Food Production (Hospitality Sector)
Sumita Vaid, 22 Jun 2014
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FOOD production, as the name suggests, is about making food, and has three sections: Bakery, which is making bread and cakes, even chocolates and confectionary items like candies; Speciality Kitchen, where cuisines such as Thai, Mughlai, Japanese, South Indian are made; Cold section, were salads and delicatessen (cold meat cuts) are served. Choose from these three based on your interest and aptitude.

Passion, passion, passion is what you need to be a chef, says Manisha Bhasin, Senior Executive Chef, ITC. “That alone will tide you by both good and the not-so-good times.”

Going up from junior Sous Chef to Senior Chef takes 14 to 15 years provided you are good. Yes, it’s competitive and will give you grey hair, but if you are good and focused then you could be a celebrity at a young age too says Bhasin. So, if being a chef is your be all and end all, then a professional degree will stand you in good stead. 

Education plays a critical role in this profession. A diploma is essential, but a degree course is better. Because with a BSc in hospitality course you can bypass the Commie stages and join as kitchen management trainee (KMT) and start cooking, thus saving three or four years of the grind. Food Production graduates  are absorbed as KMTs and trainfor almost two years before becoming Chef de Partie, the stage after Commie 1.

Food Production

Three departments that employ KMTs

  • Bakery
  • Speciality Kitchen
  • Cold section where salads and  delicatessen are served 

Climb up the ladder

  • After you are absorbed as kitchen management trainee you start as:
  • Chef de Partie
  • Sous Chef
  • Senior Chef de partie/Assistant Sous Chef
  • Executive Chef

Pay Scale:

  • Diploma holder as a Commie could get anywhere between Rs. 6,000-Rs. 7,000
  • Degree-holders, after kitchen management training, start at Rs. 26,000 and as a chef, you earn in lakhs

Not just cooking
Chefs make food but it’s a myth that they only make food. They do much more. They are thinking, ideating, creating and managing people. “We are managers as well as cooks!” says Bhasin. In fact, she is a green belt in Six Sigma; it’s a course that helps in running an error-free operation, she says.  Cooking is one part of the work. Right from cutlery placement, to table layout to maximising business, the chef’s got to do it all. Of course, product development is an important part of a chef’s life. “We have to keep making the food exciting at all times, which is a challenge.”

Bhasin says that one also has to see the profitability part of the business. “We sit with menu designers; decide the placing of the food items, there’s a lot of science and thought that goes behind this.” In fact, chefs sit with restaurant managers, look at the monthly business reports and then together decide on how to improve the business. “So you have to come up with innovative promotional concepts such as Sunday brunch,” says Bhasin, who set up West View at the ITC Maurya Sheraton. Strange as it may sound, a chef has to have a good business sense, as well. “We multitask and not many are aware of it!”

Put your best dish forward!
Of course, there’s glamour to the job, but that comes much later, when you have toiled in the heat, the grime, and the fumes for 10 hours every day. Chefs are like actors on stage, creating an act that if clients like, will get applauded!

So remember, says Bhasin, that when you are not cooking for your guest, you are still being watched. “You are being watched by your colleagues, your junior staff.” Therefore, at all times put your best foot forward, or rather your best dish forward!

Experience says that when you have learnt to smile and apologise to an irrational client you are ready to be a chef. So keep that ego in a pickle jar back home. “In this industry, you should be prepared and ready to do anything. There are many who are reluctant to wash utensils, but I tell them to wash their utensils to wash away their ego,” says Bhasin. And when the going gets tough, when you are about to burst like a pressure cooker, then “peel potatoes, it is therapeutic!” Bhasin guarantees. 

When the ego’s out of the way, it’s only you and the food that you are making and that’s what adds the magic to the dish. People come to restaurants or hotels for good food. If the service or the ambience isn’t as good, people might keep coming, but if the food is not good, then it’s time to shut shop, says Bhasin. In the end, it’s all about good food.

If you are hard working, love your work and can make food even on tired legs, welcome to the kitchen! Bhasin says that while one should have a basic sense of taste, it’s only over a period of time that one develops a sense of taste.
 
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Ananda Solomon
,
Executive chef, Taj President and Corporate Chef of Taj''s upper upscale hotels


“If you want to be a chef, be a trendsetter”

Solomon’s interest in food started at an early age as each member of his large joint family had to give a hand in the kitchen. And he believes in the simplicity of food. “I stay away from molecular and processed food.” Among other things, Solomon says that young people should be prepared to enter the industry with their eyes open!

Solomon's interview excerpt with Sumita Vaid Dixit.

 

Q. So tell us chef, what ingredients go into making a good chef?
A. An understanding of the nuances of food, how to buy meat and vegetables, how to cut meat and vegetables, good communication skills… Well, there is a lot that goes into making of a chef and much of it comes with experience. Working as a chef is all about creativity, fun and discipline. 

Read the full Interview



Bakery
Besides making bread and cakes, one can also specialise in cold desserts. There are more than 200 items to learn in a bakery course says Anita Bola, assistant lecturer, Institute of Hotel Management, New Delhi. So here’s what you require for the job: a creative mind, a great sense of colour, an eye for aesthetics, and dollops of patience.

“You would be baking 100 cakes day in and day out, and this should not make you tired or bored. If that happens then it will show in the food,” warns Bola. But if you are bored and you want to switch to another department, or have developed an interest in say Italian food, there are options of cross-departmental training in hotels and restaurants.

Sweat it out
Baking a cake in the classroom is very different from baking it in the hotel kitchens. “You have to perform under pressure,” says Pradeep Diwedi, an HM student. And every hotel has its ‘house style’ when it comes to presentation and layout. So there you learn buffet layout, cake presentation and pre-plated dessert.

Rewards are good
There’s a lot of hard work, there are long working hours, but if you are dauntless, and steadily climb up the ladder, then as an executive Sous Chef or as the top most person, pastry chef, you could be earning in lakhs, says Bola.

Plenty of options
Bakery offers ample career opportunities. You could join the hospitality industry, conduct hobby classes, teach in institutes or open up your own bakery and mint money. There is 100 percent profit in bakery, says Bola as the total cost of making a cake isn’t more than Rs. 100 and a patty costs Rs. 3. “So the margins are huge.”

Pay scale   
If you are a diploma holder, then it could start from Rs. 7,000 and go up to Rs. 8000.
If a degree-holder is selected for kitchen training at recruitment time the starting pay could range from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000. After the training, the salary goes up to Rs. 25,000

Climb up the ladder
Commie 3
Commie 2
Commie 1
Chef de partie
Kitchen executive
Executive Sous Chef
Pastry Chef
Tips ‘n’ trends
Back to the basics
Asian food is hot, especially Japanese.
In Indian food, community and regional cuisines such as Chettinad is in.

Silvatta spices
People want that home-made taste in their foods so learn to grind ginger, garlic, spices on the grind stone. Forget about machines.

Open kitchen
Both big and mid-sized restaurants are all for it, as people like to see their food being cooked right under their noses. But is it a bit unnerving for young chefs?  Open kitchens are the acid test for young chefs, says Bhasin.

Make your own food
Now customers can also cook their meal in five-star ambiences with a little guidance from the chef. So, on a lighter note, if the pasta gets burnt, the customer cannot blame the chef, Bhasin laughs. There’s a lot of innovation in food preperation now as the customer is a part of the whole cooking experience.

Growing demand for institutional food
School canteens, large companies, hospitals, defence establishments

Food processing unit
Several job opportunities are here for cooks, chefs and food preparation professionals.

Career options
These include food science, food nutrition, menu merchandise, menu engineering, packaged foods, food photography, education, cuisine styling, hospitals, catering, canteen, food journalism and of course, running your own restaurant one day.
 

 
Related stories:

Hospitality education & training
Housekeeping: meet the keepers
Wellness is in a new growth trajectory
Food Production: Mixing food and business
Food & Beverage services: What's on the menu?
Chef Ananda Solomon: "You need passion, perseverance"

 

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