Preparing pastries for the Olympics is nerve-wracking. She usually works with about four pastry chefs; another six help out. “Nothing quite prepares you for an event like the Olympics. Every single day, we get between 700 and 1,000 guests. So that means preparing at least 18,000 pieces of different types of pastries... 20 kilograms of chocolate mousse vanish in just one dinner,” she says. Preparations usually begin more than a year in advance, but complications are common. At Beijing, Venketasan realised the pastry chefs helping her weren’t fluent in English. “Sometimes I would write down hurried notes, for instance ‘10 No of eggs’ in such and such dish. And the other chefs would think I meant ‘no’ eggs.” At Sochi, she had to do without Swiss cheese. “700 kilograms of Swiss cheese was on its way from Switzerland by road. And the next thing I hear, it got lost somewhere in Poland... All sorts of crazy things happen.”
After Sochi, Venketasan is headed to London where, she says, pastry preparations for the 2016 Brazil Olympics have already begun.