How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
ST: I grew up in India. … At that time, there were not many different companies doing chocolate in India—the only company was Cadbury. The first time I ever tasted chocolate was a reward for helping my mom and I got to taste Cadbury’s eclairs—a milk chocolate with a soft-centered caramel. Ever since, I always wondered how it was made.
What did you study?
I wanted to be a pilot but my parents were not very adventurous about me leaving India. My dad owns a pharmacy and he wanted me to be part of the business, but I never had any interest in pharmacy. I said, “no, I have to do what I want to do.” I went to the pastry school in Bangalore and heard one of the professors saying that someone who graduated was working in Miami for a cruise line and that stuck in my mind. …
What was your career path after graduation?
I started working for the Taj group of hotels, luxurious five-star hotels in India. I was working for a pastry chef from Switzerland and he inspired me a lot—he taught me a lot of principles and discipline over the years.
I decided to come to the U.S. … I worked for Royal Caribbean for seven years and then I joined Seabourn Cruise Line, an ultra luxury line, so I was pretty much in charge of managing the pastry and bakery program. I left the cruise lines after 12 years and joined the Ritz Carlton company in San Juan Puerto Rico. In 2007, I met a wonderful lady, Nisha Sidhu, who had a vision to open CoCo Sala. We opened CoCo Sala in 2008.
Tell me more about the chocolate and pastry program.
ST: Our chocolate lab is around 300 square feet. Our intention is to make all the chocolate confections here. We have a little boutique area in the front and we’ll sell them from there. At the moment, we’re doing 12 different types of bonbons—all unique flavors using the highest quality chocolate. … During the daytime, this room is occupied with making chocolate. In the future, we plan to do some classes in [the chocolate lab]. We’re planning to do kids’ summer camps. … For the adults, we’re looking to have them come here and do team building events, corporate events, wine and chocolate pairings, beer and chocolate pairings, whiskey and chocolate pairings. … In the evenings, we dedicate the room to plating the desserts. Kathleen and her assistant make beautiful plates throughout the evening, and guests can watch. On weekends, we have all the kids lined up there in the window looking at the plating.