Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia
PASTRY CHEF OF THE YEAR
Pooja Dhingra FOUNDER & CEO, LE15 INDIA
POOJA DHINGRA STARTED her career with the sweet dream of running a French-style pastry shop in India. Twelve years into the business, the ‘macaroon lady’ of Le15 delivers top-notch cakes in Mumbai, and cake-mixes, cookies, and merchandise across India. Author of four cookbooks and the host of a podcast, Dhingra is our Pastry Chef of The Year and one of the cover stars. She speaks to RASHIMA NAGPAL about the growing bakery scene in India and her favourite dessert spots. What does pastry mean to you?
Pastry to me is joy and comfort. I truly believe that a slice of cake, a bite of a cookie, or a macaroon makes everything better.
What was the pastry scene in India like when you started out with Le15? What has changed since?
The pastry scene was very different 12 years ago. There were hardly any stand-alone pastry stores and one had to go to a five-star hotel to get good quality desserts. Ingredients were tough to find, equipment wasn’t as easily available, and you didn’t see as many women in the professional kitchen. I wanted to change all of that. Today, there are some great stand-alone stores and incredibly talented chefs.
Which is your favourite macaron at Le15?
Passion fruit, always!
What kind of sweet dishes did you grow up eating?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I grew up with a sweet tooth! I come from a family that loves baking and it was actually my mother’s dream to go to Le Cordon Bleu. My mom would make the best cheesecakes, mousse, and brownies at home and I grew up eating those.
Which restaurants in India would you recommend for their desserts?
There are so many! I’m a big fan of the desserts at Indian Accent in Delhi
(indianaccent.com) and O Pedro in Mumbai
(opedromumbai.com). I also love the chocolate bars at Ether Chocolate
(etherchocolate.com), the cakes at Miam Patisserie
(miampatisserie.com) and the entremets at Vanilla Miel (vanillamiel.com).
Outside of India, which destinations have impressed you with their dessert scene?
While I’ve lived in Paris and I’m always in awe of everything there, the pastry scene in Tokyo was super impressive.
What’s next for Pooja Dhingra and Le15?
More experiences and products that help people experience joy and happiness. le15.com