- By Rima Chakraborty
At the onset, being a home baker seems like a pretty simple and sweet job. From inventing new designs or desserts to trying or testing new ingredients, they do it all every day with 100% dedication and love. It’s not all fondant, crepes, and crème brulée. So, to cut it short, only true artists can survive. According to Ms. Arati Mirji, "Believe in your Passion – enjoy what you are doing and try and achieve excellence in it. Everything else is irrelevant".
Ms. Mirji is a world acclaimed sugar florist and tutor, one of the Top 10 cake masters of India and the winner of Cake Masters Magazine Sugar Flowers award 2018. She is also a first place Gold winner at Cake International, 2018. She is also the founder of ‘Sweet Symphony’. Her work is flawless and is the epitome of perfection. We recently had the opportunity to meet her in person in Bengaluru and here are some interesting highlights from the same meet.
1. When did you first realise you wanted to pursue baking and cake decorating?
Let me start off by saying that I consider myself one of the lucky few. I did not expect to find my passion so late in life. And for this I am ever grateful to God.
I have been into baking and sugar flowers for about 4 years now. I stumbled into the world of sugar flowers quite by accident. I happened to taste some delicious buns at a friend’s place ; was totally stumped that something so delicious yet simple could be made at home; decided to join a baking school which would provide me with a more structured and systematic source of knowledge. Cooking has always been a passion for me though,I had not tried baking seriously. I enrolled myself into the City and Guilds diploma course with Lavonne : Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts for baking and patisserie and there, I was exposed to this glorious art of sugarcraft and sugar flowers. I did a basic course in sugar flowers and thereafter there was no looking back. I immediately took to sugar flowers like fish to water and got engrossed in educating myself regarding all the nuances of sugar flower making via books, internet etc.
2. How was your journey since then until now?
I was so enamoured by this world of sugar flowers that I spent most of my free time either researching on them or trying to master new flowers. That I came from a family of artists (both my parents are artists) helped me a lot. People started noticing my work and very soon I started participating and winning online contests. My cakes adorned with sugar flowers started being published in various national and international magazines like the Sugar magazine, Baker’s Imprint, Cake international magazine, American Cake Decorating magazine, Cake Masters magazine, etc.
My background in painting and art helped me do well with sugar flowers; I could make very realistic looking flowers in sugar – sometime people would really wonder whether they were really sugar or I was posting pictures of real flowers.
I started conducting classes teaching sugar flowers and have conducted both individual as well as group classes all over India. My tutorials for sugar flowers are on Cakeflix, the top international online cake decorating school by Paul Bradford.
3. What was the hardest part of this journey and how did you overcome those challenges?
The toughest part in this journey has been to procure all the required material necessary for sugar flower making – especially the cutters and veiners. Also balancing family cum work is another area where I struggled quite a bit … but I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family especially my husband who has in a big way helped me to overcome both these challenges by finding ways to procure the required materials as well as taking care of the family whenever I have been busy.
4. What is your single biggest achievement till date and did your family play any role in that?
The highlight of my career in Sugar flowers has been last year – 2018 where I was declared the winner of the Sugar flower category for the Cake Masters magazine Awards - a forum where the topmost artists of the world are shortlisted and a winner is chosen amongst them. I also participated in the Cake International competition, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary and won the 1st place Gold in the Sugar Flowers Category. Of course! None of this would have been possible without the constant support from my loving family.
5. What's the hardest thing about being a home baker?
I think the toughest part about being a home baker is that you cannot segregate your work timing with your personal time – it gets very blurred.
6. Have you ever done any marketing strategy to promote your brand?
Not really. I do use social media to increase my visibility by posting my work regularly on Instagram and facebook and this has worked well enough for me.
7. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends in cakes?
There are some very informative online cake decorating schools in India and abroad which keep viewers updated on the latest trends, I also make it a point to attend workshops conducted by both Indian as well as international artists to upgrade my skills.. Learning I believe, is always an ongoing process.. Learning never stops..
8. When and why should consumers buy cakes from Home bakers and not bakeries?
The topmost point which comes to my mind is the hygiene factor. Also most of the home bakers believe that whatever they serve their family is what they sell.
9. How are home bakers from Bengaluru different from other Indian cities?
I think Bangalore is blessed with a large no of very talented artists.. and I’ve had the pleasure of overhearing many people state that there is something very special about how Bangalore bakers and cake decorators are extraordinarily gifted :)
10. Who do you look up to into this industry and why?
Without a doubt- Alan Dunn and Robert Hanes. I had the good fortune to attend classes conducted by both of them and they were generous enough to share their wealth of knowledge with their students and I was one of those lucky ones.
11. What advice would you give to aspirants bakers who want to pursue a career in baking?
Believe in your Passion –enjoy what you are doing and try and achieve excellence in it. Everything else is irrelevant.
That was Ms. Arati Mirji, all uncut for you lovely bakers and fans out there. She is a true inspiration and her ideas and patience make her stand out.
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