What after LCB and Chocolate Mango Vacherin recipe

Last three Tuesdays I have been writing about going to Le Cordon Bleu, which was one of the turning points in my life. A dream come true. I look at baking in a different way now, I look at life a little different. But when my friends at LCB Paris used to ask me what I plan to do after the course, my answer was simple : I want to have a baby soon and continue with my day job as a CA while baking and blogging on the weekends. They were surprised at this answer. But yes, at-least in the near future I don’t plan to start any baking workshops, or a little cafe or any patisserie. And hence I bring you three stellar LCB alumni, my friends and such awesome chefs and pâtissiers that I gawk at their work. And they have been very humble in sharing their life journey with us, a big thank you to them.

In alphabetical order :

Michael Swamy

Michael Swamy

​Michael had just finished his diploma in hotel management and that’s when he decided to fine tune his skills by going to an international culinary school. He already knew that he wanted to do food styling, write books and be on TV. So to bring more authenticity to his work and writing, he specialised at LCB London and learnt the art of food and above all plating.

As a chef, Michael has worked with Taj Group of Hotels, Bombay Brasserie (London), Kuwait Airways. He has cooked & served several personalities including Prince Charles. Has been a corporate chef with the Bowl House Brand and now Mentor Chef with the Hopping Chef Brand which specializes in Home style fine dining. He is the author of “The East Indian Kitchen” (2010) based on Indo Portuguese fusion cuisine and“Easy Guide to Pairing Indian Food and Wine” ; both of them have been Gourmand award winners. And guess what, he also headed the food team for Masterchef India Season I and II. Apart from that he is a food critic and feature writer for several magazines, and does food styling and photo shoots for several international brands ,which is his favourite since he can get very creative with it.
Chef Michael says that his experience in LCB was exhilarating. He got to learn a tremendous amount and could also get training under renowned Pastry Chef ‘Chef Fillip Tibos’. He won the cuisine program in LCB on a scholarship after doing the Patisserie program. That is the talent of our super awesome and very helpful Chef Michael.
​In future, Chef Michael wants to establish a complete food media setup, for books, photography, creating food videos and wants to be an inspiration to budding chefs. Because he believes that teaching and creating helps future chefs come up and rise.
​In his own words, he would like to advice fellow LCB aspirants : “​Follow your heart and your dreams, don’t be shackled by corporate stuff, just rise and do your best and strive to be the best. The only person you have to beat is yourself and your limitations​.”
Well said Chef.
You can reach him at : michaelswamy.com
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Neha Verma
Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette's studio, NYC.

Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette’s studio, NYC.

In 2010 Neha was working in MNC corporate marketing and while she was happy with her career trajectory, she was increasingly aware that she needed to do something more organic and creative with her life. That’s when she decided to flip a huge coin of fate and sought out LCB, Paris. Back then in 2010 the school/brand wasn’t that well marketed in India as it is today. So her motivation to go there was to have her “year in Paris” as well as get a solid foundation in French patisserie which everyone knows is the best in the world.
Her experience at LCB was magical and perfect. She got to hone her basics through the best chefs-including MOF’s, world-class teaching techniques and exposure to the cutting edge developments in the pastry world. She also made friends from all over the world and those endure till date.

Then Neha moved stateside and got an education in cake design. After which she apprenticed for a year under Colette Peters- the world-renowned pioneering artist in this field. Colette’s studio has made cakes for The white house, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Yoko Ono, Sting, Kanye West, Rolling Stones etc, just to name a few.

Couture cakes don’t carry a standard pet kg price tag but she said that smallest and simplest averages at $1000 while the most elaborate ones have gone well beyond $15-20,000. (My god!)
Since then Neha has been practicing her skills traveling the world for inspiration, new experiences and to places where she gets to execute inspired projects. She works through word of mouth and through past connections and collaborations.

She realised that the solid foundation of her craft was formed at cordon bleu and the art aspect was honed at Colette’s cakes. The rest is a living tale which is still evolving under the name of “Ellesmira couture cake studio”.
So far she has done projects in Canada, USA, Norway, Greece, France, Czech republic, the Caribbean and India.

You can reach her at : Neha Verma

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Rakhee Vaswani

Palate Culinary Studio

Rakhee runs a premier boutique culinary studio in Mumbai which has beautiful French vintage interiors with a warm kitchen feel. She is quite a self-taught chef over the years. She started very young in the kitchen sat the age of eleven. But she always wanted formal training and hence to enhance her skills and to take herself to the next level she enrolled in an extensive bakery programme at the London Cordon Bleu campus which has opened so many avenues for her and she considers it as her temple.
Rakhee first ventured into the culinary world with her partner chef Anita and ran a home based cooking studio. Then after taking a break to be a full-time mommy, she re-entered the industry after training at Sophia’s. Attending classes internationally changed her perspective and thus she wanted to open a small place where students could learn everything hands on.Hence Palate culinary studio was born in 2009 . Its seven years of successfully running the studio, she now wants to take it to the next level, i.e is a full-fledged culinary school. She is aware that not everyone can travel and achieve their dreams so at Palate she wants to bring higher level of courses like diploma in culinary to them. She also offers BBIC which is boutique bakery intensive certificate course with a full hands on experience to help small and budding entrepreneurs to set up their own ventures. Currently she has students from 5 to 80 year olds. Drop by her studio, perhaps you can see Malaika Arora Khan as her student.

You can reach her at : www.palateculinarystudio.com

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Chocolate Mango Vacherin

In continuation with French deserts with a tropical mango dessert, this week, is a French Vacherin with Chantilly cream and mangoes.

Mango Vacherin

Vacherin is basically a meringue filled with creme chantilly and fruits. I have used mangoes to go on top of these vacherin and the combination tastes summery and light.

Vacherin with mangoes

What you will need :

  • 5 eggwhites
  • 300 gm caster sugar
  • 25 gm cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Chopped mangoes

What to do :

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat oven to 140C for 10 minutes prior to baking.
  2. Beat egg whites at a medium speed with a stand mixer till frothy. Gradually add caster sugar and vanilla extract and beat till it forms glossy peaks.
  3. Fold in cocoa powder gently using a rubber spatula.
  4. Make round disks of this meringue on the parchment paper.  Keep a dent in the centre where chntilly cream can be filled. The dent can also be made using the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake these meringue nests for 50-60 minutes till crisp till the bottom. Then leave the oven door slightly open for an hour and let the meringues cool completely before taking them out.
  6. Then transfer the meringue to a rack and carefully peel off parchment paper.
  7. To make the chantilly cream, whip the cold cream till medium peaks and gradually add the sugar while whisking. Put it in a piping bag with a medium nozzle.
  8. An hour before serving, pipe the chantilly cream on the meringue disks and put chopped mangoes on top. Garnish with mint leaves.

Hollow of a vacherin

Meringue cookies. And a word of advice : Be paranoid for your daughter.

You have to be paranoid about your daughter’s safety when she is a young girl.

My mom was, and her mom before that. It is almost alright to think that the big bad world is out to violate your daughter and you have to protect her. Especially when she is becoming a teen and in the early teenage years.

Since as early as I was seven, my mom used to tell me that nobody should kiss me on the cheeks or be overtly affectionate as people are with little girls. Of course, most people do it lovingly and don’t have any ulterior motive, but kids have to be given black and white rules for them to be able to follow them. I might have missed out on getting tickled by an adoring uncle, but it definitely saved me from a lot of uncalled groping for sure.

I remember one of my father’s friends and his wife used to come home often after dinner for a cup of coffee. He was nice guy, extremely fond of me, but insisted on lifting me in his arms and putting me on his lap and smothering me with pecks on my cheeks. My dad told him to stop once or twice, but he didn’t. And it is not a surprise that we saw less and less of him over the coming years.

In fact me and my six-years-younger brother were even told to not let anyone inside the house when alone, except my parents (of course) and my grandparents. I have offended many an aunt by asking them to come back after some time as mom and dad are not at home. They would say my mom was unnecessarily strict, but she stood to her rule. It is impossible to make kids differentiate between whom to let in and whom to not, and hence a blanket rule of not allowing anyone inside when they were not at home was a better suited one.

Despite being so careful, I had a couple of “uncomfortable” instances. But I reacted to them very wisely, if I say so myself, because of the awareness my mother had created in my mind. Once at a hiking summer camp, we were all sitting around a campfire and had blankets on our lap as it was cold. A ‘sir’ or a hiking instructor came and sat besides me. Soon, his hand was crawling under the blanket towards me. I squirmed, became restless. He kept on. But within a minute or two, my brain kicked my legs and I abruptly stood up. And went back to the girls tent to sleep. For several years after that I could not articulate what happened, but it stayed in my head and I knew for sure that what I did was right.

One evening when I was eighteen, and had recently started riding a scooter motorcycle, a relative asked if I could take him for a pillion ride. I was proud to show off my riding skills and agreed immediately. Once out of sight of my parents, he started moving his hands up and down my chest.  I was angered and I brushed off his hand. He said he wanted to hold me to prevent from falling off the bike. He again started grabbing my waist and my boobs. At eighteen, I obviously knew what was his intention. I turned around, came home and proclaimed that I will never take that uncle with me on the scooter again. My mom understood, and drove him away. I still see him on family functions, and I want to kick his arse, and may be some day I will.

Thankfully, that was the extent of those awful experiences I had. And I am glad I had these minor incidents, because of which I was sensitized to the issue of child molestation. I was aware of what is a good touch and what is bad touch. I think that helped and prevented any further mishaps.

Whoever is reading this, it is my sincere request – “Talk to you daughter and be paranoid of her safety. And believe in whatever she tells you. It may be slightly exaggerated because of the highly imaginative brain, but believe what she is saying. That it.”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : If you wish to share your experience or add some more to the word of caution, drop a comment, it would be good to know.


Meringue : Oh light and merry meringue

Meringue cookies

Last Sunday, I participated in a bake sale organised by The Bake Collective for raising funds for a municipal school for special children. In three hours, 12-15 volunteers sold the delish home-baked goodies and collected Rs. 30,00 which went directly to the Urmi foundation. I made these colorful meringues drops and packaged them in 30 smiley boxes (the yellow smiley boxes in the first picture), and they were gone in 2 hours 🙂 What a delight it is to see people buy something you baked.

TBC evening

Colorful Meringue Cookies

(No oil, no butter, no egg yolk.)

This recipe makes 60-70 meringue drops.

What you will need

  • 240 gm castor sugar + 1 tablespoon for mixing color
  • 120 gm egg whites
  • Vanilla, lemon, peppermint, strawberry essence (any one or all)

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 100C.
  2. Separate the egg-whites and the egg-yolks. We only need egg whites for this.
  3. Take the egg-whites in a bowl and start whisking the eggs till foamy and till it forms very soft peaks.
  4. Take the tablespoon of sugar in a separate bowl and mix in a few drops of the flavoring essence and a few drops of food color.
  5. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time (or in a slow, steady stream) until all the sugar is incorporated and it starts developing hard peaks.
  6. Incorporate the color and essence mixed sugar and whisk with an electric beater or a stand mixer for 5-6 minutes till the egg whites stand stiff and become glossy.
  7. Transfer to a piping bag with nozzle 8 or 10 and pipe drops of meringue on a baking silicone sheet or parchment paper lined on a baking tray.
  8. Bake for about 25-30 minutes till the drops detach easily from the baking sheet and feel light. Break open a meringue drop to check that it is fully cooked even at the centre, or continue baking for 3-4 minutes more.
  9. Cool completely before eating.

meringue cookies from a jar

Notes :

  • 1 egg generally weighs 50 gm. 20 gm yolk and 30 gm white. So for this you will need about 4 eggs. And the thumb rule is that sugar should be generally double the weight of the egg whites.
  • I used strawberry essence for pink meringues, lemon for yellow, peppermint for green and vanilla for white meringues. The meringues look lovely when pastel colored so use food color sparingly. Or you can skip it altogether if you wish.

If you wish to be a part of the Bake Sale which is organised 2-3 times a year, go on and like their Facebook page, or just go and show some love 🙂