Please tell us about yourself

The Lifestyle Portal met up with the very beautiful Akanksha Arora, a 26-year-old pastry chef from Mumbai.

She’s a graduate in Sociology from Mithibai College, Mumbai and is a Diploma Holder in Bakery and Patisserie, Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from the Culinary Institute of America.

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In the past three and a half years, she has worked with Theobroma Mumbai, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in New York.

We talk to her about launching Barker’s Dozen, a boutique pet patisserie that makes healthy, wholesome and more importantly safe edible goodies for your pet friends. So if you have pets or planning on keeping one, here’s what will interest you –

Akanksha Arora grew up in the Chembur neighborhood of Mumbai, India. She graduated from Mithibai College with a degree in sociology then attended the Institute for Technology and Management Business School (ITM), earning a diploma in baking and pastry. “My family, especially my mother and grandmother, have been the biggest influence in my choice of a career,” says Akanksha, chef and owner of Barker’s Dozen Pet Bakery in Mumbai. “Their focus was not just the final outcome, but on learning the different methods of cooking. This got me experimenting with food and pushed me to try different techniques, flavor profiles, and cuisines. I got an opportunity to intern at Theobroma, one of the leading bakeries in Mumbai, and working there helped cement my decision to delve professionally into the world of food.”

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

It was Anthony Bourdain’s bestseller Kitchen Confidential that led Akanksha to the CIA. “When I finally decided to become a chef, there was only one choice of college to attend—the CIA. It is quite simply, the best,” she says. “Every chef-instructor is at the forefront of his or her subject and getting mentored by them is nothing short of a dream. You learn not only the techniques but also how to apply them first hand by exposing you to the actual world, through the restaurants on campus and during your externship. The college provides a secure learning environment for students to explore their potential in any aspect of the food industry. When you graduate, you will not only know the most advanced techniques in cooking and baking, but you will also come out a hardworking, disciplined, respectful individual, and a good chef.”

Back home in India, a tragedy propelled Akanksha to investigate a new aspect of the food industry. “The untimely death of one of my dogs due to our inadequate knowledge of pet nutrition, led me to take a serious interest in the subject. This is what finally pushed me to start Barker’s Dozen—a bakery that specializes in nutritious, preservative-free, and gluten-free treats and cakes for pets.” Her growing business was recognized in 2017 as the winner of the People’s Choice Best Pet Bakery Award. “I’m so happy to be doing what I love and combining it with the passion and love I have for animals. I believe you don’t need 100 people to believe in you, all you need is to believe in yourself.”

How did it all begin?

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fond of animals. I wanted a career in something that I am passionate about. Since taking care and playing with all sorts of animals isn’t a full-time career, I chose a career in food specializing in Baking & Pastry, which I love but I knew it wasn’t fulfilling my other passion that is something to do for animals,” recalls Akanksha.

Akanksha always had a pet at home. After her first pet passed away, she started reading about reasons for early deaths in pets and to her surprise she found that one of the main reasons were the kind of food and the diet given to them.

After consulting vets around she realised that people are not really aware of what is safe to give to their pets. People think that if it is okay for a human to eat, it will be okay for the pet to eat it as well.

“At the Culinary Institute, we were briefly told about different edible products, how they affect the human body and what effect these products may have on pets. While working at Bouchon in New York , I learned how to make a type of pet treat that became popular during my break back home in Mumbai for my pet child ‘Tiger’. When I saw that he loved it (that meant I had passed the most important test), I replaced his evening snack with these treats. I used these treats to get him to do things like go for a walk (Tiger was 10 and had arthritis due to which he did not get up much) and follow some basic commands. I created a few other recipes keeping in mind the dietary limitations of pets. After which they were given for testing and okayed by vets. By this time I had introduced the treats to the other pets of my family, the treats were used as training treats and evening snacks,” smiles Akansha.

Following which other pet parents who knew Akansha started to contacted her. Once they had their doubts cleared about the ingredients, they placed trial orders. At this point, she felt that this was the perfect thing for her, and she turned her passion project to Barkers’ Dozen.