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Hot Breads chain


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Is anyone here familiar with the Hot Breads chain in the US? Yes, its the same Hot Breads that started in Madras and then franchised, rather disastrously, across India. After that turned out badly, the owner focused on Madras and then the global market - expanding to the Gulf, then the US and now even Paris where he has two outlets.

I'll admit here that I'm doing a story on them, but I'm not asking these questions for it (the story is almost over anyway, just taking a break between finishing it). What I found interesting, and relevant to many of the discussions we have here on fusion food, is how the food served here fits in, and what people here make of it.

Its been described, by no less than Robb Walsh, the Houston based food writer who's featured on eGullet (and mentioned Hot Breads), as a "wacky fusion of French pastry and Indian food". Here are a couple of links to Walsh on Hot Breads:

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2003-01-23/cafe.html

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=36735

And here are some descriptions (still Walsh): "potato-filled pastry known as an aloo croissant, which has an exotic fenugreek aroma and tastes like sag paneer inside a puff pastry" or a "tangy chicken croquette, masala-spiced chicken and cheese wrapped in pastry dough" or, what really excites him, "goat doughnuts... flaky croissants filled with cumin-scented ground goat meat in zesty curry sauce." (Its not his fault, I guess, that these descriptions sound like the menu descriptions on Air India's in-flight menu - there is, I guess, no other way to describe dishes like these to a non-Indian audience).

What interests me is what people make of the concept - Indian foods in Frenchish wrappings and sold in markets abroad where the target is mostly Indians living abroad along with (increasingly) non-Indians in these markets looking for something different. That's the niche that Hot Breads decided to focus on after their Indian franchising misadventure, and that is what has brought them big success.

Mr.Mahadevan, the founder, tells me that people drive from Philadelphia to Edison to get their products. In some markets their clientele is 80% desi (Indian), although in others like Texas its approaching 50:50 desi: non-desi. They also have other products targetted at desi niches, but with potential for moving beyond - for example, eggless cakes for Jain customers which people allergic to eggs are now snapping up.

In many ways I think this is great and Mr.Mahadevan is certainly an entrepreneur I admire. When American fast food chains are spreading across the world, its certainly neat to see a reverse flow and one that has found such a good niche. The only thing that sort of depresses me is, well, I grew up in Madras myself and am familiar with their products and while they aren't exactly bad... they don't exactly get my juices going. There's something bland and processed and sort of subliminally greasy about everything.

As fast food goes - and it is fast food at the end of the day - its not bad and I suppose the spice makes it more interesting than most of what's available, but the idea of people driving miles to eat it is somehow profoundly depressing. Do people really do this? Does the Hot Breads stuff seem that interesting and different when its in the US? What do people on these forums make of it, if they've eaten it?

Vikram

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I have been to the Edison Hot breads, and was disappointed with most stuff available. It reminded me of Monginis in Mumbai. We also have a new one which has just opened close to our place on route 27 in New Jersey, which most of the time has half the advertised stuff missing.

As to people travelling miles, it is because the Oak Tree road in Edison ( where the Hot Bread is located) has one of the largest Indian marketplace and those who do not stay in New Jersey, make the pilgrimage to this place to buy variety of Indian things. Most of the Indian eating places on Oak Tree do well because of the foot traffic. l

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Went to the Sunnyvale, CA Hot breads location not long after it opened. Most of the stuff we ate was forgettable. Sorry for the short post but I don't even remember now what we ate there. Come to think of it, it probably was a chocolate cake. But again nothing great.

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I have eaten at the HOt Breads on Oaktree and have to say that the some of the stuff is good when it is fresh. The last few times we went stuff seemed like it had been sitting out for ages. I liked the bread stuffed with minced meat. That was really good. i believe their eggless cakes are good but I have not tried them yet

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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What interests me is what people make of the concept - Indian foods in Frenchish wrappings and sold in markets abroad where the target is mostly Indians living abroad along with (increasingly) non-Indians in these markets looking for something different. That's the niche that Hot Breads decided to focus on after their Indian franchising misadventure, and that is what has brought them big success.

Mr.Mahadevan, the founder, tells me that people drive from Philadelphia to Edison to get their products. In some markets their clientele is 80% desi (Indian), although in others like Texas its approaching 50:50 desi: non-desi. They also have other products targetted at desi niches, but with potential for moving beyond - for example, eggless cakes for Jain customers which people allergic to eggs are now snapping up.

In many ways I think this is great and Mr.Mahadevan is certainly an entrepreneur I admire. When American fast food chains are spreading across the world, its certainly neat to see a reverse flow and one that has found such a good niche. The only thing that sort of depresses me is, well, I grew up in Madras myself and am familiar with their products and while they aren't exactly bad... they don't exactly get my juices going. There's something bland and processed and sort of subliminally greasy about everything.

As fast food goes - and it is fast food at the end of the day - its not bad and I suppose the spice makes it more interesting than most of what's available, but the idea of people driving miles to eat it is somehow profoundly depressing. Do people really do this? Does the Hot Breads stuff seem that interesting and different when its in the US? What do people on these forums make of it, if they've eaten it?

my two bits-i guess the mix may come as a bit of a surprise or seem to be more novel than it really is, to people unaware of indias' long running love affair with western style baked goods with or without an indian twist.i would imagine comparisons will eventually be made,particulary by non indian customers, to other'ethnic'baked goods from the phillipines,china, mexico or wherever.what i'm really curious to know ( from those who have eaten both the indian and us versions of their products) is does it taste the same(flubber!) and are they still as stingy with their fillings/toppings ?!as for indians flocking to their doors,it doesn't surprise me in the least-in a cunning twist, looks like hot breads is filling the need for a 'local bakery' the likes of which they positioned themselves a bit snootily above in india-you've got to hand it to them!

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I've eaten at Hotbreads in Irving, TX. I personally, wasn't all that impressed but my EX-DH (who is Indian) loves them. However, I do like their offerings of eggless cakes. When my ILs are in town, it is quite handy. I personally have a preference for Indian desserts but they love cake.

Not a place I find myself getting excited about but it seems a lot of people love them.

--Jenn

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