Lucknow-based cake artist and entrepreneur Anuraka Sircar has an inspiring story. Life has surprised her with many challenges and hardships, but the winner within her always gave her the strength to deal with them. In the year 2014, Anuraka fulfilled her long time wish of starting her own culinary institute. She launched Culinary Academy by Anuraka Sircar in the beautiful city of Lucknow. At the same time, she also started Culinary Studio by Anuraka Sircar where she designs, bakes and decorates customized cakes for orders. At present, Anuraka trains 25 students and runs 3 baking and culinary classes every day.
Today, Anuraka Sircar joins us in this interview session from Lucknow to share her inspiring story!
Hi Anuraka, welcome to this interview session of conflatingVisions. To start with, we would like to know a few lines about yourself.
It’s a journey of a PhD student to a housewife to one of the leading entrepreneurs in the city. Born in a Bengali family, I hail from Allahabad where both my parents had successful careers in academia. I was fond of studies and was pursuing MSc in Organic Chemistry with a dream to become a scientist. Meanwhile, my Father met with a severe accident and with 7-8 surgeries he became totally bedridden. His only dream was to see his eldest daughter get married. So at a young age of 23, with several dreams in my eyes without any arguments with parents, in the year 1998, I got married to Dr. Joydeep Sircar, a resident of Lucknow.
After my marriage, I shifted to Kanpur Medical College hostel where he was studying. Since my husband was already in a study mode, so my in-laws asked me to continue with my studies as well. I got enrollment in Organic Chemistry PhD program while my husband was doing his MD in Respiratory Medicine. Health is wealth they say, and if one family member falls sick, the entire family is affected and peace of mind goes for a toss. My Mother-in-law was suffering from Liver Cancer and the entire family was in total chaos. I had a good news to share, but on my PHD spree, I inhaled some toxic fumes in the Chemistry lab while doing experiments and had a miscarriage. My entire family was disturbed emotionally and physically.
I had to choose between my dreams of being a scientist or a happy homemaker. My doctor advised me to stay away from laboratories if I wanted a baby, which was very much the need of the hour. Being a good human being and attached to my family, I chose to be by the side of my ailing Mother-in-law and fulfill her dreams of being proud grandparents. From chemistry lab to kitchen, the transition was not so smooth, but I took the stride. I gave up my career and my dreams just to be with my family and take care of their needs. I went in a family way to fulfill my in-laws’ desire of playing with the grandchildren.
How did you get introduced to this beautiful world of baking?
I recall that my love for cooking goes back to the days of “Grih Shobha” and “Grih Laxmi” from where I used to pick up recipes and experiment those for my Father who would in turn always appreciate and reward me for taking an initiative. Those small gifts from Daddy dear always boosted my morale and made me try new recipes each day. Cooking that time was a forced task on me and kind of a social pressure of learning things so that life becomes easy after marriage. But I loved cooking for my Daddy.
With in-laws of the same frequency, the love for food revived. I started cooking, baking and experimenting just like a scientist does. A new experiment, a new item each day. I baked for my friends or took occasional orders once in a while or sometimes just taught people who wanted to learn the art of baking. My kitchen was my heaven and this home based baking and delivery went on for a while.
When did you decide to become a baking professional?
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach they say. Joydeep always admired my baking skills. He informed me about Mr. Brown’s Bakery contest that was happening in the city in 2011, 5 years back from now. He forced me to join it knowing I had all the skills required to be a winner. With no formal training, I was obviously a bit apprehensive of participating in the contest. But with my husband being the rock solid support I joined it. To my utter surprise, I was amongst the top 20 finalists. It was a mega event with 500 participants and being in top twenty was quite an achievement in itself. Lights, camera, action and it was an overwhelming experience.
On the final day, I was just not ready to face such a big platform. Being shy in nature and considering baking just a time pass and hobby, I was just not prepared for the big show. But a family as loving and supportive as mine, there was no looking back. The second round started with 20 contestants. I was almost shivering and in the midway, I decided to leave the contest. I informed the organizers that I couldn’t handle it anymore and was leaving. The existing pastry chef from Mumbai calmed me down saying “Just give your best and focus on your work, don’t bother about winning or who is doing what”.
I had always believed in the policy “less is more”. So, I ended up just doing a neat and clean simple design on my cake and guess what, I was amongst the top 5 selected for the final round. With new confidence and high in spirits, I was all set for the final round. Only 10 minutes was given to decorate a full cake. In 7 minutes time, I presented a well-decorated cake winning the “Mr. Brown’s Masterchef Bakery Title” in 2011 along with a cash prize of Rs. 21,000 and is till date the undisputed title holder of the same.
This event proved to be the turning point and changed my life forever. It took my confidence and self-esteem to next level and it was all because of my husband who had noticed my skills and gave me wings to fly.
Please tell us about your baking venture Culinary Studio by Anuraka Sircar.
Culinary Studio by Anuraka Sircar is my workshop where I design, bake and decorate customized cakes for orders. I take orders of tailor made cakes, cupcakes and many other sweet delicacies for birthday parties, kitty parties, weddings and various other occasions.
Anuraka, you also conduct baking classes and run your own culinary academy. We would request you to tell our readers about the baking courses that you offer through Culinary Academy by Anuraka Sircar.
I started my dream venture “Culinary Academy by Anuraka Sircar” in June 2014. In the beginning, there were very few students in my culinary academy, but I never lost hope. My family always encouraged me, and I continued in my endeavors in whichever way I could. Today By God’s grace, I run 3 batches a day teaching 25 students in a day. The culinary courses that I provide at my culinary academy to my students are cake basics, cookies baking, bread making, desserts, French baking, advanced cake decoration, working with couverture chocolate, different cuisines like Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian Mughlai and party snacks.
Every student of Culinary Academy by Anuraka Sircar gets hands-on experience in our well-equipped modern kitchen.
What are some of the signature products of Culinary Studio by Anuraka Sircar? Which one is your personal favourite?
Some of the signature products of Culinary Studio by Anuraka Sircar are all the cakes I bake especially, Chocolate Irish Cream, Chocolate Cookies and Cream, Paan and Gulkand Truffles, Center filled Liqueur Chocolates, low-calorie ice creams,low-calorie sugar-free smoothies.
My personal favourite is no machine no egg ice creams of different flavours.
Anuraka, what are some of the challenging cake designs that you have done so far?
Some of the challenging cakes that I have done so far are few engagement cakes and wedding cakes in hot and humid weather. Here are the pictures of some of these cakes:
Mixing the baking ingredients in the right proportions can create a successful baked product. How do you go about deciding the proportions of the baking ingredients?
As baking also involves Science and I as a food scientist, would prefer to use accurate measurements and correct method of mixing of the baking ingredients and finally baking at correct temperature results in a perfect end product.
Narrate some of your success stories.
I first won Master Bakery 2013 competition that was locally held in my city. That was the turning point of my career. After that I received Nari Shakti Samaan in 2014, Annapurna Award in 2015 and 2017 and many more to come.
Please share some baking lessons for the aspiring bakers.
Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice. Above all don’t let anyone to limit your dreams.
What are the challenges in a professional baker’s life? How do you deal with them?
The biggest challenge as a professional baker is to please my every client which is sometimes very difficult when a client demands an eggless cake which should be as spongy and soft as cakes made with egg ones.
What are your future plans?
My future plan is to expand my venture in different parts of my city and also to open an outlet only serving customized delicacies.
Anything else you want to share.
I also won the beauty pageant contest “Mrs. UP 2016”.
And one last question of this session Anuraka, if you have had one wish…
If I had one wish, I would beg to God, the almighty, to send back my husband who passed away recently leaving us devastated. He was my inspiration, my strength, my moral support and what I am today is just because of him!
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