Food historian Kurush Dalal recalls Zend as the baker who wasn’t afraid to experiment and wished to give his customers quality products.
Sitting behind the cash counter or instructing staff by the woodfire oven, Zend Meherwan Zend was synonymous with Yazdani Bakery. He was a regular at the iconic bakery in Fort, even after being afflicted with acute Parkinson’s in his later years. On Sunday, Zend died due to advancing age. He was 86.
Food historian Kurush Dalal recalls Zend as the baker who was not afraid to experiment and wished to give his customers quality products. In his younger days, Dalal’s visits to the agiary in Fort would end with a bun maska laced with sugar at Yazdani, where Zend would be at the counter, usually manning the phone. In a tribute on social media, Dalal wrote: “He was perhaps the first baker in Mumbai to go beyond Bun, Brun, Laadi pav and Sliced Bread. He regularly supplied major canteens all over the city and even the Mantralaya… In the last two decades Zend slowed down due to Parkinson’s but he still made the rounds of the business and his regulars looked forward to his brief daily visits as did his staff. He’s gone to the big bakery in the sky today and is probably convincing St Peter to try his ‘Jurmuns’.”
Zend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than a decade ago. Food writer Kalyan Karmakar, who conducts food walks in the city, used to often begin his tours at Yazdani where Zend would be a familiar face. “He was not in the best of health but he would always show up. Because of his condition, people didn’t always know how to react, but he would walk up to them and interact with them,” Karmakar said.
Zend’s son, Zyros, recalled that his father was originally in a white collar job but left it to join the family business. Zend was also known as a boxer in his younger days. “After he married, his wife told him that he was better off bashing bread dough,” Zyros said.
Kurush Dalal remembers Zend Zend…..
“Mara Jurmum trai kidha ke” said the man behind the cash counter at Yazdani Bakery 35 years ago.
Zend Zend was making these ‘German-style’ loaves way before any of the artisanal/home bakers. An institution in his own right he’s left us for the great big bakery in the sky. He was loud, opinionated and brash but he was a showman and a baker par excellence. He was perhaps the first baker in Mumbai to go beyond Bun, Brun, Laadi pav and Sliced Bread. He regularly supplied major canteens all over the city and even the Mantralaya.
His brother and both their sons cut their teeth at Yazdani. Zyros (Zend’s son) was the first maker of Fortune Cookies. He was also to the best of my knowledge responsible for the oatmeal and raisin cookies available at Yazdani. The bakery also makes one of the most oddly heartwarming apple pies. They made multigrain before it was cool, brown bread they were honest was just caramel but it tasted yum, the Katy’s Kitchen sandwiches my mum was legendary for were made of the giant sandwich loaf from Yazdani.
He was also virtually the only guy in town who made baguettes outside the Five-star hotel patisseries. The first Irish Soda Bread and the only one I liked was made by them (didn’t catch on sadly). They also made a rough and ready focaccia, buns, rolls for burgers and hotdogs, dinner rolls, whole wheat loaves, husk breads and simple cakes. After many years of discontinuing table service they re-started the same in the 90s and Bun Maska, Brun Mask flew off the counter to compliment the Irani tea.
They also made a killer bakery pudding which would be made in the cooling oven after the breads were done, yes its a wood fired oven to this day and that’s what makes the bread so special. The bread is also heartier as its isn’t hyper-aerated to make it use less flour for the same volume.
In the last two decade Zend slowed down due to Parkinson’s but he still made the rounds of the business and his regulars looked forward to his brief daily visits as did his staff. He’s gone to the big bakery in the sky today and is probably convincing St Peter to try his ‘Jurmuns’. RIP Sir.
His brother Parvez and his son Tirandaz (who was incidentally in the same school with me) are very ably carrying on the legacy of one of Mumbai’s finest bakeries.