A Chef is a person who creates mouthwatering dishes and concoctions day after day. A Chef enjoys feeding people and supervising their gastronomic demands. These days, chefs are also expected to have supervisory talents and double up not only as kitchen supervisors but also as managers.
- Job Prospects
Chefs are employed all across the country in hotels, restaurants, bakeries, cruise liners, shipping industry, etc. The demand is also very high abroad where Indian cuisine is widely appreciated. You can also diversify into your own business and open a restaurant once you get sufficient training like Sanjeev Kapoor and Tarla Dalal, the well known faces on T.V. These people have cookery shows, books and restaurants with their brand name attached to them. Others who are forces to reckon with are Manjeet Singh Gill (Corporate Chef- Maurya) and Devinder Kumar (Le Meridian) who are irreplaceable for the Hotels they work for.
- The Job
- You must know how to make a wide variety of foods like soups, appetizers, snacks, salads, main dishes, side orders and desserts
- To plan entire menus
- To come up with new dishes and recipes and excel in presentation of food
- To manage kitchen costs
- To take over as managers
- To supervise kitchen personnel and activities.
- To manage the bakery, kitchen, restaurant, food and beverages, wines departments, and to do a juggling job of them all efficiently.
- Personality traits
- A keen sense of taste and smell
- Passion for food and a flair for cooking
- Instinct/ intuition for mixing flavors, etc
- Desire for perfection
- Urge to innovate/ experiment
- Grit, determination
- Willingness to work long hours
- Efficient memory to help you remember complicated, exotic international recipes
- Managerial skills
- Career Progression and Salaries
- Trainee: After completing the diploma or bachelor’s course, a student is usually taken in as a trainee in the kitchen, with a salary ranging between Rs 7,000 to Rs 9,500.
- Officer grade: After successful completion of training, a trainee may be absorbed in beginner positions with salaries ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000, plus perks.
- Chef: It usually takes two years in the field, post-training, to become a chef and, depending on performance, you may expect regular promotions. The salaries usually could range between Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000.
- Sous Chef: It may take six to seven years to become a Sous Chef (kitchen in-charge). If a person is innovative and competent at his/ her work, he/ she can expect to draw close to Rs 60,000 per month within 5-8 years.
- Executive Chef: In about 10-12 years, a chef can reach the position of executive chef. An executive chef is responsible for all food and kitchen related decisions, including shopping, deciding the menu and innovation of new specialties. The Executive Chef is often one of the most highly paid professionals in the hotel since the food quality of the hotel directly enhances the image of the hotel. Many successful and reputed chains pay up to Rs 70,000 — 1, 00,000 per month to their executive chefs.
- Study Routes
There are two study routes one can follow to become a chef. You can either through hotel management course join a hotel management college, graduate and then join the kitchen. Here you will start your career as a Commis II and then rise to a Commis I. This takes about 2 years in a particular job. From there you rise to a Chef-de-partie and eventually to a Sous Chef. This is a supervisors’ position and takes about 5 years to reach, depending on the organization you are in. In hotel chains like The Taj or the Oberoi, it could take a lesser time. Le Meridian provides more rigorous training and it takes longer to become a Sous Chef.
JEE gives you an entry into the 22 Hotel Management colleges across India on the basis of merit. But it is sometimes tough to clear the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) and in that case, the other route to the kitchen is by joining ITI (Industrial Training Institutes) and Food Craft Institutes.
These provide Basic Courses in Kitchen Apprenticeship and here on you can become a kitchen trainee for a big hotel chain. Most of this training is practical with theory classes only once a week. Once inside the kitchen, the corporate ladder is very much the same as above.
Of course, Hotel management does provide you with a definite edge in your career. The two study routes that can be taken are explained in detail in Part-II of this article.