In many ways, she is the epitome of what a chef should be. And yet, in so many other ways, she fights every single stereotype that abounds in the profession. Kainaz Messman, owner of one of Mumbai’s most famous pâtisserie Theobroma, is a walking-talking example of someone who didn’t let anything — not even a crippling back injury — come in the way of achieving her dream. Of course, her obsession with the world of food started young — Messman says her entire childhood was food-centric.
“Both my mum and dad have always been very entrepreneurial. My mum was a banker by profession but she quit and started her own fast-food business. When we were growing up, most children hadn’t even tried burgers and pizzas. But at our house, we were already eating Caribbean and Mexican food. We were always very well exposed to world cuisines in that sense. So, it is my mum who has always been my inspiration,” she says. Messman is very aware that the experience she was exposed to has added significantly to her professional competence as well.
“As a family, we were very fortunate to have been able to travel a lot. Each of our holidays would be a culinary journey. Even at Disney World, I was more interested in the food they were serving than the parks and the rides. So, in that sense, we have been a food-obsessed family all our lives. Food is a big part of our culture as Parsis, but in our family, it was even more so because my mum was always making something. During the second half of their lives, our grandparents came to live with us, and then cooking became a family activity, a binding force.”
In spite of having grown up in the kind of sweet-smelling house that most children only read about, Messman always thought she wanted to be a lawyer. But when she was 16, fate and destiny showed her their plans. “At 16, I went to France as an exchange student with the Rotary Club. To my luck, I was sent to the south of France, where food is the centre of life. The family that I stayed with had their own gardens, where every fruit and vegetable was grown. We’d go to the market only for things that we didn’t make at home, such as sa