Chef Sanjana Patel’s favourite time of the day is the hours she spends constructing avant-garde desserts, creating bean-to-bar chocolate and exploring the sheer diversity of flavours – all away from the public eye in the secluded corners of La Folie kitchen.
Now, here’s your chance to get know all about the chef as she opens up about her childhood romance with chocolate, the summer she made her first dessert and the inspirations that lie at the heart of her haute couture-style creations.
- When and how did you discover your love for chocolate?
Oh, very early on. I must have been about 4 or 5 years old. My dad often travelled for business to Europe and he would bring back a variety of dark chocolate from Belgium and France. Due to cavities and allergies, I was denied chocolate as a child, but just like a young Willy Wonka, my cravings for chocolate were unending. I’d find myself sneaking up to the fridge in the middle of the night to admire fresh chocolate truffles. They really swept me off my feet. That’s when I fell in love with chocolate.
- How did this translate into dessert making?
I’m very curious by nature. Even as a child, I often pondered on how food, especially dessert, was made. The foundation of my baking knowledge was laid early on, thanks to my Nani. During one summer break, she taught me how to caramelise almonds and coat them in chocolate. The gorgeous aromas of toasted nuts, molten chocolate and the slow-burning sugar were so intoxicating that they still linger in my memories.
From a young age, I was certain that when someone asked me what I want to do when I grow up, with a very enthusiastic and confident nod, I’d say that I want to start my own chocolate factory and bake cakes!
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- How do your stints with well-known French professionals influence your ideas and creations for La Folie?
My experience has been varied with respect to working with pâtisseries, chocolatiers, hotels and Michelin star restaurants. The one common thing I have learned about the French savoir-faire is to strive for innovation and adaptation through quality and excellence of service.
I’ve imbibed the Haute couture-style of making desserts, which demands me to push conventional boundaries through presentation styles and ingredient pairings, creating a mystery that unravels on a diner’s palate. The experience of tempering a modern creation with tradition is what you can expect from La Folie.
- What’s your vision for La Folie?
On a personal note, I wish to share my experiences and educate upcoming pastry chefs and amateur bakers about the art of not only making but also simply learning how to enjoy chocolates and pastries. I also hope that La Folie becomes a part of Relais Desserts International – a club of the world’s finest patisseries and chocolateries.Read Part 2 of 'Up Close and Personal with Chef Sanjana'