"Be great in act, as you have been in thought. "
- William Shakespeare
With the perfect blend of focus, dedication and hard work, anything is possible. If we want to attain success and stay in the game right up to the end, keeping a positive attitude no matter what is of utmost importance.
An entrepreneur, restaurateur and master chocolatier, Gaurav Wadhwa is the founder of Theos, which is a multi-award winning artisanal French patisserie located in Delhi. Theos is famed for its gorgeous, rich desserts and an extensive range of delicious baked products that are all made from scratch. Under Gaurav’s expert direction, this niche patisserie is flourishing and how.
Sharing his thoughts and baking journey with us, Gaurav helped us understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur, to make a business succeed in the long term and the challenges and rewards that come with running an authentic patisserie.
How did you first get started with baking?
I started at a very early age as I graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa and was working with Taj Group of Hotels where I always used to think that there is a huge gap between what is being served in the local market and what is being offered in five-star hotels. I used to always feel that there should be bakers for this kind of product in the local market as well. So that’s how I started my own brand Theos, at a very early age I moved out of Taj and started with this in 2007.
What are some things you do differently now than when you first started baking?
Gradually progress is coming in. These days there is more french patisserie which is getting popular day by day and people now have an understanding of it. So we keep improving on the existing products and we also keep adding a lot of new products to our existing range because we are a multi-outlet chain so we have to keep the interest alive. Currently, we were the first ones to launch the Callebaut Ruby Chocolate in Delhi NCR, and that’s exactly what I am demonstrating in my on-stage demo as well, so I’ll be doing a ruby popsicle for that. Besides this, there’s always some improvement from what we were doing earlier. There are more machines now, so we have invested in much more now. The man-power and production capabilities have grown too.
The USP of Theos is that it is a hundred percent artisanal patisserie which means they do not use pre-mixes, all their French recipes are made from scratch. They only use natural raw materials, no preservatives or any kind of flavour enhancers and essences are used. Theos offers only natural products and everything is made from scratch. They do not work with ingredients that are processed, for example, things like margarine. They use just pure butter. According to Gaurav, these are a few differences between a commercially operated patisserie chain and Theos.
What has been your greatest challenge when it comes to baking?
There have been multiple challenges throughout, but the biggest initial challenge has been building a good team because, at the end of the day, everything grows because of a team. So you really need to invest in team building. Another hurdle is the ability to be financially successful. Your product must connect with the audience, you might believe in a certain product but if it does not have a connect with the people then eventually the sales will not be good and financially you will not be encouraged to do better and expand.
So, as Gaurav says, build up a connection with your team and your audience. These two factors are very important and if you are able to achieve both, then half of your problems are sorted.
What is the most rewarding part of baking?
Baking is something that is highly unpredictable. It is very challenging, you cannot guarantee consistent results despite the fact that you are doing it every day. It is so scientifically technical – sometimes the humidity is different, sometimes the temperatures differ or at other times the quality of the raw materials is inconsistent due to the unpredictability of nature. So basically the most rewarding thing is to be able to bring out a consistent product and then to see your customers appreciating your products. Getting positive feedback, people writing to you and expressing their happiness is truly gratifying.
What are your favourite baking tools?
(Laughs) Well I think it will be injustice to choose only a few because baking relies a lot on some specific tools. I’ve never really thought of this, but I think probably one would be a candy thermometer because it is a very essential tool for any kind of candy or sugar cooking, you can’t do without it. The second would be an oven! Also a piping bag and nozzle. These are tools you absolutely need, of course.
Which one of your cakes is your favourite?
There have been many milestone cakes but one memorable cake would be the one I had made with one hand as I had fractured the other. My left hand was in a cast. I had no idea how this cake would turn out to be but it eventually turned out to be really good. In fact it is one of the best cakes that I have baked so far.
Our hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of our life. Gaurav believes that it was due to this difficulty and challenge he faced that the results ended up being so good. He has also done quite a few assignments that have been special but this cake was the most memorable one as he was physically limited in his capability but still managed to bake.
Could you give some tips or advice to people who have just started in the baking industry or would love to start?
My biggest and only advice to all those who want to enter baking or for that matter any other profession is that this is no part-time profession. Many people believe that they can handle it alongside a lot of other things. They feel that since they already have one business, they can invest into baking as well. So anybody who is not willing to give a hundred percent to this should refrain from it because this is a very demanding industry and requires full commitment and concentration.
Running a business is tough and challenging. It is full of highs and lows and no one knows this better than Gaurav. When it comes to a patisserie business, complete focus and devotion are the most important factors for long term success. If we are willing to do that, then the rest will fall into place gradually.
To round up, what does The Bakers Collective mean to you?
Last year when The Bakers Collective contacted me, honestly I had no idea about this event. But when I went there last time and also when I was invited again this year, I was really happy to be a part of it. I think it is an amazing platform for everybody who is associated with baking, whether it is home bakers, some of the suppliers or the experts. Because even though we call ourselves experts, there is still so much to learn from the students as well. It is basically a mutual interaction, a give and take kind of a platform, not just an event where the experts are training a bunch of students. So it’s also a lot of learning for us because of the challenging situations they throw at us, the questions they ask, it makes us think and come up with answers or go back and work on it. The Bakers Collective is that unique platform and business model and I am not sure how many such platforms exist in India or probably even the world over. It’s a perfect collaboration of the experts with the students where there is mutual benefit.
It was an honour to have such an insightful conversation with the incredibly skilled Gaurav. We would like to acknowledge some of his achievements –
- Gaurav is the founder of Theos, which is a hundred percent artisanal French patisserie brand based in Delhi NCR.
- After graduating from IHM Pusa in 2003, he worked at the Taj Group of Hotels as a management trainee.
- Gaurav has worked under German and French chefs and was the Head Pastry Chef at Taj Connemara Chennai, just at the young age of 20.
- Theos has won the Times Food & Nightlife Awards four times, including this year in Delhi – NCR.
With these impressive accomplishments under his belt, we are sure Gaurav will take his business to greater heights and wish him all the very best.