By Linda Grigg
Newly graduated as a pastry chef from London’s famously demanding Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, Neha worked for a wedding designer. Making beautiful cakes for high end clients was satisfyingly creative. However, given her business administration background and her family’s entrepreneurial bent, Neha soon dreamed of working for herself.
Originally from India, Neha might have established a bakery in her adopted UK home if it wasn’t for the weather.
“You are huddled up in the kitchen, so you don’t get to see much sun anyway, and then at the end of the day you come out and it is just dark and grey. I was looking to get out as soon as possible.”
A holiday visit to relatives in New Zealand convinced her to immigrate here a year ago for a better life. She began searching all around Auckland for suitable premises for her business. In the end, she says, it was Waiuku that chose her, not the reverse.
“This particular shop came up on Trade Me. I saw the listing minutes after the vendor had posted it. I came in the next morning and it checked all my boxes. It’s got a place for me to entertain and a proper, clean kitchen in the back. And it’s close to my uncle and aunty in Pukekohe.
It just all worked out beautifully.”
It seems customers agree.
Although only open for four months, several groups already are making Cake Culture their regular meeting place, attracted by the range of traditional baked, gluten free, raw, organic, and paleo sweet treats.
But Neha and her assistant Chloe Dean are hard at work developing the company into more than just a high quality bakery.
“Chloe and I make a perfect team. She really understands my vision and has worked at cafés and patisseries for many years. And she is an artist. That’s what I want in my kitchen – people who are creative, because with food you have to be.”
Neha’s wide vision includes Cake Culture nurturing artistic talent in the community.
She donated a Christmas tree to a local kindergarten for the children to decorate, and will display it in the shop window in time for Christmas. She is also looking forward to supporting young musicians by giving them the opportunity to play in the shop as customers are served. Future business plans include serving High Tea and hosting weekly wine, cheese and dessert evenings.
For Neha, the dream may have been a long time in the making, but it was well worth the wait.