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An office designed to dream up cakes and brownies

Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, creative director of Theobroma, speaks about her serene sunlit workspace in Mumbai, and how it inspires her to plan menus

Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, the creative director of Theobroma.
Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, the creative director of Theobroma.

Dense chocolate loaf, moist orange teacake and Mumbai’s beloved brownies are housed under one roof in the city—Theobroma Patisserie. Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, co-founder and creative director of Theobroma Foods Private Limited, has a warm sunlit workspace. It is a pretty nook located above the production unit in a tree-lined street of suburban Chembur. In an interview with Lounge, she talks about her creative corner, where she retreats for some quiet time during the day. Edited excerpts:

Describe your current workspace to us.

My office was designed by my interior decorator friend Elsie Nanji, who knows my taste. She imbued it with elements, like the colours and plants, to make it peaceful. There are big windows on one side and sunlight streams in through the day. When we were doing the office, the first thing I told her was to create a place for my books. I have a lot of reference material which never got a dedicated place. Before moving into this office, they were kept in old suitcases and every time there was a need for some specific information, I had to hunt through them. Thankfully, now I have easy access to my books. Moreover, Elsie thoughtfully placed a small cane chair for my daughter to sit whenever she visits. There’s also a small coffee machine. I’m lucky to have this space, where I can sip coffee, read books, and look up to see my plants: what else do you want in life?

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

For many years, I didn’t have an office because the kitchen and production unit took priority. Few years ago, before we moved to Chembur, I had a toll-booth-sized office next to the kitchen. But during a torrential rainfall, the roof collapsed and it damaged a lot of my books. After that, I was so scared that I never got any of my books to the kitchen. I used to research at home, make notes in pieces of paper, and bring those to the kitchen. Finally, now I have a safe place for me and my books.

Kainaz Messman Harchandrai's creative corner in Chembur, Mumbai.
Kainaz Messman Harchandrai's creative corner in Chembur, Mumbai.

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

It’s calm, beautiful and offers a quiet space for research and menu planning. Think of it as an antithesis of my kitchen, which is buzzy, energetic and noisy. (But it’s the kind of noise that’s music to my ears). Office is where I retreat for some quiet moments with myself or to have small meetings.

Tell us about some eureka moments you have had here.

I wrote much of my book, Baking a Dream: The Theobroma Story, in this office. A lot of my festive menus are planned here. Theobroma is headquartered in Mumbai with branches in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru. Hyderabad, and more. We have staff flying in from different regions of the country and all the important discussions, like understanding the cultural aspects of another city, happens here.

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

I don't want to trade it for another place. But now we need to expand the production space and my office has to shift. I love this space, but we always prioritise our business. I might ask Elsie to help me build another oasis of calm with some plants and a small kitchen garden.

Also Read | Why fresh air and natural light are key for baker Aditi Handa

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