#WeAre: Steered By Our Founder-Chef Naimita Jagasia’s Vision, And Heart

Jul 19, 2023AnOdeToGaia Journal

Every day at work, Naimita Jagasia passes by an onslaught of sights, sounds, smells, and bustling activity. All centred around her dream of building a truly imaginative plant-based patisserie that challenged the very idea of pastry. We've seen much of this dream take shape over the past few years. But let's rewind to where it all started: picture a young girl, passionate about creating eco-friendly classroom projects, and perhaps a bit obsessed with the world of fashion and sustainability. Little did she know that this small spark would ignite a journey full of twists and turns, shaping a remarkable story that she recounts with a smile, years down the line.

Naimita’s journey with plant-based foods started as something of a happy accident — an aftereffect from a short-lived stab at competitive bodybuilding while studying footwear design in London. Back in 2016, this brush with the world of nutrition introduced her to non-dairy cooking and then veganism, a lifestyle change catalysed by a growing interest in low-footprint, humane approaches to enjoying good food.

Now, the head and heart of everything we do at Ode to Gaia, our chef and founder asserts that when she first started baking, it was purely out of fun; she enjoyed making vegan treats to feed people who did not have those options. Soon, she found herself working double shifts at bakeries across the pond; observing how pastry chefs worked with limited ingredients at multiple pioneering establishments across North America.

Naimita explored this with enthusiasm in kitchens (both at home and professionally) while abroad, but on returning to Mumbai, sourcing plant-based staples and especially desserts became a problem; one that the then-intermediate baker decided to take into her own hands. As her skills grew, she came to relish the culinary challenge of working with plant-based ingredients, without compromising on taste. First, these creations were shared with friends and family members, then at vegan networking events, and eventually (at the behest of her mother), a successful 2018 Christmas market popup that convinced her to launch what would become Ode To Gaia.

As it turned out, the long process of sourcing ingredients, setting up the bakery, and devising clever ways to keep Ode To Gaia’s menu delicious yet 100% plant-based wasn’t a piece of cake. Elevating the menu from basic desserts to more complex recipes meant that some ingredients simply weren’t available, and had to be crafted from scratch. The seemingly innocuous omission of eggs, for example, illustrates the kind of challenge that has kept Naimita on her toes in the kitchen. Used as a stabilising ingredient in everything from cakes to mousses, it took quite a lot of trial and error to craft a flax seed-based substitute — just one example of the many innovative ideas that the passionate chef has channelled into her patisserie’s ethos.

The journey has been one of constant evolution — experienced in kitchens across multiple continents and half a decade of playful, yet painstaking attention to detail. In all this time, her patisserie ‘family’ has now grown too, now spanning across a motley crew of two dozen who share in her vision for a kinder and certainly, sweeter plant-based tomorrow.

Naimita’s signature: Red wine raspberry cake.

Naimita’s picks: The peanut butter, banana and raspberry entremet, ‘It's Fruity’ box and the lemon cheesecake. Oh, and the macarons!

Naimita loves OTG because of: Several reasons. But exploring her passions while staying true to her values takes the cake.

Naimita also loves: Collecting rings, shoes, unique mugs, travelling, and her beloved cat, Tofu.

Naimita says: “A pastry chef has to be precise and clean and neat. I was none of those things. I had never spent time in the kitchen. But somehow, these desserts just came to me naturally. It was meant to be.”

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