Priyank Sukanand has opened Bangalore Connection 1888 which specialises in old favourites from his great-great grandfather’s bakery, and new additions like macaroons and mousses.

How a Bengaluru baker is keeping a 97-year-old family baking tradition alive
news Food Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 15:59

In the heart of Bengaluru’s Shivajinagar, next to a tea shop and a grocery story that have long since closed their doors, there was once a bakery. Back in 1888, P V Kuppusawmy Naidu opened his own bakery on that block, serving butter and masala biscuits, honey cakes, chupam (a soft breadstick-like confectionary given to children), and decadent wedding cakes that climbed two and three tiers high. 

Naidu’s bakery lived on for 97 years, run by three generations, fuelling a bakery culture that would become a timeless part of the city. Though it shut down in 1985, the legacy of baked goods for the family — and that Shivajinagar block — wasn’t over yet. 

In December 2018, Priyank Sukanand, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and the great-great grandson of the original Naidu founder, opened Bangalore Connection 1888, a production kitchen that specialises in sweet and savoury treats – from old Bengaluru bakery favourites (yes, he still makes those biscuits) to new additions like macaroons, doughnuts, cheesecakes, and mousses. 

From Naidu Bakery to Bangalore Connection 1888

Priyank’s first steps into the food industry had curiously little to do with his family’s history. After two years of studying for a Bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, he left the course to pursue the culinary arts at Hyderabad’s Culinary Academy of India. “Even when I chose my specialisation in pastry, I didn’t think about the fact that my own family had a bakery,” he said. 

Priyank graduated and returned to Bengaluru to gain some work experience around the city, but he realised that there was more to learn. And so, in 2017, he continued to hone his craft at Le Cordon Bleu in London

Finally, back in Bengaluru after completing his Masters, it was time to decide how to use his culinary talent. He looked around for jobs but found people were offering the same pay that he would have gotten after his Bachelor’s degree.

Though his great-great grandfather’s business hadn’t really figured into his decision to go into baking, a memory of a photograph finally allowed Priyank to see the connection. 

"I had a vague memory from my childhood of seeing my great-great grandfather's bakery in a picture," Priyank said. The photo in question shows the bakery founder at a market show in Russell Market. “He would have a store where he would put up all his wedding cakes. He would specialise in making really fancy wedding cakes.”

The picture, which is now a part of Bangalore Connection 1888’s marketing material, shows three wedding cakes, baskets piled high with biscuits, flags adorning the shop, and mirrors on the walls so that customers could see the ornately-decorated cakes from all angles. 

Though it took a while to find the tattered, old photo, when Priyank did, he recalled, “I took that as my calling. That’s when it began.”

When P V Kuppusawmy Naidu, who was a farmer, his mother and his wife (his second wife passed away on the journey), arrived in Bengaluru from Padavedu, a small village in present-day Tamil Nadu, they lived in a former slum area near Cantonment Station. The story goes that Naidu’s wife learnt how to make bread from a British household where she worked, and taught her husband how to do it, too. Once he learnt the craft, he would sell his bread out of a basket at the railway station. Slowly, he learnt more recipes and saved enough money to finally open his bakery in 1888 — 10 years before the first Hassan Iyengar bakery, now ubiquitous throughout Bengaluru, is believed to have opened its doors. 

Along with breads, cakes and traditional Western-style wedding cakes Naidu likely learnt from the British, he also sold jasmine cake, samosas with mutton kheema, Japanese cake, rusk-like ‘varachi’ (which people would break and dunk in tea), and his famous biscuits. “That was one of his biggest specialities. Everyone loved his biscuits,” Priyank said. The bakery went on to open two more branches and continued its operation under Priyank’s great grandfather, P K Balakrishna Naidu, and later, Priyank’s grandfather, P B Chittibabu Naidu. When Priyank’s father decided that he did not wish to take over the business, it closed around 1985. 

A new face to an old bakery

Now, at the block where the first Naidu Bakery branch once stood (though in a newer building), Bangalore Connection 1888 has opened shop. Drawing from his culinary training in the UK, Priyank was able to recreate many of the British-influenced treats that the original bakery sold. Though his family did not have any recipes saved, he sought their help for taste tests as he planned for the business. 

The small team at the kitchen currently caters to wholesale orders for corporate events, restaurants, as well as single orders for cakes and other treats. Bangalore Connection has been open for only eight months, but they’re already looking to ratchet up production. In anticipation for the busy holiday month of December, 85 kgs of fruits and nuts sit soaking in a massive container in preparation for scores of Christmas cakes. This week, a rotating menu will also be available on Swiggy, and they are planning to open a retail space on Museum Road in September. 

In naming the bakery, he decided to forgo the original Naidu name because of its caste connotations. “He himself denounced caste,” said Priyank, referring to his grandfather, who encouraged him to bake. “He made sure all of the children did not carry the Naidu name after him.”

Though it isn’t a family business, Priyank is keeping a part of his family’s legacy alive through baking and other facets of the business, including the logo. It pays homage to his forefathers, who paved the way for his business, and nods to Shivajinagar and the iconic Bangalore Palace. 

“For me, I’ve done my part to pay homage to these people. I’m walking into this energy, this space, and this room with their blessings; and them with me,” he said.

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