“If you love to cook so much that you want to make it your profession, consider becoming a chef. The path isn’t easy – it involves formal training, long hours in the kitchens, physical labour, and heavy competition – but the reward is the opportunity to design creative dishes, run a kitchen, or even own one, in a few years.”, advices Chef Christopher Koetke, Vice President Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and Laureate International Universities Centre of Excellence in Culinary Arts.
Chef Koetke was in Mumbai for a special workshop organized for a very select audience at Taj Palace, Mumbai, Glad to have been invited and being opportune enough to share some views with him. He took everyone through a visual journey of a culinary student’s career- right from his entry into a culinary school, getting accustomed to basics, learning the difficult techniques, mastering them and finally graduating into becoming chefs.
This workshop took me back to the times when I was a culinary student, myself. How difficult was it during our days. But then is it any easier today. I am pretty sure; students still feel the jitters, when it comes to choosing a profession. Take up something what friend’s pick or just go ahead and do what your heart says. This plays in all teen aged minds
On this note, I would like to share my simple principles of stepping into this industry and becoming a chef.
A little research and meeting professional from the field is an absolute necessity. Once you get to meet them, start understanding the essence. Some would be pompous and ask you to jump on the wagon; some may simply demotivate and ask you to stay clear off the field. Now, how much you filter and how much you absorb is absolutely a personal choice. For me, in particular, it has been life-changing. Through your researches, you will realize that there are many different kinds of chefs. Once you discover what kind of chef you would like to be, you will be able to start focusing on that specific area of the culinary arts that most suits you. However, let me also tell you that one’s mind does change after a few industry exposures and vocational trainings. So don’t just judge the advice blindly.
Start asking yourself a lot of questions. Many more may pop into your mind once you actually start the journey. But initially, ask yourself if you are ready to multi-task, take quick decisions, work long hours, ready to meet new people, take criticism and feedback from strangers and the likes. Being a chef is like being on stage constantly. You have to learn how to handle situations you never thought you would be in, meet people you may never meet ever again , or sometimes meet someone almost every day of your life – whether you like the person or not.
On-the-job training is most common for short-order cooks but for most chefs, I suggest it is mandatory to attend a culinary school, for performing advance duties and hand holding the short-order cooks when required. I totally agree when
Chef Koetke said,” While vocational programs offer basic cook-training in food handling and sanitation procedures, full time certificate courses traines individuals for handling specialty jobs, apart from polishing one as a professional to handle a team along with advanced cooking techniques. Usually, formal trainings and internship in commercial kitchens is part of the curriculum, and in my opinion, the most important. These trainings are real eye-openers for individuals and litmus tests for a chef’s career.”
Once you’ve amassed some culinary skills and experience, it’ll be time to apply for a job or apprenticeship in the kitchen. All the trainings, teachings and learnings while being a student and an intern must now be put to use. Be humble, modest and reasonable while applying for a job. Let your education and standing in the society not form your covering letter. Let your desire to becoming a chef; speak, while taking your interview.
Finally once you’re on board, it is time to embrace your responsibilities, and go beyond them. In my views, as a chef, having handled many kitchen-sets in the past for various brands and hotels, it is now time to start ‘UNLEARNING’. Yes, I mean every written word. Start anticipating the guest’s needs more than your boss’s. Start looking for what the call of the hour.
A good chef must always go above and beyond the requirements. Start looking for opportunities to learn new things, improvise with each given task and start becoming indispensible.
Watch a small video called ‘Le Maestro’. It is an Initiative by the Rotaract Club of Bombay Uptown . It aims at encouraging the youth to do what they love and not do what is mainstream or instructed by elders .
Le Maestro spreads the message – Follow your dreams and & success will follow