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Hospitality: Sweet success

28-year-old Kainaz Messman, the brain behind Theobroma, or Theo’s — a French style café in Mumbai had to trade her chef’s uniform for a year of physiotherapy, but the time out of kitchen gave her the chance to conceptualise the café. Purva Mehra reports. A dash of army discipline, in the cup of leisure | Career ladder | Institutes in Delhi | Institutes in India | Quirky facts | Pluses & Minuses | Skills required | 'Future of Hotel industry is bright' | Business Buzz | Global options | Gallery of quotes | Biggest challenges | Some facts and figures

delhi Updated: Jun 27, 2012, 12:32 IST
Purva Mehra
Purva Mehra
Hindustan Times

The 28-year-old Kainaz Messman is the brain behind Theobroma, or Theo’s — a French style café in Mumbai. She now supervises three kitchens, with a total workforce of 45 people and a turnover of Rs 15 to 20 lakh a month. In the pipeline is her own TV show.

In 2003, she was appointed pastry chef at the Oberoi, Udaivilas. Before long, she began suffering from a severe pain in her back, and eventually, had to trade her chef’s uniform for a year of physiotherapy. Time out of the kitchen gave Messman the chance to devise Theobroma.

A graduate of Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) in Dadar, Messman completed a three-year post-graduate course in kitchen management at the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development. In addition, Messman drew on her family’s traditional obsession with food and desserts to take the leap of faith.

If the seeds of culinary indulgence were planted at home in India, it was in France that Messman’s taste for all things sweet turned into an obsession. She spent a year in Albi, South France, as an exchange student. But rather than sitting in a classroom learning about Marie Antoinette, she would skip school and pâtisserie-hop with friends.

Theobroma opened its doors in October 2004 and was the result of Messman’s collective experiences. Her prices range from Rs 20 for an oven-fresh croissant to Rs 1,200 upwards for custom-made cakes.

Originally only serving desserts, Messman has branched out into savoury snacks too. “Regulars who would spend hours here started asking for savoury items,” she said. “Hailing from a five-star training, I was quite strong-minded about what I’d have on the menu initially, but I’ve learned to accommodate my clients’ needs.”

Despite all the other influences on Theo’s, Messman keeps returning to France.“There I learnt the value of real, homemade produce. Nothing in Theo’s is externally sourced. My whole family is involved, from running the shop to back-end details. I wanted the place to exude warmth and a feeling of familiarity.”

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