8 July, 2020
Learning the culinary art
Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas Khanna have become household names. Being a chef has become synonymous with being creative, dynamic and super cool. Culinary expertise looks like an easy job, but how much actually goes into being a chef? Do you know that food knowledge is beyond spices and oils and also includes research on nutrition and farming? So, how to become a good chef? Ever wondered about what all is required? In this section, we cover crucial insights on taking up being a chef for a career, with excerpts from the experts. Read on!
Expert 1: Chef Gurmeet Singh Bhamra, executive chef of the Oberoi Sukhvilas Spa & Resort Chandigarh
Expert 2: Chef Sadaf Hussain, chef and author of Daastan-E-Dastarkhan. Top contestant of Masterchef India 2016
Expert 3: Chef Prem K. Pogakula- Executive Chef, The Imperial, New Delhi
Chef Sadaf Hussain is divided with his opinion on getting educational qualifications for being a chef. While he encourages to get into a culinary arts school and learn the know-how, the technical terminology and getting the exposure, he also thinks that being a chef is a very hands-on job and no amount of theory can substitute it. Nevertheless, graduating from a culinary school or hotel management institutes is a huge bonus and helps you get placed at premium places, while also accelerating your promotion process ahead in your career.
Chef Prem K Pogakula also says that when it comes to choosing between culinary school and learning through experience, there isn’t an obvious winner. He also believes one should always update one’s knowledge by traveling or by reading books. Though becoming an executive chef needs many years of experience working in kitchens. Additionally, if you’re going to be designing a menu and creating new recipes, you may have to prove to the organization that you can create an array of dishes that are in line with the establishment’s brand and style.
Being a chef is having an intimate love affair with eating, cooking and serving food. So, if your life revolves around food, if you are inquisitive and observant about diverse food hacks, if you like to experiment with your tastebuds and if you have a knack for making people smile through your culinary skills, you may clear the first stage of being a chef. All that is required for you to understand now is how hard-working and an exhaustive job it could be. Some of the key skills that are imperative to work in a kitchen include the ability to handle stress as the position of a chef can be nerve-wracking. You should also be able to pay attention to multiple tasks at the same time while engaging with the front of the house, share information with fellow chefs, and communicate adjustments to workflows and recipes.
Chef Pogakula says, “Cooking is a science and apart from the ability to cook, as well as knowledge of the kitchen, a chef needs to have an eye for details. One must be skilled at recognizing flavors and judging the balance of seasonings while being open to trying new food items and improving older recipes.”
Have you ever imagined that while you and I could be busy partying on different occasions in a year and eating and chilling with friends, a chef is inside the kitchen, doing his/her job just to make our days delicious?
“It’s a discipline, more than passion.”, says chef Hussain. “It’s not a conventional 9 to 5 job. You got to devote 10-12 working hours, day in and day out.”
Being a chef is a time investing profession. If you have secured an internship or a job at any place to start with, you got to learn a number of things. Understanding how the kitchen runs, cooperating with your team, mastering the given recipes again and again, figuratively and literally burning your fingers, being happy and resilient about the rigorous lifestyle, all of this requires time, patience and consistency. Also, it takes years of toil to climb up the ladder. Being a chef is not a job, it’s a lifestyle full of food, music, and passion.
Payscale and growth
According to chef Gurmeet Singh Bhamra, the pay is surely less when you enter into a job market, but with time and experience, it really scales up. In his prolific career spanning over 15 years with the Oberoi hotels, he has been able to highly raise up his pay graph. Premium institutes like The Oberois invest a lot in the growth and experience of each trainee.
Having said that, today opportunities for exploring and getting exposure and experience have opened doors. If you’re talented and committed, you can vouch for platforms like Masterchef India and the increasing frenzy about global culinary adventures. You can work your best and navigate your way up.
The crux remains that as the position goes up, the pay scale increases. The salary growth is proportionate to your experience, acquired skills and job role.
“Being a chef can work only if you’re utmost passionate about it. It has to be made as your lifestyle. If you want to decide as a youngster whether you want to be a chef in the future, go for internships. Intern and figure out. The hands-on experience is very important.” – Gurmeet Singh Bhamra
“In this new day and age, everyone with a phone and food plate thinks of themselves as food critics or food influencers. They bash the food and the chef. For me, taste and food are very subjective and unique to each person. And so, I like being a flavor critic. You got to research and explore and observe and be receptive to diverse taste and flavor pallets.” – Sadaf Hussain
“Just like a lot of other jobs, a chef’s job is demanding but I feel that it is also rewarding in its own manner. There is a trend to sensationalize how hard the industry is, which I admit it is, but while you may have to put in long hours, in the end, it is all worth it. The feeling of pride that my uniform gives me is truly unparalleled.” – Prem K. Pogakula