Bringing to you Vinesh Johny, pastry chef par excellence, a pioneer in establishing an international baking academia in the country, passionate about luxe chocolate even inking theobromine, the chemical name for it as a tattoo onto his arm and a fun and likeable person. Lavonne academy and patisserie is Vinesh’s brain child which he co-founded in 2012 with two other chefs, his mentor Avin and friend Lijo, each bringing individual unique strengths into the mix, conducting a baking course offered by the “city of guilds” for professional bakers in the country making such a course accessible and affordable to aspiring professional bakers. Lavonne also has a cozy cafe with innovative desserts, conducts weekend baking classes and offers beautiful customised cakes for events.
With a working mother, Vinesh would often experiment in the kitchen as a child and from there he came about his interest in taking on F&B as a profession. He went on to complete hotel management in Bangalore and realised baking was to be his calling. After gaining considerable experience in Oberoi and Starwoods, Vinesh decided to further specialise in chocolate when it struck him that a course as such wasn’t offered in the country and was expensive internationally. There took root the idea of starting the academy with his co-founders that offers a specialised course in baking as compared to the generic hotel management courses that comprise of front desk, housekeeping etc. besides F&B. An exhaustive assessment by “City and Guilds UK “ followed and they proved themselves worthy of setting up the academy. The diploma is offered post six months of comprehensive and challenging training. The alumni of Lavonne have gone on to set up their own patisseries as also join and head F&B divisions in prestigious hotels. Testimonials abound of the training offered and the value it has provided in technique and skill that the alumni are able to deploy in their professions winning them respect among peers in organisations viz., the Ritz Carlton. Lavonne also frequently flies in international chefs to conduct classes in new and evolving techniques of baking.
Krishma finds Vinesh and Lavonne, from her own interest in baking having attended a few courses herself, and finds the desserts exquisite in both taste and design. The interview setting to her was immensely joyous in the delightfully cozy cafe filled with the heady scents of baking. Vinesh is a warm host offering her the classic chocolate cake and also walking over to chat up with other customers in the course of the interview. Both get talking of innovation and Vinesh shares his challenge of introducing and getting acceptance to new and untried tastes and therefore taking care to always keep the classics. The conversation moves on to handcrafted chocolate sculpture, the newest introduction in Lavonne’s course material, a process that is as much art as it is science with casting to ensure a strong balance, pulling techniques and glass blowing techniques in sugar crafting and the process of tempering that encourages cocoa butter in the chocolate to harden into a specific crystalline pattern maintaining its sheen and texture. To Vinesh while innovation is important, the basics hold the key with three months spent drilling the basics of baking post which the students are allowed to experiment. His philosophy is clean, delicious and with a spectacular look evoking all the five senses.
There is certain playfulness in Vinesh’s approach in a profession that is demanding, stressful and unforgiving. He recounts the incident of putting together a course for a few hundred guests through the night and ending up dropping everything at dawn and having to redo the entire breakfast. His Twitter has a beautiful chocolate sculpted Roman helmet that says don’t shoot and another sculpture that was broken even before it was done. Clearly the team works together as a well oiled machine and are not merely colleagues but great friends evidenced in the tremendously tall and beautiful cake made for co-founder Lijo and in a hilarious video of a Coorg holiday for Joone Tan’s birthday, in-house celebrity chef, Vinesh flew in from Malaysia. This winning combination is going places.