December and Christmas are synonymous, but what makes it more special is the variety of freshly baked cakes, cookies and pastries. Kolkata is known as the food capital of India and over the years established herself as a hub of multi-cuisine brands including bakeries. Speaking of confectioners, one immediately recalls names like – Flurys, Park Street and Nahoum, New Market.
Started almost hundred years back these two confectioners are the heritage of Calcutta and continue to woo customers with equal élan. Be it mouth-watering delicacies or pure nostalgia – Calcuttans make a beeline to these time-revered destinations every Christmas and New Year. With the ongoing pandemic which affected every business in some way or other, we at Optimist were curious to find how these two bakery giants were managing operations to meet customer demands.
Craze for Cakes during Christmas
Christmas is a celebration which involves merry-making and savouring delicious plum cakes. Speaking of plum cakes, Flurys is the ‘to-go’ place for many in Calcutta. Since the last 90 years, the bakery has humoured the hearts of customers through unbeatable taste and flavours. A chef, photographer and a travel enthusiast, Vikas Kumar has been associated with Flurys for over 10 years. A food enthusiast, Kumar also loves experimenting with dishes and flavours from around the world. The chef says, “We do not meddle much with our existing recipes. What we do is we stick to our original tried and tested recipes of our existing products. If we come up with any new recipe, we ensure that the entire thing goes through a long process of evaluation and other checks, so that the end product stays in the market for a long time.
Secondly, there is an existing demand for Flurys products in the market. So others may come and go but Flurys has created a niche which is here to stay. There is an emotional connect which is why it continues to rule the market even today”.
On the other hand another age old confectioner which deserves special mention in the category of cakes is located at the heart of New Market, Kolkata. Nahoum Confectioners still manages to keep up the same craze as it used to 100 years back.
Jagadish Haldar, Supervisor and Store Manager, was overwhelmed with the craze seen on 24th Dec. “During the lockdown we had no business at all and thought December too will be the same. But our customers proved us wrong. With more than 250 people standing in the queue it was difficult to manage the crowd and meet their demands. It was unexpected during the pandemic but good to see that the craze is still very much alive,” says Haldar.
Digitization and its impact on bakery
Chef Vikas Kumar shares, “From March 24, when the lockdown was declared we realized that there was a shortage of bread and other essential items. Being a confectionery with a dedicated list of regular buyers we decided to keep the shop open and started manufacturing bread. Our teams sold bread from our trucks and customers bought them zealously. This was heartening to see.”
Talking of digitisation, Flurys got a lot of traction on e-commerce. “During lockdown, we offered our products for the first time on an e-commerce platform and got tremendous response for every item. The online selling is continuing. We reached out to our customers through our existing channels like Facebook and WhatsApp, Messenger and other online platforms to make them aware about the new ways and recipes. The perks of digitization cannot be ignored,” notified chef.
Also speaking on hygiene he says, “All food safety rules have been followed at Flurys since its inception and only new thing added was the social distancing. Cleanliness and hygiene we maintained throughout. A comprehensive hygiene programme is followed throughout the year while masks and sanitization guidelines have been incorporated.”
Nahoums however remains defiantly old-school. They never ventured into social media platforms. Digitization was never a platform which they have personally preferred. “It is true social media platforms exist and online is the new normal but we never trusted that. Courier and postal services are not regular and many times certain unprecedented situations occur. We prefer physically handing over items. We are coping as much as possible and are happy that the sales are since December. Also hygiene and cleanliness are well taken care of,” says Haldar with a smile.
It is good to see how the current situation hasn’t deemed the craze of Kolkatans and bakeries are doing good business. While some bakeries seem to utilize digitization to its fullest some are still operating in traditional manners. But it is the blend of traditional and contemporary which keeps the spirit of Kolkatans high during Christmas.
What to expect at Flurys this Christmas:
Coconut and cranberry cake – a dish introduced by Chef Vikas Kumar during his Brazil trip which won hearts instantly. Apart from new food items, this year a new item has been added, called Cheesy Dumpling – inspired from Italy. It comes with a twist as the dumplings are served with prawn, butter and tomatoes with deep fried lotus stems which add to its uniqueness. Next time you’re at Flurys do not forget to give it a try!
What to expect at Nahoum this Christmas:
Honey light plum cake, fruit cake and rich plum cakes are a must for every cake lover in town. Also one should try their brownies to bless their tongue and the shops!
Images: Google, Facebook profile of Chef Vikas Kumar, Pinterest.