Meet Houston Chocolate Hero Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri Bake Lab — and Try Her Special Chocolate Bar!
On Saturday, January 19 from 3 to 5 p.m., visit Pondicheri Bake Lab at 2800 Kirby for a special tasting event showcasing the work of owner and chef Anita Jaisinghani. The event is sponsored by Callebaut, maker of a wide range of fine chocolates chosen by top pastry chefs around the world for its consistency and high quality. For the event, Jaisinghani is creating a Callebaut milk chocolate bar infused with cardamom, boondi (chickpea flour crisps) and malted milk powder. The cost is only $3 and it is also available for all of Houston Chocolate Heroes Month, which runs through February 10. During the event only, the bars are also buy-one-get-one-free — so bring a friend! First come, first served; quantities may be limited.
Dark chocolate has been all the rage for the last decade thanks to its low sugar percentage and high antioxidants. However, some people appreciate more sweetness to balance pure cacao’s bitter notes. That includes Jaisinganhi.
“I love milk chocolate!” she says. “I love dark chocolate, too, because it’s good for me. However, I grew up in India and never even saw dark chocolate until I came to the United States. So for me, milk chocolate is very nostalgic. Dark chocolate is a very austere way to eat chocolate, and to me, it is all about luxury. I don’t want to eat chocolate that is 95-percent dark. I want to eat chocolate that is tasty and gives me pleasure. I’m not eating chocolate for health reasons!”
Jaisinghani is a three-time James Beard Award nominee so it’s remarkable that becoming a chef and restaurateur wasn’t actually her initial career path. She first worked as a microbiologist. After coming to the United States though, she soon turned her love of food into a career. She started with a catering business and managed to get her jarred chutneys placed on the shelves of Whole Foods. Her foray into the Houston restaurant world started at James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Del Grande’s original Café Annie. In 2005, she opened a restaurant of her own, Indika, and followed it up with the first Pondicheri in 2011. (In 2017, she discontinued her involvement with Indika.) The offerings were expanded with Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop in 2014, located adjacent to the restaurant. Then, Jaisinghani made a big leap and opened a second Pondicheri in New York City’s Flatiron District.
One of Jaisinghani’s favorite things to do with chocolate is infuse it with spices from her native India. Example of compatible ones include black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon. That said, she believes it is important to use restraint. “Spices are great but I am very careful about how much I use because I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh my gosh, that was a lot of black pepper.’ I want the spices to be a lingering flavor. I want the chocolate to be the first thing to hit your senses.” That’s one reason why Jaisinghani doesn’t use complex, strong blends like curry powder or garam masala, instead opting for individual spices.
When selecting chocolate, Jaisinghani wants something that melts easily, is of great quality and is fresh — all qualities that lead pastry chefs to choose Callebaut throughout their careers.
Pondicheri Bake Shop is one of eight independent Houston businesses featured during Houston Chocolate Heroes Month. Click to view all the Houston Chocolate Heroes on a map. Visit any of them to pick up a Houston Chocolate Hero Month Passport and collect a sticker for each of the treats throughout the month. Once you’ve collected all eight stickers, use the attached, pre-stamped envelope to mail the passport and receive a FREE Chocolate Heroes apron!
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For questions or additional information on the Houston Chocolate Heroes events, please email us. We look forward to seeing you and trying these delectable chocolate creations as a community!