How the pastry chef who launched XO Patisserie during lockdown, Bharat Chandegra has defied the pandemic by scoring a business success with his amazing petit gateaux, macaroons and celebration cakes
Tell us about your cooking
I set up XO Patisserie to offer Birmingham a range of Petit Gateaux, macarons, eclairs and celebration cakes. With my experience I am keen to bring something really special and along the lines of the amazing cakes presented in the famous patisseries of Paris and London. Flavour is absolutely key and I like to give classic combinations a twist. For instance, I add blackcurrant to peanut butter jelly to balance the sweetness. While flavour comes first, each creation needs to look eye-catching. I like to entice people to want to eat each piece and then the flavour takes over.
How did you become a chef?
My uncle inspired my interest in food. I would work alongside him in the kitchen and he would teach me skills such as chopping vegetables from the age of about six. I studied catering at the College of Food in Birmingham where I qualified with NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3. That’s where I fell in love with pastry work. I’m lucky to have had many chefs influence my career. These days I follow pastry chefs on social media and I find Amaury Guichon particularly inspiring.
What do you eat when at home?
I’ve been living with my parents since lockdown. Mum is vegetarian so I tend to eat vegetable-based food at home. They taste just as good as meat dishes – especially mum’s lentil dishes.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
For me that would be Amaury Guichon. Closer to home, I’d have to say Stu Deeley – his food is an explosion of flavours.
How are you adapting to the current crisis?
I launched XO Patisserie during the lockdown so my business adapted to the crisis at the outset. I was lucky to have been offered the opportunity to have my cakes delivered by Andreas Antona of Simpsons and the Cross, Kenilworth. Since the lockdown has been eased, I’ve been supplying various cafes and restaurants.
Share a cooking tip
To avoid caramel crystalising during preparation add a couple of drops of lemon. And using light soft brown sugar in cakes instead of caster sugar gives a softer consistency.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Chocolate cake and custard.
Food heaven and food hell?
Despite loving vegetarian food, I’d have to say heaven is fried chicken. I can’t think of anything I’ve eaten that would be my hell…
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Dehydrated crickets – they had a slightly malty flavour and added texture to the dish.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A carpenter as it’s a creative job where I could create and sculpt, much as I do with my showpieces.