Where are they now? Salima Dhalla

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Where are they now? Salima Dhalla

Salima Macarons

2012 Leiths diploma graduate Salima has been baking her way to success!

Name: Salima Dhalla

Year graduated: 2012

Current job title: Director / Head Chef of Breadren Ltd
(also currently the prep chef, kitchen porter and market trader alongside my business partner Marc… and all the family and friends we can rope in!)

We are a bakery and street food outlet based in west London, trading in farmers’ and fine food markets, and currently looking for our first shop site! We are starting to get a reputation for making healthier and more wholesome foods – we don’t use refined sugar, we use unprocessed, natural and local ingredients; we have a range of sweet and savoury bakes for people that don’t eat gluten / dairy / sugar and we also make vegetarian / vegan street food and salads. However, we like what we call ‘fad-free inclusive eating’ so we also make all kinds of naughty and indulgent things too, like our macarons and custard-filled brioche, or our award winning breakfast marmalade.

How would you describe your year on the diploma at Leiths in 3 words?

Inspiring, challenging, hilarious

Where were you working before the diploma?

I had been working as a management consultant in financial services for four years, straight out of university. I spent my time staring at spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations, travelling around Europe and working with a variety of different financial institutions… it seems a world away now!

What made you decide to start the diploma?

It was my way into the food industry having been on a very different career path. I had always had a passion for food and never wanted to stay in consulting permanently. Eventually I had to give in and decided to do the diploma at Leiths with the aim of starting my own business as soon as possible!

What were the highlights of your year at Leiths?

Meeting an amazing group of people, getting to be a student again, and spending all day everyday learning / talking about and eating food. It’s a great way to spend a year if you are obsessed and passionate about food. And of course, winning the student of the year award!

What was your first job or work experience following the diploma?

My true passion has always been for pastry and baking so that was my focus in terms of getting work experience after the diploma. I did some freelance catering over the summer, before taking a job as chef de partie on the pastry section in a soon-to-be Michelin starred restaurant in Chelsea. I then took a seasonal job as a pastry chef in Melrose & Morgan’s production kitchen in Camden, which quickly turned into a full-time position, and about a year later I was made head pastry chef. Since leaving there my main focus has been getting my own business off the ground.

Where are you working now?

I currently run my own business alongside my brother-in-law Marc. We have been going for about 18 months, spending that time trading in markets so that we can develop our concept, product range and branding. And we are planning to open our first retail café this year.

How has the diploma helped you in your current role?

There’s no way I would be where I am now without the diploma – it gave me a knowledge base and skill set that enabled me to get the experience I needed very quickly after leaving the school.

How often do you use the skills you learnt at Leiths?

More often than I notice, I’m sure at this point a lot of them are totally ingrained. But I do remember my first head chef after Leiths cracking a joke at how good Leiths graduates are at cutting circles of baking paper for cartouches. I still use them all the time, wet and dry.

What are your long term career goals?

We are really determined to make Breadren a success. We are currently focused on getting our first shop off the ground, and of course the hope after that is to open a second and third site and so on. We also have some ideas for further developing some of our signature products like our macaroons and custard filled brioche.

What key piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of studying at Leiths?

Do it!

What are you cooking or eating for dinner tonight?

I’m very excited that I still have some of my grandmother’s biryani leftovers! I work extremely unsociable hours, particularly at the weekend, so if I’m lucky I sometimes get a special delivery at the weekend so I can just concentrate on the production for the business. And after an 18 hour day there’s nothing more comforting than the home cooking I grew up eating!

What is your favourite restaurant to eat at?

This is the hardest question of all. If I had to pick one – Roka has been one of my favourite restaurants in London for as long as I can remember. Though I used to eat there more when I was a management consultant than I do now! I love Asian / robata food and their desserts are awesome. The Korean lamb chops and beef tataki have been on the menu there since I first started going and they are two of my favourite dishes of all time. What’s great about it is that it’s protein and vegetable heavy so you can eat loads without feeling painfully full and sluggish!

Having spent the last year or so trading in markets all over London, we are massive fans of dirty and street food. Go to places for me are Pitt Cue Co., Patty and Bun, Taqueria, Flesh & Buns and Bone Daddies.

Author: Lizzy Jones

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