The smell of success is sweet. If you ask Lester D’Souza, he would probably say as sweet as vanilla or strawberry icing. From a speciality cake shop in 1989, D’Souza has trailed that scent to write his Upper Crust success story that today includes a restaurant, three cafes and three franchisees in Ahmedabad. Says D’Souza, “When I was in school in Ahmedabad and then in boarding school in Mount Abu, I dreamt of opening a cake shop here. My grandfather Peter D’Souza came to Ahmedabad from Goa and established a tailoring business. While my brother Ricardo was inclined towards tailoring, it was cooking and baking with my mother during the winter holidays that really excited me.” So it was no surprise that finally D’Souza headed for catering college and then worked with the Taj Group before realising his dream of starting a cake shop in Ahmedabad.
“At that time, Ahmedabad had these multipurpose bakeries with low cost products. As soon as I opened, the response was really good as many were already feeling the need for a specialty store where they could get cakes, pastries, desserts, wholegrain and multigrain breads and other confectionery, besides picking up a sandwich or chicken roll once in a while,” says a proud D’Souza.
Less than a decade later and soon after his marriage to Monisha, the couple opened Café Upper Crust, a casual dining eatery with moderately priced food in a trendy atmosphere. “We incorporated the ‘fast casual’ aspect where customers who wanted a quick bite could buy what they wanted from the glass counter display—something between a fast food place and a casual restaurant.” Café Upper Crust quickly became a favourite with the young set as the to-go place for sizzlers, chicken rolls, club sandwiches, casseroles, desserts and the daily specials.
“As our café is located at Vijay Crossroads near colleges and universities, students also frequent this place,” says D’Souza. A few years later, the couple opened Upper Crust- Round the Corner at Vastrapur. “This was more of a bakery-café, with a small sit-down area for table service of our signature dishes and a large display area of open shelves and glass counters for cookies, breads, cakes, pastries, puddings, sandwiches, rolls, snacks, puffs, etc,” explains Monisha, adding that the variety of breads on offer like bajra millet, wholewheat and multi-grain, made it a draw for expats. The cafés success was followed by two franchise outlets at Nehrunagar and Shahibag. Then came the Upper Crust Bakery Café at Prahladnagar, the hip, hot and happening restaurant street of the city.
In 2008, the couple added Café Upper Crust Restaurant to their dossier. Offering Italian, North Indian and Chinese cuisine it offers a fine-dining experience. “We are a household name. We travel a lot and add cuisines to our repertoire—we have recently introduced a fusion menu at Café Upper Crust,” says Monisha.
Having established their brand, the D’Souzas wanted to build their catering capabilities. “Upper Crust became a brand for international food catering. We are therefore one of the preferred choices for parties and birthday bashes,” she says. However, this became a limitation when it came to weddings and big events where the demand is for Asian food. “We began to think of a more Indian name. The brainstorming led to Shagun, which means an auspicious date or time. Shagun by Upper Crust is a brand that stands for big occasions in the life of a family,” Monisha adds of the couple’s catering venture. The couple is happy to have created a legacy for their children. “Our son Aditya has decided to study hotel management. Our daughter Natasha is interested in pâtissière courses, and is already an excellent pastry chef’’, says Monisha.