For most children, vacations are all about playing with friends or visiting grandparents or going out of town for a holiday.
However, Vinesh Johny, co-founder and executive chef at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts in Bengaluru, did more than that during his school breaks. As he was always interested in cooking from his school days, he spent most of his time in the kitchen. “Summer vacations were my perfect excuse to put the books aside and help my mom in the kitchen,” he says, adding that he enjoyed baking sponge cakes, cooking halwa and preparing traditional family sweets and treats during his summer holidays and Christmas.
When he was pursuing his Hotel Management course he realised his love and passion for pastry arts. After graduating from the culinary school, he worked in various capacities. “Every experience I have had at the university, internships and working at hotels, has only strengthened my passion for cooking,” says Johny.
Ask him what inspires him to be a pastry chef and he says, “It can be the play of light and shade in the surrounding environment, the unique geography of a place, the symmetry and asymmetry of objects, textures, patterns and colours or a memory or even a scent,” he says adding that it is quite imperative to stay inspired and inspiration hides in the strangest of places which is why one needs to stay attentive and alert.
Johny and the other co-founders set up Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts, when they could not find an academy in India that could offer them the specialised courses that they were looking for. “We had to pursue our specialised training abroad and the courses there were quite expensive,” he says explaining why they set up the institute. Students at the academy can undertake the courses without having to spend a fortune to go abroad and acquire the same level of training.
Explaining the concept of the academy, Johny says, “Lavonne was born out of a dream to make India among the ultimate destinations for those looking to pursue baking and pastry art as a passion or a profession.” The name ‘Lavonne’ denotes the immortal Yew Tree, and at Lavonne, Johny says they are committed to bringing baking and pastry arts from the sidelines of gastronomic pursuit into the mainstream and immortalising its significance in the country.
The science and art
Johny says that every student who comes to learn at the academy comes from different parts of the country and varying backgrounds, cultures and hopes but with a single dream: ‘To learn the science and art of baking and pastry’.
“Baking is all about precision, timing, temperatures and the full understanding of ingredients and its composition,” explains Johny adding, “Baking is also about the creative mind of the chef and his intentions to bring his art to life on the plate. So he needs to be constantly innovative with his resources and make effective use of them,” which Johny says is only possible if the chef understands science.
Johny spends a lot of time in the kitchen designing and creating amazing desserts. “For me, it is all about taste, texture, temperature and technique,” he says, adding that enough attention is given to colour, smell and presentation as well.
“Presentation, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart,” he says adding that making a dessert or a pastry look amazing is just as important as the way it tastes.
Talking about why innovation is important in cooking, he says, “We spend a lot of time in the kitchen designing, creating and critiquing. But always be in the lookout for lesser known ingredients, working with both classic and newest techniques to be able to create flavours, textures and, most importantly, a memory. He believes in implementing the use of contrasting textures and flavours in creations like Black Forest Entremet which is a simple spin on the classic Black Forest and the Bourbon Petit Gateaux which is bourbon-based mousse cake with alternating textures of sponge and cookie which is a structurally great looking dessert.
In recent years, gluten free products, vegan desserts and organic ingredients have been catching people’s fancy and Johny says that chefs have gone an extra mile to make these available for the audience.