Ricky’s Cookie in Chennai has rhubarb and pea as flavours

“Matcha is too predictable,” smiles Karthikeyan Jagganathan, co-founder, Ricky’s Cookie. He holds up a large green cookie. “Any other guesses on the flavour?” Karthikeyan’s wife, Poorani Ramakrishnan, giggles. Peppermint? Green chillies? Mint leaves?

As it turns out, the couple has, after multiple experiments, created a cookie made with fresh peas. Reminiscent of picnics on a grassy lawn, it fuses the flavour of tender peas with the buttery, indulgent sweetness of a cookie.

The vegetable-packed dessert seems odd, till Karthikeyan reels out his resume, which includes a stint at Ferrandi, an internationally recognised school of culinary arts set in Paris. He followed this with a string of internships at prestigious French restaurants, including Au Passage, and Michelin starred Garance. However, what influenced him the most, clearly was his stint at influential Chef’s Alain Passard L’Arpège, famous for its vegetable centred menus.

Ricky’s Cookie in Chennai has rhubarb and pea as flavours

From being a systems engineer at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) to learning how to fillet fish at a Parisian culinary school, and churning out cookies from a small home kitchen in Chennai, Karthikeyan’s career so far has been replete with unexpected twists and turns.

Settling down at a table at Amethyst’s sprawling Wild Garden Cafe, he pops open a box filled with his signature gigantic cookies. Poorani then lifts out the ‘Seed your soul’ cookie, studded with cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Underneath it, there’s their unusual ‘Back to roots’ version, made with nine varieties of Indian millets and topped with caramel coloured chironji nuts. The tastiest, however, is a stylish riff of a classic chocolate chip, only this version uses Valrhona 63% Peruvian Dark chocolate, and is topped by crunchy fleur de sel.

“I am from Karur and I actually studied Engineering, following my elder sister who was a software engineer. She was in TCS,” says Karthikeyan, adding with a smile, “She now runs a poultry farm.” Clearly plucky career switches run in the family. Because, after three years at TCS, he applied to a one-year programme at Ferrandi. “I knew it was going to be tough, but I was prepared for it. I knew nothing when I reached — I had to be taught all the basics, from how to hold a knife to how to peel an onion.”

The course included a six- month internship. “I was doing all the little jobs in a French bistro, including washing dishes. But that’s when I saw how the chef used fresh produce straight from the market for a menu that changed every day.” He managed to snag an internship at Garance, Paris, next. And then five months at the legendary L’Arpège, which has three Michelin stars. “I have never seen such fresh vegetables. Alain Passard has three gardens across Paris. Even desserts were made with vegetables and fruit. We would make bon bons with white asparagus, aubergine macarons, bell pepper macarons... crazy stuff like that.”

Ricky’s Cookie in Chennai has rhubarb and pea as flavours

On the insistence of his parents, after two stints in Paris — he worked with Au Passage during the second — Karthikeyan returned to India. He then married Poorani, a home baker who had started experimenting with cookies when she did her MBA in Ohio. “When I was there I saw lots of cookie companies and realised India did not really have a home grown one,” she says.

While Karthikeyan took a more conventional chef route, working with the ITC Grand Chola and Taj Coromandel in Chennai, Poorani was scouring the Internet looking for new recipes. “I did all the basics: peanut butter, S’mores and chocolate. Then he started coming up with all these fancy flavours I had never heard of,” she smiles, pointing at her husband, who promptly pulls out a rhubarb cookie from the box on the table. With a rosy hue and intriguing sour note, it’s a pleasingly complex net of flavour.

Deciding to throw all their energy into cookies, Karthikeyan quit his day job and the couple launched Ricky’s Cookie in December 2018 with a pop up stall in a Bengaluru apartment block. “We made 900 cookies in our apartment over two days,” says Poorani, adding, “He didn’t sleep for an entire night.” They sold 700, and learnt a lot of lessons.

“We realised we need to made eggless versions. And reduce sugar,” says Karthikeyan, adding, “That’s when we changed our entire process. Now we source dark unprocessed brown sugar from Namakkal. I added chironji nuts, which we source from Kadapa. They taste like almonds.” The focus was on being different, but still delicious. Poorani says, “My mom makes a multi-grain millet flour, for porridge. We even made that into a cookie!”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 8:40:38 AM |

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