian Barista Champion **
2007 – 9th place – World Barista Championship
2007 – NSW Barista Champion
2006 – World Latte Art Champion **
2006 – 2nd place – Australian Barista Championship
2005 – Sydney Barista Champion
2005 – Pura Milk Latte Art Champion
2004 – 2nd place – Danes Gourmet Coffee Institute
Grand Barista Championship

I cut into Scottie’s coffee break the other day, to find out a little more about the man who can serve up the most perfect cup of coffee in the world.

1. Did you always want to be in the café business?
I think I was destined to work in the café industry, for as long as I can remember – I have always appreciated the importance of flavor.

When I was young, I would cook a lot for the family – traditional Australian dishes like roasts, porridge, Shepherd’s Pie – and my family didn’t mind when I cooked. These were humble beginnings in a large family of nine. Mum use to make porridge in the morning before we all got up, some mornings I use to beat her to it and make the porridge for everyone. Some might thing I was sucking up, but I honestly just loved cooking and I still do.

2. And what does work mean to a world champion?
I work full time for Belaroma Coffee as their Coffee Champion, working on blends and barista training to make sure the coffee served in cafés that use Belaroma Coffee is at the highest standard possible. I also sell a range of packages to suit people’s budgets and then show customers how to be a personal home barista.

Before joining Belaroma, I worked as a consultant to cafés, baristas and coffee companies – teaching people the finer points of espresso preparation.

3. Do you share your magical trade secrets with people?
For the home DIY enthusiast, I offer a complete Home Barista package – this is all people need to make great espresso coffee at home. My personalised inputs here include setting up the machine and showing customers how to make a great cup. This can be invaluable as it helps people skip the minefield of department stores with lines of espresso machines and no one to tell you what to buy and how to use them.

At another level, baristas also need a guiding hand. And I go to great lengths in helping baristas make a better cup of coffee, at their café or place of work. My orientation is in-depth – right from the basics of grinding, dosing, extractions and milk texturing, to the overall appreciation of high quality espresso. I help them acquire a knowledge base that will be useful on the job.

4. What does a barista need, to earn his stripes?
A natural feel for the sensory aspects of making coffee and familiarity with technical aspects that can get the optimum out of machine and process. A little understanding about the roasting side of coffee also goes a long way in honing skills. According to me, what tops it all is a deep understanding of customer service – and this can take years to learn because it involves people skills.

5. Should barista’s competitive spirit aim at winning prizes?
I guess prizes are not everything but who am I to comment? Barista competitions have been great for me – I have learnt a great deal, met great people, travelled all over the world and built a business on the back of my prizes. But there are baristas who are brilliant at what they do and make a great living for themselves – without entering competitions.

6. What are the five key tips to making good coffee?
A great cup of coffee is an awesome experience; a bad cup of coffee? Well after the good one, one might say, “That’s not coffee.”

So here are five tips that can be useful. Tip One: Always buy freshly roasted coffee – look for a roast date not a use-by date. Tip Two: Buy a good grinder – if you want to make truly great coffee, you need to grind the coffee fresh. Tip Three: Keep your machine clean, which means regular cleaning and maintenance. Tip Four: Adjust the grind to achieve a correct espresso pour. Tip Five: Before you adjust the grind, make sure you achieve the correct dose.

7. Over these years, have you invented any tools for the trade?
I always tell people that the correct dose can make a big difference to taste. And what I mean by that is how much ground coffee to put into your filter basket (the handle that inserts into the espresso machine) and the importance of dosing the same amount for every coffee you make. With my experience in the field, I have come up with some tools that will help users achieve a correct dose and be consistent – cup after cup after cup.

8. Do you make a beeline for espresso bars on your holidays?
The coffee industry is full of beautiful people who I have been privileged to get to know. And I have been fortunate enough to get to travel. Over the last two years I have been to Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Tokyo, London, Singapore andCanada. And I have been able to stop by at some of the best cafes and espresso bars in the world – like Café Europa in Copenhagen or Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, London.

9. Is there an interesting offbeat café that comes to mind?
Café Lambre in Tokyo, a small café owned by a 93 year old man named Sekiguchi-san – my all time favourite café owner and one of the true legends of the international café scene. I once asked Sekiguchi-san what he thought of espresso. Waving his hands in the air, he started with an aghhghhghhgh!! “When you are making coffee, everything should be done by the hand – not a machine. Coffee needs to be treated with respect, not with all these electronic gadgets.”

10. Scottie, is there life beyond being a barista?
Oh yes, there is. I am in the middle of a great book called Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts – a great read about someone who escaped from prison in Australiaand fled to India. I also love snowboarding and wakeboarding; I have spent many weekends out on the Hawkesbury on my friend’s boat. And a great weekend for me would be to go shopping for grocery, veggies, fish or meat – and other bits and pieces. I then get home and cook for friends, with a glass of red to keep me company before my friends arrive.

you want to invite Scottie to your part of the world
to organise a training program or just give your boys
some pep talk, here’s how you can reach him.

Image source : Scottie Callaghan

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