CHENNAI: Kolkata Mithai Bhavan at Choolaimedu is one of the few outlets in the city that has been serving authentic Bengali sweets and savouries for the past decade. The rasgulla, rasamalais, pantuas, mishtis dois, sandeshs, shingaras and other delicacies offered here are sought after by Bengalis and non-Bengalis alike. “People come from as far as Thiruvanmiyur just to buy sweets from us. Due to popular demand, we started another bigger outlet at Adyar in 2010,” says owner A K Das.
With the increasing demand and no business competitors, Das is finding it hard to get the required manpower to keep up production. A fallout with a few old staff has left him with an inadequate team. “When I found the attitude of a few workers detrimental to the cause of serving customers better, I sacked them. We had to temporarily downsize our production,” he says. “I am extremely quality conscious and have never compromised on the standard practices. My motto is to either do it perfectly or not do it at all,” he says.
Making Bengali sweets is no easy job, he says. “Unlike sweets from other parts of the country, our sweets cannot be preserved for long. Items like lord chom chom should be consumed on the same day of purchase. We don’t have the concept of cold storage. We never recommend our customers to keep the sweets inside fridge,” he says. But again, to bring in fresh supplies, a dedicated workforce is needed.
Das is now on a mission to gather a new team. “To achieve the authenticity in taste, I need people who are natives of Bengal and know the nuances of the trade. At the same time, they should be committed towards upholding the standards,” he says. Reflecting on the difficulty in finding such workers, he says, “Even in Kolkata, where sweet shops are found in every nook and corner, skilled sweet makers are becoming rare to find. Very few from the next generation want to join this profession,” he says.
The support of customers keeps him going in these difficult times. “It might take us a while to resume all our services. We thank our customers for bearing with us. For now, we are offering four items — rasagolla, rasamalai, gulab jamun and khir sagar. Our chaat, snacks and paratha sections are also functional. The different varieties of sandesh will be available soon,” says Das, who hopes to restart the business in full flow from the middle of June.