As a young child, Deep Singh Bawa, like many others his age, loved eating sweets and desserts of various kinds. As he grew up that love transformed from just consuming them to trying to make them as well.
Speaking to The Better India, the 38-year-old says, “I grew up watching many Indian chefs like Rakesh Sethi and Sanjeev Kapoor on television. They were the early influences for which I have to thank television to a great extent. I started baking at the age of 13 and loved every bit of it.”
In 2014, after various stints with hotels across India and Colombo, Deep decided to turn into an entrepreneur and launched his studio from his bedroom in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. What started with an initial investment of Rs 1.5 lakh that his mother Seema Bawa (62) gave him, the brand today makes a revenue of over Rs 24 lakh annually.
Moving away from the conventional degree
At 13, Deep was fairly certain of what he wanted to do in life. He had decided on pursuing a degree in hotel management, a decision which was driven by his love for baking. “The first oven that we purchased, from a brand called Akasa, at home was from an exhibition being held in the Capital. For many years to come, I continued to use that oven,” he shares.
Some of the early recipe books that he used included that of noted chef Nita Mehta. “While on one hand, I enjoyed baking, I would often get scolded by my parents for not studying and wasting my time doing baking. I would have tried all kinds of baking, which included eclairs, cakes and so many other things that were unheard of when I was growing up.”
He continues, “While my family was on-board with my decision of wanting to study hotel management, they wanted me to study science before I could take it up. I completed my school education with computer science and then went to Aurangabad to pursue a degree in hotel management.”
After the hotel management course, Deep worked at various Taj hotels across India and then decided to pursue an MBA, for which he went to Aston University, Birmingham in the United Kingdom in 2008. “It was here that the baking bug caught me again. The availability of so many fresh ingredients had me keen on baking once again. I would bake for friends’ birthdays and all other special occasions,” he recalls.
Once he returned to India, Deep joined a luxury hotel spa chain and worked with them for – years. It was around September 2012 that Deep decided to take a break and explore other avenues.
A baking studio launch
In 2013, Deep also started working with people with disabilities and taught them baking. “We started with one session a week and the response made us continue for longer than I anticipated. This association also gave me a good foray into the Gurgaon market and I became associated with Gurgaon Foodie, an online food community in the city.”
A year later, in 2014, Deep launched his baking studio called Deep Studio Kitchen. “This was launched out of my bedroom. We got some civil work done and converted that bedroom into a workspace. It was a dream and one that I pursued with a lot of sincerity,” he says.
He adds, “India is known for its mithai (sweet) but baking, not so much. It isn’t something that came very naturally to us and that was what I wanted to change with what I was doing.” He started collaborating with various stakeholders like equipment, ingredient brands and even pastry schools from across the country. He conducted various road shows to educate people about what baking entailed.
On following his passion, Deep’s mother adds, “His passion towards baking was so strong that it would have been so terrible of us to curb that. I just couldn’t hold myself back from giving him that initial seed money. I saw that desperation in him to prove himself. I believed in him.”
She continues, “Today, when I see people come up and shower him with praises, it makes me so proud. I bask in all that glory coming his way. As a family, we all enjoy the puff pastry that he makes and the cakes that he bakes have remained a personal favourite. Deep dil se kaam karta hain (puts his heart into the work).”
Deep launched The Pastry Man, a freezer-to-oven gourmet bake product vertical, in 2020. On this, he says, “I started with the puff pastry, which even today is our bestseller. Along with that, I have croissants, fudge chocolate brownies and cookies. All of this needs to be baked before consumption.”
About running a business during the pandemic, he says, “Many of those who bought products from us started with uncertainty when it came to baking. Those same people are now repeat customers, ordering at least once a month, if not more.”
Gyaneshwari Sharma, a Gurgaon resident who has been savouring The Pastry Man products for over two years now, says, “I have been a regular customer and some of the products that we, as a family, enjoy include the fudgy chocolate brownie, puff squares and some of the ready-to-bake products too. The fact that you are baking it at home makes it all so much more special. I feel like a pro-baker when I bake with Deep’s products.”
She describes the fudgy chocolate brownie as the ‘best thing that ever happened’ to her.
The price range for the products goes upward of Rs 100, depending on the baked item. “We now have added a whole range of products, from breakfast bagels to pies, cookies and pizza dough,” he says.