Rishika Chengappa was all set to pursue a career in the media. Her change of heart was sweet news for Bengalureans who are now wolfing down her desserts. Read her #PassionToPaycheck story below.
When Rishika Chengappa talks about desserts, she does so with such passion that it has to be true love. This baker, who also teaches at the Bangalore Culinary Academy (BCA), has been baking ever since she could hold an egg beater. She remembers the first ever dessert she made: a crème caramel. There should be no surprises as to where her passion for baking stemmed from. “Everyone in my family bakes. My mom used to bake. My grandma is an amazing baker. Even my extended family consists of bakers! So I seem to have gotten my baking genes from them,” she says.
But before she realised this was her calling, Rishika wanted to be a travel and food journalist. “I come from a foodie family, so there was food involved in everything I did. Even my fascination with travelling stems from the fact that I love experimenting and discovering new flavours.”
But it was Media and Communications this foodie chose to study at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru. She was all set to pursue her career in that line when she realised she had to look in another direction: desserts. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’ll make a career out of this, because for me, baking was just something that has always been a part of life.”
She credits her friends and teachers with nudging her in the right direction. “They always pushed me to bake more, and kept telling me that this is what I was meant to do. But I would always argue that baking is something that I love, not something that I wanted to pursue.” But more than anything else, she was afraid to monetise her passion because of all the horror stories she had heard about people who ended up hating their hobbies. “I didn’t want to be like them. So it took me a while to gather my courage.”
A delicious adventure
Once Rishika had made up her mind, she did a diploma course at the Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts, Bengaluru, after which she worked at J.W. Marriot for about a year. However, a hard fall in the kitchen left her with a bad back, and she realised she couldn’t stand for long hours.
That’s when she got together with her friend, Sindhuri Pradeep Reddy, and started Whip It Patisserie, an online venture offering customised flavours and desserts.
But, at some point of time, Rishika realised she also wanted to teach. “Many people bake as a hobby, but not all are aware of the techniques involved,” she says. “Coincidentally, around the same time, my ex-boss got in touch with me after reading newspaper features about Whip It. They were opening the Tuile Baking Boutique, a platform to teach the art of making pastries and bread, and wanted me to teach there.”
She worked as the Head Chef at Tuile for a year and a half till it closed down. She then to the BCA in the latter half of 2016, where she teaches a diploma course in baking and pastry art.
Stepping out of the comfort zone
As if teaching the fine art of pastry making were not enough, Rishika also takes orders whenever time permits. “I started taking orders again because I was missing it. When you’re teaching, there’s a fixed syllabus you have to adhere to. But when I take orders, I can experiment so much and explore my creative side.”
Of course, given her work schedule, it does get crazy at times. As she explains, “I’m working all the time. I wake up early to prepare a few things at home before I leave for class, and then I get home in the evening and work on whatever orders that come my way,” Fortunately for her, baking is a stress-buster. “It gets extremely hectic at times, but I love going back home and baking. It relaxes me.”
Rishika says what she does is create edible art. “I’m all for making pretty-looking food! I love working with plated desserts - putting all the different colours, textures, shapes and other elements together. You can even spend days making all the elements but can never imagine what it’ll look like once it’s done.”
Her journey has not been a simple one, especially with the kind of competition going around. There are new bakers starting out every day. “The industry wasn’t this big even four years ago. But it picked up, and suddenly everybody is becoming a baker! The kind of institutions and study options we have now are amazing.”
Despite competition, Rishika is up there, reckoned as one of the finest bakers in the city, according to word-of-mouth. “When you’re really good at something, you tend to carve a niche of your own, and that’s why it worked for me,” she says.
What lies ahead
Ask her about what she’d like to do in the future and pat comes the reply, “Teach. It’s my happy space. I never thought I’d be the kind who’d like to teach, but I love spending time with my students and baking with them. It’s what I look forward to every day.”
Another plan on the cards is starting her own baking institute someday. But for now, she wants to bake, and create more desserts. “There should always be enough dessert for everyone,” she says happily.
Rishika is convinced that none of her success would have been possible had she not gotten away from her comfort zone. “It’s very important to do that. When you’re passionate about something, just go ahead and do it. Everybody will you tell it’s going to be very hard and not very financially rewarding. But if you love what you’re doing, it should be enough.”