We had the good fortune of connecting with chandani kaur kohli and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi chandani kaur, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When I feel overwhelmed by content overload, family life, or even just my own grandiose ideas, I often find myself reciting the words “slow and steady” from the children’s classic tale The Tortoise and the Hare. Nothing revolutionary, sorry. But to embody the words “slow and steady” is a practice, a resistance to the humane propensity for instant gratification and the immediate need to make sense of things. Life is an unbalanced balancing of many moving parts leaning on the adage that you can have it all but not all at once. I’m naturally sympathetic to the ebb and flow routine of day to day but after becoming a mother, that fluidity is even more so important yet has become less of a natural state. To avoid frustration or disappointment in not completing tasks for my business or being stopped at the height of completing a task is to whole heartedly embrace my role as a “mother working” over the more common idea of a “working mother”. That will change as my children get older but I’m in the extremely delicate early years of child rearing. We are told throughout life to fight for the things that matter and that nothing worth it comes easily. We are ready to put up a fight for a job, that raise, the trophy but culturally, our value system falters in the eye of family life. But doing anything well takes intention and time so I find myself constantly shuffling between work, family and personal growth succumbing as best as I can to the unbalanced balancing of each of these parts.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Food is sustenance, nourishment, pleasure and comfort. It is a language, a culture and a heritage. Food is an identity and biskut bar was created as a tangible gateway into Punjabi culture. The vibe of biskut bar is playful and experiential, encapsulating the celebratory act of “moo mitha” or sweetening the mouth with its South Asian treat offerings. Indian sweets, mithai, are traditionally gifted and eaten on auspicious occasions – a wedding day, the birth of a baby, a home purchase – but like any other sweet treat, it’s preferable to share and relish them in the company of another. in the act of celebrating and delighting through sweets, we say moo mitha karo! As “biskut” is the Indian accent to the word “biscuit” this in it of itself is a reminder of British colonialism. biskut bar is borne from a desire to carve out its own space in the biscuit and confections market, to make accessible otherwise hard to find (and unknown) South Asian treats from the voice of the inherited. It is borne from the lack of mindfully crafted and ethically packaged South Asian treat options providing conscious consumers a cultural experience through flavours, colours and for some, nostalgia. Most especially, biskut bar is borne from a desire to give back to the community believing deeply in the power of the collective. There was a time, not too long ago, where if someone were to tell me that I’d have a food business in Punjabi biscuits and treats, I would have been in disbelief. I grew up culturally tied to my roots but my upbringing was in essence All-American. Except now I realise I could never just be the American part of my identity because I am a brown daughter of immigrants! And my brownness was deeper rooted than I ever understood. My attachment to my roots plays out for me in my absolute love of Punjabi food and even more so Punjabi delicacies. The good stuff for me doesn’t lie in overly sweet gulab jamuns and jalebis (of which I love in tiny amounts) but in the stash of gajak my Dadi (paternal grandmother) stored in her cupboard for me on visits alongside the patissah, rewari, fennel buns and rusk each from a specific bakery specialising in each. There were the homely shortbread biscuits with sugar crystals on top on offer with each afternoon cup of masala cha or in my early years cha pathi dudh. Oh but the kulfi falooda is what would do my stomach in at Gopals Sweet Shop just a rickshaw ride, the preferred mode of travel, down the street from my grandparents’ home. It was the dinners at a family friend’s home where chicken was roasting on the insides of a domestic tandoor in the garden and dal makhani would be simmering in a large kadai in the kitchen as homemade plum liqueur was being offered around. These memories of laughter, food and drink: punjabiyat, the spirit of Punjab, are the essence of my journey with biskut bar. When I set out to create biskut bar, it was not a moment in time per se but a culmination of all my lived experiences. I worked in fashion for 12 years prior to launching the business. My time living in and traveling to different countries along with the home base of my maternal family living in Japan all make up this point now. And while it feels like it has taken me a lifetime to get here, I am back at the beginning on this journey with whomever wants to join.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It’s been years since I’ve been back to Los Angeles having moved to London 7 years ago. But in addition to going back to my old stomping grounds in Brentwood ( Farmshop, Katsuya, Sugarfish and Tavern to name a few), I would be delighted to share the experience of every bakery mentioned in LA Eater’s list of essential bakeries. And then I would intermittently eat out some more at Father’s Office, Wurstkuche, Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Yes, eating out all week long is my definition of the best time ever especially because I so rarely get to have those occasions these days. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh gosh, I don’t know where to start. I wouldn’t be here without all the people on the sideline rooting for me and for biskut bar. I’m completely indebted to my parents for all the sacrifices that came with immigrating to the US and for loving me the best way they knew how. They had their own, much harder battles to fight in settling into a new country while establishing themselves and raising us children in practically an opposing culture to that of the East. I truly believe they gave us everything they were capable of giving within the context of their lives. So, thank you, a thousand times over, Mom and Papa! I am also utterly grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. They are still the most important source of love, laughter and tenderness in my life and I cherish them deeply.

Website: www.biskutbar.com

Instagram: @biskutbar and @findingchandani

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