A 20-something boy could have easily passed off as an engineering student, but was not. He was a cook in a hotel in Bangalore and the story of his life went like this. Back home in Kerala as a teenager, he got hooked on to cooking as he watched his mother at the grinding stone make exotic spices and flours. Since then he was fascinated with all things culinary, and with the sights and smells of the kitchen, so to say. Instead of being disparaging (many parents, especially in India, still feel that only a girl's place is in the kitchen), his mother was very encouraging of his interests. She would teach him the traditional recipes she knew and soon he was adding his own two-bit. After schooling the boy decided to quit studies and become a cook. He joined a restaurant - which had Malabar cuisine as its specialty -
as a 'trainee'. Soon his talent was noticed and he overtook the rest of
the staff to become the star chef.
Boys in the kitchen
Of course, he had no formal training and in small places
it is possible to make the grade without graduating from a culinary
school. But the story simply illustrates this that the line between
gender stereotypes today is blurring fast; what a man can do a woman
can too, and vice versa. If women can join the combat wing of the armed forces, men can specialize in cookery; that is the reality. So if your small
boy were to discard the guns for the pans, do not feel uneasy or
ridicule him. He just may have a bright future as the maitre d'chef of
a swank restaurant.
In fact, in the hotel industry today or even in
catering colleges boys form a majority. The reason could be that the
job of a chef is one of the most demanding and backbreaking ones;
something that needs tremendous physical fitness and toughness. That is
not to say that girls or women cannot dream of becoming chefs, they
An art and craft
is a specialized art. It is all about techniques, ingredients,
nutrition, recipes and flavours, and not some mumbo jumbo. These days
there are a good many culinary schools everywhere, but different
countries have different systems. The courses may range anywhere from 2
to 3 years. While the course may acquaint you with the basic skills to
become a chef, the training truly begins after schooling. Nothing
really prepares you for the real thing as actually falling into the
grind. Only hands-on experience over a period of time will teach you
the tricks of the trade.
Too many hats
The job of a chef is not just cooking,
as is commonly perceived. He has to learn all the aspects of food and
beverage business. In the restaurant kitchen, apart from cooking
high volume soups, salads and sauces, he also has to know the art of
vegetable and fruit sculptures and presentations. He has to be up to
date with the managerial and administrative aspects of running the kitchen - from shopping, menu preparation and planning to nutrition analysis and inventory management.
A graduate from a culinary school can start his apprenticeship in any
restaurant or hotel where he can climb up a slow ladder to the position
of sous chef, executive sous chef and executive chef, the latter being
the number one position as titles (this come from French lingo) go. The
journey upwards can be anywhere from 10 - 12 years. In this field, the
career path is largely a function of the person's individual merit and
progress. The remuneration in the initial years may not seem much,
viewed particularly in the context of the efforts put in, but over a
period of time this imbalance will ease out if you work well and chart
your course judiciously. Salaries usually depend on your expertise,
experience and the establishment you are working for.
The hospitality industry is booming today and opportunities are endless. Club houses to holiday resorts, airlines to cruise liners, all need good chefs to run their food and beverages department. With
the world shrinking and becoming a global village, there is an
increasing interest in international cuisines - French and Italian, and
off-beat ones such as Eritrean or Mediterranean. Specialty cuisine
restaurants are springing up daily in every nook and corner. In fact,
good chefs establish their identities and become stars and celebrities
in their own right. There are also lateral opportunities in hosting
television shows and writing cookery books.
No place for boredom
The only flipside is that the profession demands a lot
and you have to measure up to it. You will be keeping late hours
regularly, and working on weekends and on holidays, too.
But on the balance, it is an alluring and lucrative profession. Ask any
chef what he likes about his job and he'll tell you that it is the
opportunity to travel and meet all kinds of people. Everyday there is a
new excitement on the job; no two days are the same. A chef may be busy
but never bored. One day, he could be cooking for a marriage party, and on the other, planning a menu for the President!
It is a matter of conjecture, whether chefs are born or made, but you can make it as a chef, if you have it in you.
Sorry. Due to our site's regulations and policies, your message has not been posted. Our moderating team has been notified about your message. If the message is found to be genuine and still did not get posted, you may not post the message again as it will automatically get posted for you within 24hrs time (excluding weekends).
- The Indiaparenting Team