Skip to main content

Sugarcrafter: Zeba Kohli

Zeba Kohli did not head home like other children did after school. She went instead to her grandfather's chocolate shop in Marine Lines. As her grandfather and her mother went about their business of making and selling chocolates from the first 'Fantasie Chocolate', she sat in the office and finished her homework. Maybe she didn't want to become a chocolatier at first - she mentions that she studied Physics. But it was at an early age that Zeba took over the reins of the family business and not much later that she became a chocolatier extraordinaire, creating sweet treats that are synonymous with artisan chocolate in Mumbai.

The transition could not have been easy. After all, Zeba was not trained as a chef. But her inquisitive nature kicked in when she joined the business and she added to all the chocolate knowledge she had absorbed from her family by going to training courses around the world. "My grandfather will call one of his pastry chef friends in France and I will go intern with them for a month", she recalls. Well trained and back in India, Zeba also had to learn finance and accounting and everything else that goes into running a business. "I believe in doing everything well" says Zeba and she really did well as she upgraded her chocolate factory and expanded the franchise to what are now six shops scattered all over Mumbai.

When I go to meet Zeba at the original Marine Lines store her grandfather first opened in 1946, her energy and passion is palpable. Even as we are talking about her life story, she keeps a lookout for any customer who needs a suggestion or little bits out of place that her staff needs to know about. Treating her staff like family is another thing Zeba learned from her grandfather. No wonder then that she bucks the industry trend of high employee turnover - her store manager tells me he's been there for more than a decade.

Fantasie sells the most chocolate during Diwali - I get their almond clusters as gift pretty much every year - and they are just gearing up for the next rush over Christmas and New Year as I visit. Zeba tells me that milk chocolate and almond clusters (or anything with nuts really) continue to remain her bestsellers. That hasn't stopped Zeba from experimenting though. She was a brand ambassador for Barry Callebaut and a judge for the World Chocolate Masters Championship for many years running. At her store, Zeba offers everything from 100% chocolate to unique flavours like wasabi for some of her discerning, well travelled customers. I also spot a chocolate game she has created for kids, while a video shows super creative chocolate projects Zeba has done over the years.

I always ask sugarcrafters if they tire of all the sweets around them. But Zeba, I don't have to ask. As she offers me a taste of her 100% chocolate sweetened only by date slivers, she pops in a couple herself, clearly enjoying the experience. We try her christmas special of chocolate dipped candied orange peel together and then move on to macarons and cookies Zeba has recently added to the menu. I ask her if the bakery is a new addition and she corrects me, telling about the bakery her grandfather ran at the same place the Marine Lines store is at now, and the macaroons he used to make. I don't think Zeba could have found a better way to continue his legacy.

So now that Zeba has met her goals of building a better manufacturing plant and more outlets for her chocolate brand, what's next for Fantasie? Zeba tells me how much she loves teaching and while she no longer mentors the contestants for world chocolate championship, a chocolate academy is very much on the cards. She's already been doing chocolate pairings and gazillion of workshops at Starbucks and Kala Ghoda Festival and what not but soon you might be able to learn chocolate making from her at her Marine Lines store or her Andheri chocolate factory.

I wonder what Zeba's favourite chocolate is, but she refuses to pick one, showing equal affection for the bitter dark and the sweet white chocolate. It must be hard to pick when you are surrounded by such beautiful creations. The ones I'm leaving you with are the specials she's made for christmas this year. Did Zeba share one of these Christmas recipes for me to make at home? Just wait until next post to find out.

Fantasie Fine Chocolate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Popular posts from this blog

A Bowlful of Comfort

I have a friend who is quite the globetrotter. Lunches at her place, often right after her trips, are a treasure trove of global flavours. But the last time we met, she was just back from Tamil Nadu and out she brought a bowl of curd rice. I love curd rice and have eaten a lot of it over the years but my friend's version was so full of flavours and textures, it was a revelation. Obviously, I asked for the recipe.

The genius of this curd rice lies in adding the tempering or the tadka twice, once to mix in the rice so it absorbs all the flavours. Then you make a second batch to top the rice with just before you serve, so it adds crunch to the usually mushy dish. The recipe also has a few other elements added in for texture, freshness and flavour.

I over-ate at lunch at my friend's and I over-ate again when I made this for myself for lunch. Plus, all the ingredients you need are likely in your kitchen already so you may as well go make it now.

1/2 cup rice
1 cup plain…

Fruits of the Forest

I know there hasn't been a new recipe on these pages for a while. But worry not, I'm back with a real zinger. Earthy, creamy, crunchy - this is an appetizer that ticks all the right boxes. And if you happen to be a mushroom lover like me, this is the best way to eat mushrooms I've found so far. I present to you, for all your year end parties and appetizer cravings - creamy mushroom pate on toast.

Its mushroom pate two way - just on its own and panko-crumbed and fried. Both go on a crisp garlic baguette with watercress and some kewpie mayonnaise. Here's the recipe.

Crunchy garlic butter toasts (I buy them as is, but you can also slice and toast baguettes)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
kewpie mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
watercress or micro herbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for deep frying

First, make mushroom pate. Y…

The Living Roots Trek

I met Wesley at noon on a sunny day in May at the entrance to Tyrna village. The meeting had been three months in the making. Back in February, I had seen the pictures a friend posted from a trekking trip to Meghalaya. I'd been so taken in by the double decker living roots bridge that I immediately called Chalohoppo, the travel company she had gone with, and booked a trip for myself.

I'm not a trekker which means that instead of the rugged trip my friend had taken, I had arrived at a compromise. We will start the trip with the trek and then spend the rest of our stay in Meghalaya at a nice lakeside resort just outside Shillong. Which means that the day before I met Wesley, I'd landed in Guwahati and been met at the airport by a friendly Chalohoppo driver for a four hour drive to Cherrapunjee.

On arriving at the Sai Mika resort, nestled in the middle of mountains, I called the number I'd been given and was greeted by a friendly, enthusiastic voice of our guide for the tre…