Interview: Shivani Sharma – Chef & Founder of Gourmestan and Bliss Bites

Shivani Sharma

An exclusive interview with Shivani Sharma – Chef & Founder of Gourmestan and Bliss Bites & women entrepreneur

Embarking on a culinary odyssey with a woman of remarkable vision and passion, we delve into the extraordinary world of Shivani Sharma, an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with. As the illustrious Founder of Gourmestan and Bliss Bites, Shivani has seamlessly blended the realms of culinary excellence and health-conscious indulgence.

Hailing from the vibrant food culture of London, she possesses the unique ability to elevate everyday ingredients into sophisticated, palate-pleasing delights. The heart and soul of her ventures lie in prioritizing clean eating, sustainability, and authentic sourcing, gaining the admiration and trust of renowned personalities such as Karishma Kapoor, Praful Patel, Supriya Sule, and many more. Shivani Sharma is not merely a chef; she is a visionary, a tastemaker, and a pioneer in the world of gourmet cuisine.

Can you share with us the inspiration behind starting Gourmestan and Bliss Bites? What motivated you to become a chef and entrepreneur?

Shivani Sharma: The inspiration behind my journey as a chef and entrepreneur is my son, who is a passionate foodie. As a proud single parent, financial stability became a driving force, leading me to embark on this culinary journey.

Additionally, I strongly believe in women empowerment and feel women can excel in any industry including F&B, clothing, retail, and sports. My major motivation was to bridge the gap between expensive overseas gluten-free brands and the staple brands consumed daily in India.

The aspiration was to introduce clean food eating practices, emphasizing the need for a brand that addresses this gap. With a focus on clean eating and the incorporation of millets, Gourmestan was born.

Bliss Bites, is a luxury clean food eating brand that emerged from the vision of making every individual feel luxurious via the products they consume. Despite the upscale appearance, these products are designed to promote gut health. Introducing this clean brand was a pioneering move, especially in the UAE and GCC.

How would you describe the culinary philosophy or style that defines Gourmestan’s offerings?

Shivani Sharma: At Gourmestan, our core philosophy revolves around maintaining consistency. This principle reflects in the dedication to our product uniformity, underlining that consistency is paramount. Beyond just a culinary approach, our philosophy gives us the determination to ensure that this consistency is not only maintained but continually elevated. Moreover, our offerings are crafted for inclusivity– they are designed not for a select few but for everyone to enjoy.

Managing both Gourmestan and Bliss Bites must be a demanding task. How do you balance the creative aspects of being a chef with the responsibilities of running a business?

Shivani Sharma: Businesses and ideas come and go, but my foremost commitment is to cater to every customer who approaches me with belief and faith. Balancing the roles of being a chef and managing the business is not a demanding task for me; rather, it’s a responsibility.

Emphasizing clean food habits, I find equilibrium by returning to the basics – consistency, client needs, and continuous innovation. I recognize the unique strengths and potentials of both my brands and I navigate the balance between them.

Open-mindedness to criticism and a growth mindset are crucial, ensuring a harmonious blend of culinary creativity and business acumen. My journey, I believe, is more about responsibility than mere demands.

Can you tell us about any memorable or challenging experiences you’ve encountered while building your culinary enterprises?

Shivani Sharma: Embarking on the journey of setting up my business single-handedly posed a significant and memorable challenge, especially as a single parent. Choosing to prioritize my son’s life over my marital life added another layer of complexity.

Despite these personal challenges, I immersed myself in the day-to-day operations, running between vendors, engaging with customers, and overseeing tasks such as packaging and lab testing for nutritional value.

One particularly notable challenge occurred during an event when I received a call from a highly influential individual in India. Despite being in the midst of the event, we successfully navigated the situation as they needed something for their trip to America. The multitasking required to organize my team and ensure a smooth process.

Another significant experience is maintaining consistency among vendors. Being headstrong about product consistency, I faced the challenge of ensuring vendors remained constant. Regular vendors understand my work methods, production challenges, and uphold the quality and purity of my ingredients. Building a robust and consistent supply chain is a noteworthy challenge in establishing the foundation of any new company.

The food industry is dynamic and ever-evolving. How do you stay updated on culinary trends, and how do you incorporate them into your menu offerings?

Shivani Sharma: Gourmestan and Bliss Bites consistently set trends, with a significant following that gets inspired from our innovations. Notably, we pioneered the introduction of artisan cheese in India, and our influence extends to the point where our clients have transitioned into chefs and bakers within their homes—which is an incredibly rewarding outcome.

Several boxes of cheese find their way to my kitchen, where clients area eager for my feedback to potentially launch their own businesses.

While I proudly embrace our position as trendsetters, I also hold great respect for the admirable work happening worldwide. To stay well-informed, I read a lot about the F&B industry and actively engage in a vibrant community, the ‘Hospitality Hub Group,’ which comprises of chefs and F&B entrepreneurs.

This constant exchange of ideas fuels our commitment to stay ahead and ensures that our brand remains under the watchful eye of the global community.

Your creations often showcase a fusion of flavors and culinary traditions. How do you go about experimenting with new recipes and ensuring that they resonate with your customers?

Shivani Sharma: At the core of our approach lies a genuine commitment to innovation. We aspire to craft culinary delights that resonate with both children and senior citizens. Personally, the art of creation holds immense importance for me.

Whether it’s transforming a basic pav into a brioche or incorporating almond flour, I am enthusiastic about pushing the boundaries of innovation. In F&B industry, innovation is not just a choice; it’s a necessity, and neglecting it marks the end of a culinary journey.

Understanding my customers’ palates comes naturally to me, as I am an avid consumer myself. When experimenting with new recipes, I actively involve my customers in the creative process through focus group selections, ensuring that their inputs contribute to the development of unique and appealing concepts. I am profoundly customer-centric and I maintain direct communication with customers in India and overseas.

As a chef and business owner, what advice would you give to aspiring culinary professionals or individuals looking to start their own food-related ventures?

Shivani Sharma: The singular piece of advice I have for those embarking on any new venture is to recognize that they are their own competition. Establishing a unique identity and channeling energies into personal growth supersede the need for comparison with others.

Even in F&B industry success extends beyond merely crafting cupcakes or bread; it involves navigating the complexities of teamwork, HR policies, and retail intricacies. Awareness of facets like organic farming adds depth to this journey.

The path of F&B is far from idyllic; it is a challenging, rocky road. Yet, these challenges make individuals into stronger, more proficient versions of themselves each day. In the dynamic F&B landscape, I respect other brands that are also diligently contributing. Mutual appreciation, belief in co-existence, and continuous personal growth is the blueprint for success in any industry.

What future plans or projects do you have for Gourmestan and Bliss Bites? Are there any exciting developments or new offerings on the horizon?

Shivani Sharma: Gourmestan is set for expansion and we are focusing on strengthening logistics and extending its reach to more cities and countries. The plan includes creating verticals in different cities to cater to people’s daily food needs, providing items like rotis, burger buns, wraps, and more.

Collaborations with stores nationwide are in progress for wider distribution. We also aim to diversify Gourmestan offerings with a range of to-go foods, emphasizing the clean food concept, including gluten-free and sugar-free options.

Bliss Bites, still in its early stages, is adopting a holistic approach. Our aim is to collaborate with hotels, contributing to their breakfast buffets and curating special menus. We’re also looking at to create an amazing Suhur table concept for Bliss Bites which is done during Ramadan as we want to focus a lot on the Arabic culture.

The envisioned menu, titled ‘Thanks to Arabs,’ aims to showcase gratitude and establish the brand further in the Gulf. Currently, Bliss Bites has a café in IFC, Dubai, and a sizable cloud kitchen in Jumeriah Lake Towers. Looking ahead, the plan involves scalability through cloud kitchens and café models, with Kuwait as the next targeted destination.

In the delightful symphony of flavors orchestrated by Shivani Sharma, we witness not just culinary expertise but a profound commitment to a healthier and sustainable gastronomic experience. Beyond the tantalizing aromas and delectable bites, Shivani’s impact reverberates through her insightful blogs, championing women in the Food and Beverage industry.

As she continues to explore global flavors and dream of expanding her ventures internationally, Shivani Sharma invites us to join her on a journey that transcends the boundaries of the kitchen. A journey marked by culinary excellence, personal growth, and a resounding societal impact.

Through Gourmestan and Bliss Bites, Shivani doesn’t just feed the body; she nourishes the soul, leaving an indelible mark on the world of gastronomy.

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