The recently concluded Phoenix Food Festival held at High Street Phoenix, Mumbai saw some of the best restaurants curate special menus for guests attending this festival. It was undoubtedly a paradise for food lovers with a spread of scrumptious delights from some of Mumbai’s most popular eateries. Apart from menus and offers, the festival also had food art installations, food pop up shops and live music performances.
The highlight of the festival was a unique chocolate installation of a life-size female chocolate mannequin, created by master chocolatier Varun Inamdar. Titled ‘True Spring Woman,’ the installation was made using 60 kgs of pure Ecuadorian chocolate.
Being a chocoholic myself, I was intrigued by the concept of chocolate art. A quick interaction with Chef Varun Inamdar helped me get a better insight into the world of chocolate. Read on to know more.
Tell us more about your journey as a chocolatier
Actually, my journey as a chocolatier was more accidental than anything else. It was more of a make-shift assignment given to me in the absence of a designated pastry chef. Slowly the interest developed and I started experimenting with ingredients in the pantry. Started creating recipes, formulations, flavour combinations and started mixing age – old recipes with a nouvelle twist. My passion and perseverance got noticed and I was retained to continue the assignment given. I started attending professional workshops and started gathering more and more information about techniques and baking science. And voila, one day I became a ‘Pastry Chef.’ Gradually, I started climbing the ladder and lapped up the position of an ‘Executive Pastry Chef.’ During this journey, chocolates became my best friend and the chocolate making room my mecca.
A few tips that you would like to give people who are keen to understand chocolate better Chocolates must be befriended. Chocolate can be very notorious if not respected. It is an ingredient which can be manipulated in many ways not just in confectioneries but savoury treats too. However, it is very sensitive at the same time. Care must be taken while handling as it can play up with temperature fluctuations and with the presence of water.
What is your take on Chocolate Art?
Chocolate art abroad is huge. We, in India, are still not chocolate-ready. When recently I had been approached for an installation, the first thing that came to my mind, was a chocolate installation because I wanted to prove that this is something that can be done in our country and we do not lack any expertise. That is how the ‘Chocolate Mannequin’ was born .
Eating per se, for us, milk chocolate still rules. Monetarily we still think twice before venturing into tasting good quality chocolates. Luxe chocolates are a very very nascent sector. We have a brand called ‘The Chocolate Factory Ecuador,’ which is India’s first of its kind indigenous luxury chocolates, in conjunction with the govt. of Ecuador. People love the taste and the flavour profiles, but they expect it to be cheap. Luxury cannot be affordable and if it is affordable it ain’t luxury anymore.
What are the points to keep in mind while creating a unique chocolate installation?
Uniqueness is in your thoughts. First create as many rough sketches to see what can be created. Next, start evaluating what can be pulled off easily or with little or great difficulty. Start analyzing how the difficulty can be overcome. Keep logistics like conceptualizing time, actual making time, storage, transportation, if any required, touch up time and finally the display time. Make sure it is temperature controlled and well guarded at all times. But chocolate is an impulsive product and people love touching and scrapping it. Well, people take pride and enjoy scraping a few parts, when no one notices. Over and above, if transportation doesn’t work the way you’ve planned, look at building it up at the display venue.
How popular is chocolate art world over?
Immensely popular, globally. But like I said earlier, we are still not chocolate ready. Companies do not support such adventures. Eventually, these become a personal fight and cause.
Tell us more about – ‘True Spring Woman’
‘True Spring Woman’ is the name of the Chocolate Mannequin that I recently created. The whole idea of that was women empowerment. It had a very strong message and everyone loved the way I had conceptualized it. If you noticed it closely, the mannequin was very skimpily dressed and a few male hands were trying to touch her. The message here was loud and clear. No matter how a lady dresses – covered from head to toe or skimpily clad, men will still want to touch her. Despite all this ruckus in life, she continues to dress the way she thinks is befitting and walks up with all her respect, pride and elegance head high. She continues to spring back time-n-again, hence the name.
Is this your first installation? If yes, how was the experience?
Have done many in the past, but my first one on public display.
Your favorite chocolate installation till date
Most definitely, ‘True Spring Woman’