Brown Girl Bosses: Meet Master Pastry Chef and Entrepreneur Krishna Bholanath
Written by: Priya Balakumar
Brown Girl Diary sat down with master Pastry Chef and business owner, Krishna Bholanath.
Krishna is a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Jamaica. She was born to a single mother who faced some very difficult situations in trying to give her daughter the best life possible. Krishna’s family is of Indo-Caribbean decent from northern Jamaica on her mother's maternal and paternal side. Krishna and her mother migrated to Los Angeles in 1994.
She grew up in Southern California in a town with primarily East Asian and Mestizo cultures. This led to an identity turmoil.
Growing up in a community where there weren't many people that looked like her and where history and culture were not common topics at home, Krishna did not truly identify as an “Indo-Caribbean” woman until she was about 32 years old.
“Growing up I didn't even know what an “Indo Caribbean” identity was, let alone know how to embrace it or have pride in what it could mean to have a heritage and lineage that was my own. I looked to belong to some other American culture and for years I lived vicariously through my Japanese national ex husband and my half Japanese son. At that point I was 32 years old and I knew more about Japanese culture and history than I did about my own,” she said.
During her first marriage, Krishna took a deep interest in Japanese history and culture. She can read, write and even speak Japanese. With a need to find a culture that she could make her own, Krishna spent many years learning about Japanese history, food and pastries. Once her divorce was finalized, Krishna felt that she no longer truly fit into the “Japanese” culture and decided it was time to truly embrace her lost identity— an Indo-Caribbean women.
“My identity was wrapped around my desire to have a culture to belong to. One that I had fetishized from a very young child. But as my divorce was under way and the culture I had dedicated my life to was about to be taken away for me, I thought, “ I can't be Japanese without my Japanese husband”".
At 32, Krishna would start a new journey to find who she truly was.
Over the last couple years, Krishna has actively been learning about her history, culture and identity, all while slowly reclaiming it.
When we asked her what it means to her to be Indo-Caribbean, she said, “Everything that I am without excluding my culture, my nationality, my motherland, my heritage, my blood line, my indigenous origins, my colonialism and my place. My ties to the land my great grandparents were stolen from and my right to the land that was robbed from its own indigenous people. I reap from the privilege of colonial massacres of the people who are all but extinct to create my culture.” Krishna is an individual who has used her knowledge of her ancestors to help educate others in the community while helping them reclaim their past.
As a woman of colour in the food industry, many women face various challenges such as unfair pay, unequal rights, verbal abuse and sexual harassment. Krishna explains “In Los Angeles there are very few South Asians in general in the career culinary work fields especially fine dining. More often it is a family mom and pop South Asian shop or restaurant. Caribbean people are also not very populous in Los Angeles so my existence in this field is even more unlikely. I am willing to gamble that I am the only Indo-Caribbean chef in Los Angeles.”
Krishna has been wanting out of the professional culinary world for a long time.
After facing many levels of abuse, Krishna decided to take matters into her own hands. This Brown Girl Boss decided that it was time to stop forcing herself to adjust to the standards of the industry and opened up her own business. She took Covid shutting down most fine dining facilities as a blessing in disguise and a sign from the universe.
“Then the Covid lock down and the whole fine dining sector shuts down. I said to my husband “what time is better then now.""After four months of research and applying for all the required permits and licenses, Krishna was able to kickstart her business called Krishna’s Pie Cottage. With the support of her husband, they turned their home kitchen and dining room into a fully equipped commercial bakery. The dedication and hard work that Krishna exhibits is something that needs to be talked about more in our community. After a failed marriage, identity crisis and quitting her job, she has come out stronger than ever. Often these are topics that are considered “taboo” in our community.
When Brown Girl Bosses like Krishna share their stories with us, it helps to empower us to follow our dreams and to never give up.
Krishna is using her business as a way to express her Indo-Caribbean heritage through pies that play on different flavours and dishes from our islands. Some advice that she shared with us is, "Be knowledgeable, educated in culinary techniques and hardware to hone your craft!” As a proud Indo-Caribbean women, Krishna aims to spread the knowledge, culture and history of her heritage and ancestors with the world.
“When I finally dug deep into my history, origins and culture, I had a power and passion greater than I did any other obsession before in my life. I am most proud of being unapologetically INDO-CARRIBEAN,” Krishna said.
Krishna is a very active member in the online Indo-Caribbean community, whether it is sharing posts about our history, networking with others around the world or just striking up a conversation about being Indo-Caribbean in a community where we don't always fit in. She is always looking for new ways too educate others. She has also partnered with us to write a blog about Indo-Jamaicans as they are quite a rarity.
“Where I am in the world there is no one of my background or culture so I get the power drive to speak loud for getting Indo Caribbean Women in the Culinary world narrative for gaining recognition… it can be a double edged sword at times. As I am also lonely and wish for comradery with other Indo-Caribbean females in my industry.”
It is never too late to embrace your identity and learn about where you come from. Women like Krishna are a great example of strong leaders in our community.
Krishna is breaking down barriers and opening doors for Indo-Caribbean women in a very white male dominated field. When we asked her where she sees herself in five years, Krishna said, “Having a small family owned pastry shop highlighting the fusion of colonialism and South Asian culture through the Indian Indentured Diasporas of the world. With some time to travel to all the Indian indentured locations all over the world.”
Her love and passion for our history, culture and people truly make her one of a kind. We are so excited to see all that she will accomplish and look forward to partnering with her in the future for some educational content!