Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
I always wanted to do something with my life and my parents supported me in everything that I wanted. After my Class 12 I applied for a Diploma course in Le Cordon Bleu Paris in Patisserie. Once I got admitted I knew for sure that this was the place I wanted to be. I finished my course and worked during my internship period at Pierre Herme in Paris. When I returned to Kolkata I worked for sometime in Hyatt Regency Hotel but then the entrepreneurship bug got to me. I learned a lot during my work tenure and it was then that I decided I want to open my own bakery and café.
How was the Paris experience?
Paris was a dream for Sneha Singhi, whether walking the Avenue des Champs-Elysées or spending time writing postcards in a boutique café. A bigger dream was following her passion for cooking at Le Cordon Bleu, which she describes as one of the best decisions of her life.
‘What I learnt at Le Cordon Bleu did more than extend my knowledge about French cuisine and patisserie, it also fostered my determination and ingenuity’, she says.
After graduating with Diplome de Patisserie, Sneha worked at Hyatt Regency as one of the youngest patisserie chefs to be appointed. Her goal: desserts so scrumptious that customers would return for more.
It is this conviction that led her to opening her own Paris Cafe in Calcutta at 20, serving quality French food. Playing at the back of her mind was the popular French song, C’est Si Bon (‘It’s So Good’).
In the span of a year, Paris Café had become a phenomenal success and Sneha followed up with her non-government enterprise, Food Rescue, a service that collects excess and nutritional food and distributes it to the poor.
Tell us about your journey so far. Did you always wanted to become a chef?
I started studying Mass Communication in St Xaviers College, but was always dreaming of food. That’s when it struck me, that there is nothing better than following your passion. So I applied to Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and was all set to follow my dream in my dream city. It was all so sudden, yet seemed so perfect. After studying Patisserie, I got a great opportunity to work for Pierre Herme the God of Macaroons in Paris and also Laduree London. While a lot of other opportunities kept coming my way, I knew it was time to go back to my roots, to Calcutta and start to put my passion on my plate back here. So when I reached the city of joy, I got a joyous opportunity to work for Hyatt Regency in their pastry section which I thought was wise as I should learn the tips and tricks of the trade back at home. And after a good 6 months of practicing under them, it was time to surprise Calcutta with Paris Cafe.
Yes, being a chef and owning my own restaurants was a dream.
Was It Easy To Convince Parents?
“Yes, completely. My parents always had my back and they believed in me.” She says they knew that I have made my choice based on my love and passion for baking. I wanted to follow my dreams. I had to put up a fight initially because leaving Xaviers and main stream studies came as a shock to them. It was my mom who finally backed me the most and convinced everyone.
What was the toughest part about being an Entrepreneur?
We started with our first outlet in Ballygaunge, it is very close to my residence and then we slowly expanded to 4 outlets namely in Alipore, Sector V and American Centre. I have worked hard in order to reach where I am today. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you are the baker, the cook, the owner, the manger and the accountant all in one in the initial stage. It is not so difficult once you expand and hire people but yes the starting years are crucial as well as troublesome.
Why did you name it Paris Café?
I firstly named it something very posh spelled in French but then I asked my driver to spell it, he could not and it was then that I knew the name won’t work. I named it Paris Café so that is simple and easy to remember for all.
Was it difficult being a young girl and managing a business and running around telling people what to do?
No it was never the case me. I had a smooth journey when it came to being a girl and still managing my business. People in Kolkata, our society accepted me with open arms and welcomed my ideas, my creations and loved my hard work. In fact I think it was easier for me to run my business because I was girl, people around me respected me and my talent.
How much do you earn through all your outlets in a day?
We have sales close to 2 lakh rupees in a day.
What is your style of cooking? Which is your signature dish?
Since I have done a diploma from Le Cordon Blue, my style of cooking is what I learned i.e. French Patisserie and Cuisine. I travel to France every year to learn new segments of French cooking and to bring the evolving Parisian food culture to Kolkata. All my desserts have their own specialties; each is different from the other. My red velvet cupcakes are the most popular although I am proud of the rainbow cake or Dream Come True, as I call it, which is my very own creation.
Everyone has their idol/inspiration in life. Who is yours?
My idol has been my mom. She is an extremely gifted chef, and that’s where I get my creative genes from. I’ve grown up watching my mother cook. If you have ever seen a kid throwing a fit in the cookery section of a bookstore, well that was probably me. At the age of 7, I learnt my basic arithmetic from my measuring cups, my compositions when I made my own recipes. I was that kid who was always obsessed about food and still is. In fact, my entire family was most supportive. They strongly believe in choosing a career path that makes you happy. So that every day when you wake up in the morning, you are doing something that you love.
You were one of the selected few to be chosen to host Goût de France 2015 in Kolkata. How do you feel about this achievement? How was the experience working with 3-Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse?
I was extremely honored to be chosen for such an amazing international event. The aim of the event was, over the space of a dinner, to salute the excellence of French cuisine, its innovative skills, and the values that it conveys: bringing people together over a shared meal, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. It was nothing short of amazing to be working in such an event. In fact, it brought me one step closer to my dream, to make authentic French cuisine popular in my home city.
My experience with Chef Alain Ducasse resembled a dream. To be working alongside a 3-Michelin-starred chef, no one could have asked for more. You gain a lot of experience by just watching Chefs like Alan work, and I was lucky enough to work with him.
Any message for the reader of ‘SheThePeople”?
The biggest myth that kills a huge chunk of young talent in India, is the mandate to have a graduation degree. And Sneha strongly believes in that. When she was supposed to be doing graduation like most of the Calcuttans, she took a stand to go to Le Cordon Bleu. She worked at a restaurant in London and came back to India with the idea of bringing an exquisite array of desserts for the locals in her city at an affordable price. And Kolkata saw one of its very first bakery with a fast delivery system in place, giving a variety of French sweets.
I am really happy to be able to talk about my journey on your platform. I want girls to know about me so that they know that if they truly believe in themselves and follow their dreams they can easily achieve it. The world is changing and we are now as worthy and powerful as men today in all fields