In passing of Yazdani’s Zend, Mumbai has lost a master baker


January 13, 2021

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“Get rid of your cough, eat my ginger biscuit.” The baker who kneaded such happy prescriptions into Mumbai’s gut via the blackboard of the iconic Yazdani bakery in Fort is no more. Zend Meherwan Zend, the jovial co-owner of the six-decade-old Irani bakery who said bread must have a bite to it and who did not let Parkinson’s disease keep him from sipping tea or relishing ice-cream at the cash counter, passed away at age 86 this past Sunday.

Article by Sharmila Ganesan Ram | TNN

imageWith the departure of this jolly former boxer at Yazdani, known for both its muscular multigrain bread loaf as 1950s’ American bodybuilders staring from its walls, the city has lost a rare leavening agent: Someone who shared chicken sandwiches with strangers passing by his bakery on walking tours.

City historian Deepak Rao recalled the friend he lovingly referred to as ZZZ—short for Zend Zend Zend—as a well-built former boxing champion who loved English poetry and lived in Colaba’s Bennett Villa on the junction of Wodehouse Road and Cooperage Road. Food historian Kurush Dalal remembered him as “perhaps the first baker in Mumbai to go beyond Bun, Brun, Laadi Pav and Sliced Bread” in his online tribute. Food writer Kalyan Karmakar spoke of his “warmest and most loving handshake”.

Over a century before sourdough bread would become a thing, Zend’s grandfather had set up a bakery near Alexander cinema that followed a similar fermenting process as this baker’s yeast-shunning bread. His grandmother Jerbanoo would get up at 3am to knead the dough in khamir, the basic yeast ferment—a technique from Iran.

Zend’s father later joined Rising Sun Bakery at Golpitha that used to supply breads, cakes and pastries from Colaba Military Camp to Chembur Naka on a bullock cart and started Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery in the 1950s in a building that used to be a Japanese bank through World War II. Breads and delicacies emerging from the woodfired oven at Zend’s Yazdani—cheese and garlic buns, chocolate bread, Swiss rolls, hot dogs. gutli and pav—would travel to canteens from Mantralaya to Bombay Gymkhana. So sinful were its rum-soaked Christmas plum cakes they came with an oral disclaimer: “Don’t eat and drive.”