In this edition of our Crafter Series, we collaborated with Kirti, Founder and Head Chocolatier at Bon Vivant. From making a foray into the F&B industry as a food technologist to crafting luscious Bonbons, her journey was captivating as she explained the science behind this craft. Here’s her story:
Please tell us what you do.
Hi! My Name is Kirti Kumar and I am the Founder and Head Chocolatier at Bon Vivant. I have completed my Masters in Food Processing and I have been associated with the Food Industry for more than 3 years now.
At Bon Vivant, we handcraft premium Belgian chocolate into luscious bonbons with a variety of ganache appealing to all chocolate lovers’ taste buds. Our wish is to change the chocolate scenery by providing luxurious and rich tasting chocolates, the quality and taste of which is at par with the chocolates manufactured all over the world. It is our goal to break the myth that you get delectable chocolates only in foreign countries.
What does it take to excel at this craft, and the skills needed?
I believe that today, people all over India are becoming more experimental when it comes to food. We have been seeing a rise in delicacies, famous in other parts of the world, garnering lovers and followers in India. We have amateur bakers and cooks taking their passion and hobby to a whole new level of professionalism, which is definitely a welcome change. However, the role of science in creating food is still untouched. For those who know and understand the different ingredients used in cooking/baking, will acknowledge that “Cooking/baking is an art, and each ingredient has a vital role to play”. At Bon Vivant, we are lovers of both chocolate and the science behind it. With this knowledge, we are able to improve our taste and bring out the best in chocolates. We also provide a variety of ganache, and personally research and chose the flavours that work best with chocolate. Apart from technical skills, it always helps to have patience, dedication and sincerity in all your endeavours.
What inspired you to get started?
I have always been a ‘foodie’. I enjoy different cuisines and love to experiment when it comes to trying out new delicacies. My education and professional life also strengthened my association with this passion. As a kid, I always stingy eating the “foreign chocolates” bought by my relatives and ate them sparingly so that I could enjoy them longer. It was such a luxury at that time. When I was researching for business options, I saw that the chocolate industry was still much underrated compared to its potential. Another factor that strengthened my confidence in this field is the lack of knowledge when it comes to chocolate.
Chocolates are basically divided into two verticals, Couverture and Compound. The Couverture is the original chocolate which contains cocoa fat as the main fat content whereas the Compounds are the one where the fat of the chocolate is been replaced by hydrogenated fat. It is unfortunate that in India, most chocolatiers are using compound and hence as consumers, we have almost forgotten the taste and experience of enjoying an actual chocolate. And this is just the difference in the basic form of chocolates. We still have different tastes to explore chocolate origin from Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador and many other places. Now imagine combining them with different flavours like coffee, nuts or even honey. It sounds so interesting and you cannot even comprehend the areas to explore in this uncharted territory.
How did you make the jump from hobby to business?
As I mentioned before, in India, the number of people loving and encouraging food experiments has been steadily increasing. Being a food technologist, I have always wanted to start a business where I could nurture my love for food and science. I realised that there is a vast difference in the chocolate culture in the Western countries compared to our country and that this area is still undiscovered. I was confident in this endeavour because I know that today, there is a lot of demand for premium chocolates and with my interest to merge science and food, I can definitely take it to a higher level. Everyone loves chocolates and we all agree that world could do better with some additional sweetness. But, I would also like to add that the main difference between a hobby and business is to maintain professionalism in your transactions. As a businesswoman, I acknowledge that I had to prepare myself mentally to be ready to take on the pressure, the competition, the hard work and to be disciplined and dedicated in all my actions. My business is a reflection of me, as a person and as a businesswoman. In addition to the manufacturing efforts, I have also spent a lot of time researching and understanding the market, the marketing strategies and even the competition scene. With a strong family support, I knew I was heading in the right direction.
Please walk us through a typical day in your life.
Even though I am born in the 90s, I am a bit of an old school when it comes to planning. You will always see me carrying a diary and pen in which I jot down everything, from the do to list to any idea regarding the business I came across. My day begins with re-visiting the to-do list to make sure I am not missing anything and then proceed to execute each item in the list. During the day, I spend most of my time planning the raw material requirements, arranging logistics for product delivery and most importantly, other coordination for marketing strategy. I also prefer to be well-planned when there are festivals in the near future. I spend some time of my day reviewing customer feedbacks and thinking of ways to improve their experience. The most absurd part of my routine is that I prefer making my chocolates in the night, post-dinner, as there is no distraction and I can fully concentrate on making chocolates. I enjoy each activity, be it the planning and coordination or the preparation of chocolates and even boxing them. As Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” At Bon Vivant, we believe that loving what we do will definitely make a difference in our customers’ experiences.