What do you get when you put together lemons, frozen pistachios and coconut? The absolutely remarkable deserts and bakes from home chef-baker, Arielle Varghese! An artist, singer and now barely chef, Arielle loves life and all that it can be for those around her. We had a chat with her on what's her daily life like and her principles...read on to know more!
Q. Arielle! The name sounds so cool. Tell us about it and about yourself.
Arielle Sara Varghese means 'Lion of God', 'the Hearth of God' and it’s another name for Jerusalem. And yes, I was teased for it sounding like the detergent Ariel when I was in school. I am a chef and entrepreneur. I come from a fairly normal chill city, Trivandrum. I grew up in a home where I’ve watched my parents and a lot of my family wholeheartedly serve God. I also have two younger siblings, a sister and a brother, who are brilliant in their own ways. It’s always been pretty natural to just jump in and serve wherever required even if I really didn’t know what it meant.
Q. How did your journey as a chef begin?
In 2005, I moved to Bangalore to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management. Why Hotel Management? I think I was probably in Class 8 when I knew that I wanted to become a chef. I had started to cook when I was about 8 years old with my dad in the middle of the night. My dad would cook all kinds of food from all over the world then. So, I took a lot of inspiration from that and that’s when I discovered what my passion was.
Q. Wow! Incredible to have discovered your passion this early. Did you face any hurdles in achieving this passion?
A lot! From the age of about 12-13 I had a lot of struggles with my health. The most difficult part was the recurrent muscular issues. Sprains were almost an everyday feature and I was always in a lot of pain. Every doctor we went to often just diagnosed it as muscular weakness. During my college years, it didn’t bother me as much probably because I was just too busy to notice, yet, in my final year, in 2008-09, things started to get worse. Bad enough to fear taking up food and beverage production as my specialization. I took up food and beverage service, which was always my second choice, but something I had also fallen in love with over my second year, as my specialization.
Fast forward to campus recruitment season, I applied for a job at Goldman Sachs and got it. I thought it would be so much better to just be at a desk job and not wear my body out. In the five months that I worked there, my health deteriorated further, and I had to quit. In November 2010, my body had had enough; the mental and physical strain had got to me and I went through a nervous breakdown of sorts. More rounds of antibiotics, trips to the psychiatrist and the overall exhaustion forced me to return to Trivandrum, my hometown in December 2010.
2011 and 2012 were long hard years of feeling miserable, hopeless in ways yet not being able to get out of bed on many days. I spent more time in treatment and recovery that I could have ever imagined, yet to not much avail. My dream of being a chef was almost non-existent. I couldn’t stand at the stove for more than 5 minutes let alone cook for a multitude. I did not have conversations with God except to ask Him as to why I was laid up in bed for about 16-18 hours a day.
Q. That must have been really hard! How did you manage to get past all of it and start Mermaid Bakes?
Well it was difficult, I had disliked baking with all my heart in college mainly because somebody had spoken negatively over me back then. It took a whole different person, to walk into the same class and rebuild some of my interest towards it. Yet, I wasn’t really inclined until the summer of 2011. After a massive fallout with the management of the school I used to teach French at, I came home and declared that I was going to start a muffin business. That’s how in October 2011, Mermaid Bakes was born. With a lot of love and support from God- positioned people, I began to thrive. Baking brought in a lot of structure that I needed and rebuilt my confidence.
Q. So, what was the role of God in your journey?
My dad used to always tell me, 'Jesus is going to heal you'. I didn’t really believe him when he said that. Mom could only sit by me and pray quietly. In June 2013, I was at a Christian conference in a session called 'Encounter with God' and that’s exactly what happened. In an instant I was healed. In the days that led up to this conference, I had moved to a new church and met people who were praying for me even though they didn’t know me. After my healing, I had no reason to dilly dally. I had no more medication. I had no more physical pain. God began to rebuild my body as much as he renewed and restored my mind as well.
Q. How do you manage to cope with stress, especially while baking or when your kitchen is messed up?
1. I always got music going on in the background depending on how high pressure the situation is.
2. I do take frequent breaks and keep myself hydrated.
3. Having the plan of action pasted in front of me on the wall which keeps me functional.
Q. And at last, what are your favorite combination of flavors to implement in dishes?
I’m a citrus kind of girl, so recently I’ve been working on lemons & frozen pistachios and also lemon & coconut!
Hope you had a good time reading through this & getting to know Arielle's journey in being healed and today using her talents to deliver smiles to those around her. If you want to know more, connect with her on Instagram page, @mermaid.bakes!