Malay mistress of French pastry woos Malayali customers

vinoshini shankar
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From Malaysia to Kerala is a long way, culturally and linguistically. But Vinoshni Shankar soon aced Malayalam with the ease of a pro. She would listen to the non-stop prattle of her sisters-in-law and now she speaks the languag fluently.

Meet the 'pastrypreneur' who rakes in Rs 1 lakh a month as profit, thanks to her culinary skills. Though happily settled in marriage in Kerala, she started missing something that was quite precious to her… not her land, home or parents, but her favourite French pastry. Though she went from bakery to bakery in search of something akin to it, there was nothing that could match the matchless taste of French pastry.

''That's how it all started. I decided to make the pastry. And I did. Everybody at home loved what I'd made. It had the same taste and flavour of what I'd been used to for years,'' says the enterprising lady.

Malaysians enjoy cakes, cookies, and pastries and consume them quite a lot. Every meal has to be accompanied by something sweet.

Vinoshni amusingly observes that while families in Kerala are very particular about teaching kids to dance and sing, kids in Malaysia are packed off to baking or cooking classes. Malay kids are initiated into kitchen work right from the age of four. The first lesson in cooking is to roll the cookie dough. By age eight, they know how to bake. A lot of them then follow the trade and become expert cooks and bakers.

Armed with a diploma in pastry-making, Vinoshni started her career as a chef. Later, she turned to something no way related to her first job. She became an optometrist, a job ill-suited to her temperament. So it was back to the toque, once again a chef.

''Looks like Malayalis are not quite familiar with French pastry,'' says Vinoshni. It's totally different from what's sold in bakeries here. It looks different and tastes different. It's a global sweet,'' she adds.

High-end pastry: that's what French pastry is called. Many flavours and several ingredients are packed into one pastry, while cakes here sport only one special flavour. One can flaunt one's talents while making and designing a French pastry. With experience comes perfection, she says. This expertise will help you to decide each particular flavour that's to be mixed and matched.

Pastry-making is an ever-evolving craft. Changes are brought in every day. Vinoshni instructs aspiring students who love to make it big abroad. She goes by the fast-changing global trends and imparts all that she has learnt.

It was way back in 2010 that Vinoshni touched base in Kakkanad, post marriage. Soon enough, she was fully into pastry-making and instructing students. Husband R S Ezhuthachan, a former IT professional, is at present managing a boutique resort at Kaipamangalam. Backing her are her three boys Harishankar, Kasishankar, and Girishankar. ''They are my taste buds. If they clear a pastry, then I'm at peace, free of stress,'' she adds.

Vinoshni has a lot of regular customers who love her stuff marketed under the brand name 'The Pastry.' That's precisely what she calls her school. Right now, the chef concentrates on her pastry classes. ''A lot of my students are employed all over the country,'' says the chef swelling with pride.

French pastry takes time. Vinoshni says she would need at least three days before the order is delivered. Students who attend her baking school are also given a chance to try their hands at pastry-making. Ideas can come in from all sources. Moreover it's a fine experience for them, she says.

She admits she has a sweet tooth, with the French Opera being her favourite. It's a time-consuming sweet and comes in a combination of almonds, coffee, and chocolate. A dawn-to-dusk task, it,s a perfect combo of sweet and flavour. After all, when folks drool over it, French pastry is well worth the trouble, notes Vinoshni.

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