India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Verve People
December 29, 2017

This Sibling Duo Is Winning Over Dessert Lovers One Cookie At A Time

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

Ritika and Pawan Chawla talk about their labour of love ‘Oh Dough’ and how they keep sibling rivalry outside the kitchen….

If you ever find yourself wandering the bylanes of Kala Ghoda after a hearty meal, don’t be too alarmed if you’re unwittingly seduced by the smell of freshly baked cookies. Sequestered amongst countless other cafes and bistros, you will be led to a little bakery that is the brainchild of two siblings who grew up on a steady diet of confectioneries. Oh Dough, which specialises in giant cookies and artisanal ice creams, was set up with one goal – to reignite the passion for dessert for those who believe that they’ve seen and had it all. A nibble of the delectable triple chocolate cookie later, I sit down for a tête-à-tête with Ritika and Pawan Chawla, who’ve successfully transported me to candy heaven.

What inspired you to take up baking professionally?
Ritika: My love and curiosity for food paved my path into this realm. I spent many nights trying my hand at various desserts from cookbooks and recipes sourced online, which were appreciated by friends and family alike. This brought me immense joy and inspired me to hone my talents so that I could pursue my passion professionally. Subsequently, I signed up for the Patisserie Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu, and embarked on the journey of bringing smiles to people’s faces through my little treats.

Can you recall some of your earliest memories of dessert?
Ritika: I was the chubbiest kid in the family and would devour Chips Ahoy biscuits. I always received my very own stash of Dunkin Donuts when my cousins flew in from international destinations.
Pawan: As a child, I took a fancy to chocolate biscuits and would get very excited when someone bought me goodies from Tim Tam and FanFare.

What made you zero in on the name Oh Dough?
Ritika: We thought the name had a nice ring to it with an emphasis on the word ‘dough’, which ties in well with cookie dough–one of our major ingredients. It seemed like a great fit for a brand that is all about cookies and ice cream. We also loved how ‘oh’ evoked a feeling of excitement, so we put them together and voilà!

Tell us about the bifurcation of responsibilities…
Ritika: My area of expertise lies in the kitchen. I manage production and ensure that the kitchen functions smoothly.
Pawan: I look after the commercials and operations of the business. Dealing with vendors and suppliers and recruitment and training of staff are tasks that come under my jurisdiction. I also manage and have a keen interest towards marketing our brand, which mainly involves positioning and promoting Oh Dough effectively through social media.

What inspires you when it comes to concocting desserts?
Ritika: Traveling fuels my imagination and exposes me to new foods, which in turn, helps me experiment with new ideas.

What is the USP of Oh Dough’s desserts?
Pawan: It would have to be the smorgasbord of cookies and ice creams we offer. The fact that our dessert combinations are both classic and American-inspired is what creates the magic.

What are some of your bestselling desserts?
Ritika and Pawan: Some of our most popular cookie flavours are triple chocolate, red velvet and double chocolate orange. When it comes to the ice creams, salted caramel and dark chocolate are all the rage. Our vegan flavours like chocolate fudge and coffee are also doing quite well.

What are some of your favourite flavour combinations?
Ritika: 
A personal favourite would have to be the dark chocolate ice cream with the Chipzel cookie. It’s a real treat.
Pawan: An absolute knockout is a combination of the salted caramel ice cream and the hazelnut praline cookie. It sets the perfect balance for the palate, and I would highly recommend it to dessert enthusiasts.

What is your favourite decor element in the store?
Ritika: I love our clock with whisks for hands. It is unique and creative and goes brilliantly with the concept of our brand.
Pawan: I love the brown paper menu roll the most. We specially got an artist to sketch it and then paint on it — you can’t miss it when you’re at the shop!

Where do you go for great pastry when you’re not at work?
Ritika: I love macarons, especially the pistachio ones from La Folie.
Pawan: I think the pain au chocolate at Suzette along with a cappuccino is heavenly.

How do you cope with stress in the kitchen?
Ritika: The kitchen can be a busy and fast-paced environment so it’s important to take time out and unwind. I usually go for a run or do some yoga, which helps me stay calm at work.

What are your pet peeves about each other?
Ritika:
 My brother is somewhat of a perfectionist and although that’s great for the business, it often puts me under pressure.
Pawan: Ritika is the younger sibling so it is a task to get her to warm up to a proposition that she isn’t fully convinced about.

How do you resolve conflicts that arise between the two of you at work?
Pawan: I think all siblings have their squabbles, which only requires time to settle. We have had many differences of opinion at work and have learned how to respect each other’s choices since the inception of Oh Dough; it’s the only way we can work together symbiotically. As founders, the brand always takes centre stage and our decisions are based on what works best for the business.

What do you like best about each other?
Ritika: Pawan is very passionate about Oh Dough whether it’s about promoting the brand on social media or coming up with new packaging and flavour combinations. He is always thinking of interesting ideas to take us to greater heights and his attention to detail is what keeps us going.
Pawan: I like Ritika’s innate confidence as a chef. Her ability to think on her feet when it comes to both products and business is impressive.

What is the best thing you’ve heard someone say about your desserts?
Ritika: “I have travelled far and wide only to eat this.”
Pawan: “This tastes exactly like the ice cream I had in Italy last week!”

Can you name a few chefs that you personally look up to?
Ritika: Raymond Blanc (French chef and owner of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in England), David Lebovitz (pastry chef, author and blogger), Christina Tosi (American chef, founder and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar) and George Calombaris (Australian chef, restaurateur and judge on MasterChef Australia).
Pawan: I have always loved watching food and travel shows and I absolutely love Anthony Bourdain as both a chef and a food junkie.

What’s in the pipeline for Oh Dough?
Pawan: We have recently diversified into ice cream tubs, which are now available at our Kala Ghoda store and are looking at bringing it to retail shops such as Nature’s Basket. We also hope to open another outlet and will review those prospects soon.

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