Rachel Goenka is the founder and CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company – the holding company for her enviable chain of chic restaurants, bars, bakeries & patisseries. Rachel owns and operates fourteen restaurants and bakeries including, Sassy Spoon (Mumbai & Pune), House Of Mandarin (Mumbai), Barazar Bar & Bites (Pune), Mandarin & Mircchi (Pune) and Sassy Tea Spoon, a chain of bakeries and patisseries across Mumbai and Pune. Recently debuted author of 'Adventure with Mithai' a recipe book with about 50 original recipes of Indian classics with a modern twist.
We had a little chat with her this Women’s Day on what #eachforequal means to her and how she multi-tasks through it all.
To know more about her fascinating story, check out her interview on our website.
What does #eachforequal mean to you?
The hashtag sums it up perfectly. Every individual, whatever gender one identifies with, deserves equal opportunities. One needs to be assessed based on their qualifications, hard work and work ethic as opposed to gender.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My husband. He’s one of the most hardworking people I know and is a perfectionist to boot. He’s a meticulous workaholic but still balances that beautifully with his role as a father. He constantly pushes me to better myself every day and I think more women need men like that in their lives. Men who push them to be independent and have a mind of their own. In many ways, he is a lot like my father so I’m lucky to have two male role models in my life who share the same beliefs.
In your industry which is currently male-dominated, could you please share a few pros and a few cons of the same.
The hospitality industry used to be male-dominated however in the last few years that has changed drastically. More and more women are becoming chefs, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs and are actually leading all men teams. The dynamics have changed. Men and women treat each other as counterparts and there’s no longer this notion of an all-boys club. In fact, a lot of my industry male colleagues are encouraging of more women exploring roles that were previously only dominated by men.
What was your driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I have always wanted to be independent of our family business, The Indian Express Group. Although I did study journalism I did so more for my passion for writing as opposed to just piggybacking on something my father did. I wanted to set up my own business from the start and do something that combined my passion for food and writing. I think it’s extremely important to strive to build something on your own as opposed to taking the easy way out and joining a pre-existing family business. Half the challenges are already ironed out and there aren’t as many learning lessons there. I’m just not one of those people who like handouts and I like the struggle. The first few years after becoming a restauranteur were tough as I was young and trying to find my footing but today I am extremely proud of what I’ve achieved and I know that there’s still a long way to go.
Could you run us through a typical day in your life?
I’m up early in the morning and after dropping my son to school I’m in the gym for an hour and then at work. It could be at the office or at my central kitchen or in any of my restaurants depending on what is going on. Evenings I like to spend with my son so we’ll usually do a play date, go to the park or attend art class together. Then I’m back in the gym for an hour. My husband, my son and I eat dinner together at 7.30 and we try to get to bed early.
What is the work culture you imbibe with your company and its affiliates?
Respect, integrity, commitment, consistency, motivation, support, communication and positivity. We have an open-door policy and our organization is pretty flat. We don’t believe in hierarchies and are more result-oriented.
What are your thoughts on the existence of a glass ceiling in your industry?
I think the glass ceiling in my industry has been shattered numerous times by some fantastic women! It honestly no longer exists as more and more women are on par with the men.
Is there any particular advice you would like to give women entrepreneurs?
Time management and being organized is essential to success. Prioritizing daily tasks sounds so basic yet a lot of us don’t have that discipline and you will be surprised at how much more productive your day ends up becoming. Work-life balance is important as well and I feel most women are artists when it comes to balancing their work and personal lives.
If you had a magic wand, what would you like to change in the world with regards to gender equality or inequality?
The mindset that men are better than women. In 2020 we still have numerous cases of female infanticide and a lot more horrific crimes against women and I feel that’s largely due to the mindset that women are predominantly just baby-making machines or a sexual vessel. We’re not things. There needs to be more education and empathy towards women and I pray that changes. Equal opportunity is one small part of it, safety is far more important.
Any particular thoughts on the concept of celebrating International Women’s Day in 2020?
I think it’s brilliant! Although, in the spirit of equal opportunity I feel like we also need an International Men’s Day! The women should actually propose it. I don’t see why we get a special day for us and the men don’t. I am particularly excited about this Women’s Day since I am going to be in Goa attending the “Sisterhood Soiree” which celebrates women in hospitality. We are organizing a fabulous day for the next generation of women who want to be part of the hospitality industry so I’m very excited about that.
You just published your first book. Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Adventures with Mithai is my first book and the concept is about taking Indian mithai and turning it into a contemporary dessert. I have been playing around with these ideas at The Sassy Spoon every Diwali and I finally decided I wanted it to be the premise of my first book. It also shows you how you can repurpose extra mithai rather than throwing it out by turning it into a totally different dessert. The book has 50 recipes ranging from desserts, ice creams, cakes, kulfis, truffles, cheesecakes, truffles and macarons. I’m extremely proud of it as it recently won the prestigious Gourmand World Food Award for India in the pastry category.
Where can we find you and your variety of delectables?
@rachelgoenka on Instagram otherwise any of my restaurants in Mumbai ( The Sassy Spoon, Nariman Point and Powai, House of Mandarin, Bandra or Sassy Teaspoon in Nariman Point, Bandra and Juhu)
She has been on the management team of Vinati Organics Limited since 2006 and balances the technical/manufacturing execution with her marketing abilities combined with new age aggression.