We at A Bottle Full of Candies are promoting and supporting small businesses through our interview articles. We have been featuring young and talented small and local business owners and trying to learn their stories behind their ventures. Bringing up a small business does not happen in one day, and as they say, when you support a small business, you support someone's dream.
Here we have very talented baker and chef Pritika Chittaranjan, from Guwahati, who runs her Instagram page @halfcookedchef and in an email interaction, she shared with us about her different experience as a chef, her pop-ups and her life in Guwahati.
1. Tell us about yourself and what do you do?
I grew up in the North East, having been born in Shillong and living the majority of my life in Guwahati. I went on to pursue an education in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology from Xavier’s, Mumbai, before giving in to my dream of going to culinary school. I had my formal Chef Training from George Brown College in Toronto, and went on to work at a golf resort and a gastropub in Canada, before moving back to India. I then worked at a brewery called the Bier Library in Bangalore. I moved back to Guwahati in March 2019, and started working for a travel company called ChaloHoppo, who conduct trips throughout the North East. While working for them I focused my energy on relaunching my home-bakes, which I had first started in 2018. Currently I am working on the same venture, while also doing in food pop ups in Guwahati.
2. Tell us about you venture the @halfcookedchef. Please share the story behind starting it if you have one.
The ‘halfcookedchef’ page on Instagram was one I started when I was in school, hence the name. At that stage my ultimate goal was to become a professional Chef, but since I had no formal training and experience I was sort of half-cooked. The page was started as a blogging venture where I would share stories about my bakes and stuff I cooked at home for family. That continued throughout my journey to Mumbai, Toronto and Bangalore. In fact, I have also used the same page to start my own 14 day challenge during the first phase of the lockdown, where I shared recipes for my followers to learn how to cook with me. So I’d say the page is a sort of Jambalaya in itself. As of now my feed is mostly filled with pictures of my bakes, ever since I have started selling my home-style cakes again.
Guwahati is close to my heart because ever since I was able to form memories, I’ve lived here. The city itself has really grown and changed since we first moved here.
3. Tell us about your life in Guwahati, and how do you see the city to be?
Guwahati is close to my heart because ever since I was able to form memories, I’ve lived here. The city itself has really grown and changed since we first moved here. One of the biggest changes I witnessed was the introduction of a food-culture. With mainstream brands coming in, unique cafes, pubs and breweries opening up, food festivals becoming a part of the lifestyle, I can only see bright things in Guwahati’s future!
"I like to cook and bake out of my little open kitchen, with equipment that has been passed down the generations from my grandmother to my mother and now me"
4. How would you like to call your business – is it a cloud-bakery or something similar?
My business is probably as homely as it can get. I like to cook and bake out of my little open kitchen, with equipment that has been passed down the generations from my grandmother to my mother and now me. With regards to both the bakes and the food pop ups I am a part of, I like to cook the way I would for my own family. So everything I sell is straight from the heart.
5. Do you feel that home-bakery is a crowded zone right now, especially in cities like Guwahati?
With the pandemic taking over the world a lot of people have started part taking in hobbies or things they are passionate about, and making a career out of it. That being said, yes there are a lot of very talented bakers all across town, each having their own signature. And like I always say, there is no such thing as too much cake!
"I like to create fusions, working with ingredients that are native to India but cooking with technique that is more French-American"
6. Tell us about the food that you cook – both baked and others?
Having been trained in a French-American style of cooking, I have always been keener on cooking foods from the world, experimenting with different cuisines. But ever since I moved back to the North East, my focus has changed and my interests towards cooking Indian food with local produce has been kindled. I like to create fusions, working with ingredients that are native to India but cooking with technique that is more French-American.
Baking in the Chittaranjan household is a ceremonious tradition wherein when we were little my sister and I would usually wait impatiently for my mom to finish baking just so that we can lick the leftover cake batter. And once the cake was ready the entire family would sit together and enjoy slice after slice.
I hold that memory fondly, and want everyone who eats my cakes to feel that same sense of impatience, and inability to say no to another slice!
7. You have cooked in different cities, in different places. Anything about those experiences that you want to share to the readers?
I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to cook with some brilliant chefs who have taught me multitudes about cooking food in the variety of kitchens that I worked at. At the same time, I think the one thing I hold very close to my heart are the numerous recipes that I have come across, whether it was an aunt making her famous spaghetti and meatballs, a cook whipping up a quick cheesecake, a friend teaching me that secret guacamole recipe, or a Chef passing down his trade secrets while cooking with delicate fish. The recipes and the memories, that’s what I’d say keeps me going!
8. In your Instagram, you have mentioned your desire to settle in Goa, what inspires you most about Goa and what are the things you would want to do there?
I wouldn’t say I want to settle in Goa, because I’d like to believe in a fantasy world that I’m like a gypsy, wanting to move constantly, meeting people and learning as I go. The next destination I’d like to explore more is Goa, and that is because there is a celebration of life and food there that I’d love to be a part of. But more importantly, I’ve never lived by the beach, and that’s something on my bucket list that I’m dying to tick off!
9. What are your future dreams – with food, work, cities and life?
My dream is to own my own Farm to Table Restaurant where I can use natural and organic produce to create meals that not only look good but taste incredible because you’re getting to see exactly where your food is coming from. I enjoy dabbling in a few careers with regards to work, and don’t see myself settling into one job. I love having new opportunities and new learnings, all while staying disciplined and working as hard as I can!
About Pritika: I’m just a small town girl, trying to make my mark in my own way, one bite at a time.
All image copyright in this page belongs to @halfcookedchef