When Kolkata-based young entrepreneur Anjali Kejriwal cooked for the first time, she was only 6 years old. The food turned out to be tasty and was appreciated by all. It was a big achievement for the young girl which inspired her to keep on experimenting with foods. As Anjali was growing up, her cooking skills were also getting strengthened. Later on in her life, she decided to establish her career in the field of cooking. To fulfil her dreams, Anjali studied Food Science and Nutrition Management. In the year 2014, she started cooking classes in Kolkata under the brand name “Zestful Flavours.”
Zestful Flavours, the cooking school started by Anjali Kejriwal conducts a variety of cooking classes in Kolkata. The young entrepreneur joins us today in this interview session of conflatingVisions and shares her inspiring story with our readers!
Hi, welcome to this interview session of conflatingVisions. To begin with, we would like you to say a few lines about yourself.
I identify myself best with my love for eating and cooking delicious food. I have completed my graduation in Food Science and Nutrition Management and I am currently experimenting with ingredients and techniques in my kitchen along with conducting cookery workshops. I have always been interested in dancing, writing, artwork and primarily cooking, which drives me to be a creative individual.
With the modern world coming up with new wonders everyday in the field of culinary science, I am desirous of being able to convert my kitchen into a gastronomical haven.
Anjali, when did you first discover your love for cooking?
Since a very tender age of about 6 or 7 years, I have wanted to concoct with and whip up good food. I used to mix all the ingredients available to me and serve it to those around, even on occasions where people would least expect such dishes as a part of the menu. During that time my recipes would contain ingredients like cream from orange cream biscuits and Calcium Sandoz! However, I gradually followed kids’ cooking books and learnt to cook better dishes like Chilli Potato, Bread Dahi Vada and Spaghetti by the age of 10.
I kept striving to improve myself while I tried my hands at Starters, Desserts and lots more. With continuous appreciation from all I knew, I began to feel the urge to try better and newer dishes each day until when I participated in the IIHM Young Chefs Competition in 2013, which changed everything for me. While at the auditions for the same, I realized the value of the art of presenting food beautifully, for it is truly said, “We eat with our eyes first.” It was a wonderful experience when everyone applauded and appreciated my work for the way I had garnished and plated my food. I began laying immense attention on food presentation post the competition. I also kept participating in several cooking contests and placed well in those too, elevating my confidence and self-esteem. I was given a chance by the Salt Lake Telegraph Team to share my recipes for treats for pets, which was a wonderful and different experience for me. My recipes and reviews were also published in the BBC Good Food Magazine several times.
When did you decide to make a career in the field of baking and cooking? What was the inspiration behind the decision?
I kept preparing dishes and also laid emphasis on the aesthetic attributes while trying to ensure it tasted just right. I would try recipes from books, magazines and the internet. My friends and relatives helped me with their feedback which would help me improve.
It was only in 2014 that I was persuaded by my friends in school to conduct workshops after three successful canteen bake sales, in which I had participated actively. I began conducting workshops for free for my close friends. I received a great dose of motivation and drive to do better through their positive feedback. After my first successful workshop on Starters and Dips, I was motivated to continue in this field. The positive response and appreciation I kept receiving after my workshops encouraged me to pursue this field.
Tell us about your baking and cooking venture Zestful Flavours?
I conducted my first cooking workshop in Kolkata on May 10, 2014, under the name of Zestful Flavours. Our focus is to create wonders in our classes which people can recreate back home. The recipes are curated with readily available ingredients that can be transformed into authentic and beautiful dishes with ease.
Zestful Flavours’ biggest motivation stems from the fact that those who attend our cooking classes always want to come back for more and the bar of expectations has always been set higher than before. We offer a wide variety of workshops ranging from Cuisine Centred classes such as Italian, Indian, Chinese, etc, to Chemical Free Basic and Advanced Ice Cream Workshops. Starters, Multi Cuisine, Kebabs, Fast Food, etc being our other popular ones. The surplus derived from each workshop is utilized for enriching lives of the under privileged, especially children, as we believe in making the best of everything.
How did you get started with baking?
I am more of a Cuisine person, interested and enthusiastic about world cuisines and savoury delicacies rather than dessert and cakes. I have always found my forte to be diverse Multi Cuisine dishes, bread making, appetizers and fast food favourites including fusion food rather than fancy customized fondant cakes or other desserts. However, baking being an enormous field of complex art and science got me intrigued too. I keep practising various kinds of Breads, Cakes, Baked Snacks, Muffins and Tea Time desserts to increase my horizon. I baked big batches of Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes, Double Chocolate Brownies, Cake Pops, etc, for Bake Sales in School which triggered off the little baker in me.
How is the craze for customized designer cakes in Kolkata?
Kolkata is blooming with budding and professional bakers who craft the most exquisite and beautiful cakes. With the increasing availability of baking ingredients and equipments, cake making is being taken to another level, highly loved and very much in demand.
You are successfully running Zestful Flavours, your cooking school in Kolkata for quite some time. How did you get there?
In my initial workshops, I just invited my close friends over, as I tried my hand at teaching basic and classic recipes such as Wontons, Quesadillas, Kebabs and Desserts such as Red Velvet Cupcakes, Mango Mousse, etc. I was persuaded and encouraged to charge for the classes and expand my base.
The members of the Bidhan Nagar Maheshwari Sabha, a social organization in Kolkata, gave me a platform to conduct workshops for them on a large scale. They gave me my first newspaper advertisements and special arrangements such as projector screens, which gathered crowds going up to 70 people per class. People would always return saying, they would get the same results with recipes tried at home, with our classes unlike elsewhere. I was also given the opportunity to conduct workshops at my own school, Modern High School for Girls and at Sushila Birla Girls’ School, which not only added a feather in my cap but also brought me a lot of love and learning. Also, our workshops are not exorbitantly priced and people go back content having received full value for their money, which they know will be utilized for a good cause.
Being creative is very much important in every profession. In what ways are you creative in terms of cooking?
I strongly believe that one must not shift much from the classical combinations and flavours expected from a particular dish in order to make it a fusion or unique delicacy. I try to innovate within the authentic limits of the food I cook while presenting it in fancy styles.
Our ice cream classes are a hit favourite and the dishes were styled into advanced desserts such as Black Forest Zuccotto and Rose and Pistachio Ice Cream Tart. We also did a feature on Fresh Flower Ice Creams which were 100% natural. Creativity purely stems from imagination and we imply it in all our classes. Our sizzlers classes had five different types of sizzlers but the students went home with ideas and recipes of over 30 dishes! As a part of my course in Nutrition, I also developed some healthy yet scrumptious dishes which include – a Protein packed Thandai Mix for milkshakes, Gluten free Crepe Mix in Black Forest flavour, Anti Oxidant Rich Green Tea Chiffon Cake and Oat Crackers for lactating women. Vada Pao Tarts, Indo Italian Samosa, Pizza Fondue and a tantalizing Puchka Fusion Platter are some of my latest trials, also being the menu for my upcoming workshop.
Anjali, what keeps you motivated?
Whenever I cook something, it is the positive feedback that I receive which keeps me motivated. I am often also told how I can improve my dishes and when I achieve better results it only adds to my self-belief and positivity. The only take away for me from my classes is the appreciation and experience I gain along with several memories made during the workshop. People always want more because they are content and delighted with the easy yet delicious recipes demonstrated. As the profits generated from the classes are completely utilized for charitable purposes, it always feels nice to be able to bring a smile to some innocent faces.
Tell us about your plans to scale up the business of Zestful Flavours.
As of now, to scale up the operations of Zestful Flavours, I am focused and determined to develop perfect recipes for classic favourites and unique foods, desserts and cuisine items. The more I’m able to learn, the better I’ll be able to teach.
Anything else you want to share…
I would want to thank conflatingVisions for giving me this opportunity. Being a novice, it is my very first interview and a rather special one. I am deeply honoured at having been chosen by the team for this session. Thank you for choosing me.
And Anjali, one last question of this session, if you have had one wish…
If I had one wish, it would definitely be to own the dream kitchen with the best of ingredients from all over the world, gadgets and equipments along with a fabulous studio to conduct my workshops. I want to learn from the best and make my workshops the best of their kind.
Want to attend the best cooking classes in Kolkata? Get in touch with Zestful Flavours. We assure you Anjali Kejriwal won’t disappoint you!
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