Having won the title of Canadian Chocolate Master in October 2021, pastry chef Nishant Amin sometimes gets a question he loves to answer during interviews: "Can someone living with diabetes eat dessert?"
"I'm like, ‘I will crush an entire plate of dessert!'" Nishant said.
Nishant is now on a mission to win the 2022 World Chocolate Masters in Paris in October. Along the way, he's going to continue to be an advocate for people living with type 1 diabetes because he understands the challenges.
Born in Mumbai, India, Nishant feels like he grew up like any normal kid — except that he knew from an early age that he wanted to get into the hospitality industry. He loved being in the kitchen.
“Seeing a grain form into a loaf of bread and a cocoa bean into a whole chocolate, I just fell in love with baking,” Nishant said.
Nishant was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in November 2010 while he was living in India, when he was in 10th grade. Between rigorous academic demands, financial struggles at home, and a lack of information about diabetes, it was hard for him to gain a comprehensive understanding of his condition.
“I would say for the first eight years [after the diagnosis], honestly, I did not know about this disease,” he said.
A SWEET APPROACH TO DIABETES MANAGEMENT
Initially, Nishant’s diabetes specialist in India took a prescriptive approach, which meant a strict meal plan and a specific dose of insulin to go with those meals.
“He told me, ‘This is how you should maintain your blood sugar. This is how often you should check,’" Nishant said. "But he didn’t explain how to do my carb-to-insulin ratio.”
That all changed when Nishant moved to Canada in 2016 to pursue a degree in culinary education so he could expand his horizons in baking and pastry arts. A year after moving to Canada, Nishant started working at a chocolate shop. Out of the 10 employees in the shop, three were living with type 1 diabetes!
At the time, Nishant only had long-acting insulin on him. His colleagues encouraged him to seek out an endocrinologist. Nishant worked with his college health insurance and began to take a more active role in learning about and managing his diabetes. He also began to find a deeper sense of community.
Nishant happened to come across “ I Challenge Diabetes” on Facebook, a charity that connects and empowers people living with diabetes. He saw they were hosting a bike ride from Toronto to Burlington, Ontario. Because of his love of cycling, he decided to join in on the fun.
“That was the first time I met people who had diabetes technology on them," Nishant said. "Some of them had continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), some of them had pumps on them. That was motivation for me to get those for myself and to also give back to the [diabetes] community.”
Pastry chef Nishant Amin's creations are as beautiful as they are delectable. See more on IG @nichebaker.
DIABETES IS LIKE BAKING A LOAF OF BREAD
Nishant had more time on his hands during the pandemic because the hospitality industry was greatly impacted by shutdowns. He decided to get out of his comfort zone and try something new. As a pastry chef at the Toronto restaurant, Richmond Station, Nishant chose to take his experience creating sweet confections to enter the World Chocolate Masters competition.
The qualifier took place in Montreal in October 2021, where Nishant competed directly with Chef Jérémy Monsel, the head chocolatier at Christophe Morel In Boucherville, Quebec. Competitors were required to produce a showpiece, a bonbon, a vegan snack, and a fresh pastry within eight hours.
He impressed the jury with beautiful desserts that tasted just as remarkable and ended up winning the title of 2021 Canadian Chocolate Master.
My mindset was, if I win this, it’s not just a win for me — it’s a win for the type 1 diabetes community.
Because Nishant feels it took him almost a decade to find the sweet spot between managing his condition and living life on his own terms, he now wants to educate people about diabetes.
In fact, Nishant feels like diabetes is a lot like making bread or chocolate.
"When you try to make bread, you might have the perfect recipe," he said. "But sometimes, it will over-proof and other times, it will under-proof. Same with diabetes. Sometimes, you’ll have a hypo, and sometimes, you’ll have a hyper. With bread, you also don’t know if it’s going to rise. You don’t know if the product is going to be good. But you wait and hope and tell yourself, ‘You know what, it’s going to be fine.’”
Nishant hopes that as he gains acclaim on an international scale, he can dispel myths and stigmas that surround those living with type 1 diabetes — including eating dessert.
HOW TANDEM ALLOWS NISHANT TO DO WHAT HE LOVES
In 2019, Nishant decided to test-drive various CGMs and insulin pumps.
“I used to work at a restaurant where my life was pretty much 12- to 14-hours [shifts]," he said. "It's a busy service, right? The guests will not wait for the food, so everything has to go out on time. And when I'm making things during the service, I don't really have time to run back and forth, check my blood sugar, wait for it, then take insulin if it’s hyper. That's where Tandem comes in. It’s definitely made my life easier while working at a restaurant and maintaining my blood sugars.”
After trying all different options on the market, the t:slim X2 insulin pump with Control-IQ technology was Nishant's favorite.
"I started falling in love with Tandem because of the features," he said. "I think when you take insulin by injection, you can't really control when to take it and you don't have that amount of time when you work in a restaurant to go, ‘I’m going to eat something, then I have to go and take insulin in 20 minutes.’
"But, when I have my pump on me, I just select a certain [Personal Profile] whenever I'm at work. It knows during the afternoon’s full service, I'll be tasting a lot of things. I'll be running back and forth a lot. That's how I adjusted my basal insulin. I've been a big fan of it, especially now with Dexcom G6 CGM."
Nishant hopes to one day open a pastry shop with recipes catered to those living with T1D. He realizes it can be challenging to create pastries that consider the myriad of food factors someone with T1D needs to consider, but he's up for the creative challenge.
"I always say, someone living with type 1 diabetes can eat anything and everything — dessert is always worth the bolus," he said.
Nishant is now fundraising for the 2022 World Chocolate Masters competition in France.
From time to time, we may pass along suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem insulin pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. Please note, however, individual symptoms, situations, circumstances, and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.
RESPONSIBLE USE CONTROL-IQ TECHNOLOGY
Even with advanced systems such as the t:slim X2 insulin pump with Control-IQ technology, users are still responsible for actively managing their diabetes. Control-IQ technology does not prevent all high and low blood glucose events. The system is designed to help reduce glucose variability, but it requires that users accurately input information, such as meals and periods of sleep or exercise. Control-IQ technology will not function as intended unless all system components, including CGM, infusion sets and pump cartridges, are used as instructed. Importantly, the system cannot adjust insulin dosing if the pump is not receiving CGM readings. Because there are situations and emergencies that the system may not be capable of identifying or addressing, users should always pay attention to their symptoms and treat accordingly.