Whether they have a German connection or not, christening eateries as ‘German Bakery’ is a sure shot way to good business in Leh
‘What’s in a name?...’ goes the famous line penned by William Shakespeare. Apparently a lot if you were in Leh and had a restaurant business. Why else would so many food joints in this hill town be christened German Bakery, even though they are not remotely related to one another?
Well-known for their breads and very popular with foreign tourists, one is sure to find a German Bakery is any popular tourist destination in India. Manali has one, so does Goa, Pune, and even Delhi. In Leh, however, you will find at least seven and that, too, in its main market itself.
“Leh has a high foreign tourist footfall, and the popularity of the cafe among foreign tourists makes everyone choose ‘German Bakery’ as the name of their restaurant. Tourists don’t know which the original one is, and end up exploring the other German Bakeries before discovering us,” said Rajinder Singh, owner of the Pumpernickel German bakery, the ‘original one’ as claimed by the silver-bearded, happy-go-lucky, turbaned man, and seconded by owners of the other similar named cafes.
Chodak and his wife Tenzin, who run a namesake cafe not very far from Mr. Singh’s cafe, don’t really dispute Mr. Singh’s claim, saying that the only reason they chose the name for their eatery was because of its popularity. “It’s a good name, and tourists seem to like it, hence they come in big numbers. We also serve good food,” the husband-wife duo said.
Tourists testify the popularity. Ann and her boyfriend Matthew, both from the U.K., for instance, said, “Popular travel guides like Lonely Planet recommend German Bakery for its food and ambience, and we have to say that the experience has not at all been disappointing. We have come here for almost every meal, especially in the evenings.”
It’s pertinent to mention here that German Bakery is not a chain of restaurants, or part of any franchise. Klaus ‘Woody Pumpernickel’ Gutzeit, who left home in Germany in the 70s, went backpacking to Nepal, where, sensing tourists’ craving for good bread, he opened the first German Bakery, called Pumpernickel Bakery. Later, after he had a fall out with his Nepali partner, he opened another bakery, ‘Woody’s Pumpernickel’, in a nearby town.
However, he soon left Nepal and headed to Goa. At the persistence of some people who initially asked for his freshly made bread, he shifted to Pune and opened the German Bakery there in the 1980s. But he soon got tired of Pune’s rising population, and went back to the Anjuna beach to open a German Bakery there, only to hand it over to a friend, and go to the Himalayas.
Despite the history connected to the name, Mr. Singh, who started the German Bakery in Leh, says that his association with a different German — he calls him by a single name, Norman — two decades back, sowed the seed of such a cafe.
“My head chef was taught bread making, the traditional way, by Mr. Norman, and we started the bakery here in 1992,” he says. Since then, his partner decided to go his way, leaving Mr. Singh to run the cafe on his own.
“Whatever you taste on the menu, be it the cakes, cinnamon rolls, pastries, salads, pasta, will taste delicious,” Mr. Singh says with confidence. “But if you are looking for something unique, it’s the Pumpernickel, a type of rye bread that is heavy and slightly sweet and takes three days to bake. Since it’s very nutritious and remains fresh for days, people going on hikes and treks take this bread with them.”
Although he hails from Delhi, Mr. Singh’s association with Ladakh is long and old. “I was an Army supplier of horses and have been in this region for more than four decades,” the septuagenarian says. “Now I spend half the year here. Every June 1, when the tourist season has started, I open the bakery, and close down by mid September. After that I go to stay with my daughter in Delhi, while my staff head to Goa or other tourist destinations for peak tourist season work”.