ICE Alumna and Former Dubai Pastry Chef Saloni Mehta Launches Her First Book
"Vegan Baking Made Simple" comes out this December
A passion for vegan baking, an Instagram account and a “little bit of hustle” helped this ICE alumna transition from the pastry kitchens of some of Dubai’s most luxurious resorts to a career as a full-time blogger. Now, she's the author of "Vegan Baking Made Simple."
Chef Saloni Mehta always knew that baking was in her future.
The chef, who spent her formative years in India and Oman, had always loved to cook and bake. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business, Chef Saloni found herself with a choice to make: Would she follow her father's vision for her life and get a master's degree in business? Or, would she forge her own path — one paved by lots of good food?
After convincing her father that her passion for food wasn’t a fluke, Chef Saloni started researching culinary schools around the world. She stumbled on ICE’s New York campus (at the time, the school’s only campus was located on 23rd Street in Manhattan).
“I did lots of research and I felt like ICE was offering the best program in Pastry & Baking Arts," she says. "Between the different modules and the in-depth training sessions…everything made so much sense. I was convinced that I wanted to get my pastry diploma from ICE.”
In 2013, Chef Saloni donned her first set of chef's whites and started her journey to becoming an international pastry chef. While attending classes, Chef Saloni also made the most of her time outside of school by jumping into the New York food scene. She interned part-time at (the now-shuttered) Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate, which was famous as a trailblazer in the world of environmentally conscious and nutritious fine-dining food.
By the end of her time at school, Chef Saloni's work ethic and ambition helped her move even higher up the fine-dining pastry ladder, landing an externship at Jean-Georges, which at the time held three Michelin stars.
That solid start catapulted Chef Saloni into a career spanning some of the top hotel and restaurant kitchens across the Middle East, including the Four Seasons, Dubai, the Mandarin Oriental and Demoiselle by UK-based hospitality empire Galvin & Galvin.
“When you are young, you want to learn so much, and you want to be in the best hands,” Chef Saloni says.
Like so many hospitality workers, the trajectory of Chef Saloni's career came to a screeching halt when a planned vacation to the US turned into a lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as a self-described “hustler,” she wasted no time in pivoting her energy toward her long-shelved passion: egg-free baking.
"I finally had some free time to try something new, to learn a skill," Chef Saloni says. "I had always been passionate about vegan baking, [specifically] egg-free baking, but I wasn't able to do much because my hours were so long when I was working for restaurants and hotels, that I couldn't ever do anything that I was truly passionate about.”
Chef Saloni poured all her focus into developing recipes for her personal Instagram, @PastryBySaloni, which led her to a newfound love of food photography.
Soon, Chef Saloni's online presence got her work noticed. In the few years since she started developing recipes, she's launched brand collaborations with major baking names like Valrhona Chocolate and Fat Daddio’s bakeware. Chef Saloni never expected the attention, but says that the collaborations brought legitimacy to her work — as well as a sense of confidence that recipe development could be a true path forward for her.
Her social media success coincided with some COVID-19 restrictions lifting — as well as a job offer, which would bring her back to Dubai. The offer, a chance to run a pastry team at Bulgari Resorts for Dubai’s EXPO 2020, was too tempting to pass up.
While the job did turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it solidified Chef Saloni's path forward. Her career was not in the kitchen of luxury resorts, but rather in her home kitchen in Chicago with her husband.
“I wanted to have a work-life balance and blogging really helped me with everything," she says. "I can still develop recipes. I can still feel connected to, what in a restaurant would be your ‘customer,’ but here it’s called your ‘audience’ — and I can still get feedback. I get to talk to my audience on a personal level. So it’s all there...I [just] don’t wear my chef’s jacket anymore.”
As Chef Saloni continued to engage with her audience and produce beloved recipes, the brand deals kept coming. She eventually got the ultimate validation that she had made the right choice when in the fall of 2022, an editor from Page Street Publishing reached out and asked if she’d be interested in writing a vegan baking book.
Four intense months later, Chef Saloni found herself in the final stages of editing "Vegan Baking Made Simple" which is out this December. The book includes all original recipes and her own photography.
“The book is a very personal project," she says. "I developed the recipes, I did the photography myself — so this book is 100% me. I gave it my everything and I really hope the readers will enjoy it.”
To this day, Chef Saloni credits her time at ICE with launching her career and helping her realize her dreams.
“If I hadn't joined ICE, I don’t think I would have had a career in the culinary field," she says. "It was the basics of pastry and baking but it was also the small things. You have to behave a certain way when you’re working in a kitchen and ICE taught me exactly that. The kitchen discipline, the manners, the punctuality.”
Chef Saloni uses the skills she learned at ICE every day and continues to pass on the knowledge to the young chefs who have worked with her throughout her career.
What advice does Chef Saloni have for those considering pursuing their own dreams in the culinary world?
"Just slow down a little bit and trust the process," she says. "Everything takes time, but surely it will all come.”