A family of confectioners bakes cakes, biscuits and pies that go all over Dahanu, Vapi, Udvada, Gholvad and upto Dubai, learns UpperCrust.
|THE only Irani bakery in all of Dahanu is Agnee Bakery, established in 1996 by Khorshed and Firdaus Irani, relatives, not brothers. Khorshed is Firdaus’s uncle. They got technical help from a pair of Irani baker brothers in Bombay, but otherwise everything else they learned through the “University of Knocks”, said Firdaus.And they learned a lot, quickly. Like, there was a bigger market for Irani bakery products in the South Gujarat industrial town of Vapi. So they started an Agnee Bakery there too in 1999, but this time, it was purely a vegetarian bakery.
Firdaus had to personally go house to house to break the mindset of the Gujarati and Jain women who believed that the dough for Irani pav was kneaded by the feet of workmen.
“I invited them to come to the bakery and see, I used to pick them up myself and take them there. We have imported equipment, everything is electrical or diesel-fuelled, the mixers, grinders, ovens, nothing is done by wood. This is a modern bakery. And in Vapi, all the products are made without egg,” he explained.
Their perseverance paid and today Agnee is the biggest name in the business south of Gujarat. Its bread, khari biscuits, nankhatais, and toast go all over Dahanu and Vapi. People stand in queues three times a day outside the bakery at Dahanu and twice a day at Vapi waiting for bread, it’s that popular. And their pizza bases go as far as Daman where a number of restaurants offer international cuisines. Firdaus, who is more hands-on at the bakeries than Khorshed, can also personally bake most of what is sold over the counter.
They talk of a Pineapple Pie that is made in Vapi and which gets packed in foil and a tin by members of the Jain community and taken as far as London and Dubai. It is made throughout the year and costs just Rs. 10. When pineapple is in season, they use the fresh fruit, otherwise they get it out of tins.
The inspiration for this item came after Firdaus had tasted a blueberry pie at the Taj Mahal Hotel of Bombay. They also do health foods like Spinachos made of spinach and paneer and costing Rs. 5, and a variety of pastries in the price range of Rs. 10 to Rs. 15. Black Forest costs Rs. 25 and the pudding is Rs. 10.
Agnee is also known for its khari biscuits. They do the common butter khari in a variety of flavours, including methi, jeera, cheese and masala. The toast is very popular too, the pieces are thin, and stuffed with raisins.
Christmas week, Agnee makes a rich plum cake that is bought by the dozens by Portuguese families and restaurants in Daman. And the sliced bread, marketed simply as “Agnee”, is in big demand too. “Nobody else sells sliced bread here, Britania and Wibs do not come, and there is only the ladhi pav available in other bakeries,” said Firdaus.
The bakery is getting more upmarket now. The staff wear uniforms, caps, with “Agnee” embroidered on them. “People recognise the name everywhere,” said Firdaus proudly.