Every time you go out to eat, you are impressed with the absolutely sumptuous fare that turns up at your table. How do the people behind the scenes do it? Get a glimpse of a day in the life of a chef.
One of the achievements that G Muthukumar, Executive Chef, Novotel, Hyderabad Convention Centre boasts of is hosting delegates from 75 countries at the recently held CoP 11 biodiversity summit. He surprised the delegates by presenting cuisine from their countries.
“The idea was to offer them a memorable experience in India to take back. They were overjoyed and did not expect their food to feature on the menu,” he says.
The most important factor for a person to choose hospitality or hotel management and particularly the kitchen as a vocation, he says, is when one has the natural inclination to show hospitality and warmth towards others. Chef Muthukumar says, that an interview of Prithviraj Singh Oberoi, Chairman and CEO of Oberoi Hotels and an article on the Ritz Carlton he read 16 years ago was what helped him choose a career in hotel management. And there has been never a dull day since.
“We get to meet people from different walks of life, including VVIPs, industrialists and celebrities. Your perspective as an individual widens. Such an opportunity is difficult to come across in other fields. The options to work in other parts of the world are numerous. Every where people want to eat “authentic cuisine”, so if a chef has specialised in Andhra or Gujrati cuisine, he or she can do well in cities like London or New York,” he says.
Where does one start? “The National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology runs Institute of Hotel Managelment and Catering Technoligy across the country. These institutions offer Bachelors in Hotel Management. JThere is a common entrance exam followed by an interview. Once you have cleared this, you are placed in one of the IHMs. Apart from IHM, many hotel chains such as the Welcome Group and Taj, and also private catering colleges offer courses in hotel management. There is also a one-and-a-half year course which you can take up after Std. X or a PG diploma. The undergraduate course is exhaustive. You get to study nutrition, food and beverage services, house keeping, front office, kitchen, engineering and a lot related subjects, says the Chef.
After the course you can get a job as trainee chef, associate or management trainee and over a period of time specialise in the area of your interest which can vary from pastry to Mediterranean cuisine, and so on. Apart from being a paying profession, being a chef is a challenging occupation.
“Hotels do not sleep. Guests arrive at any time of the day or night. So you have to be prepared at all times. It is definitely not a 9 to 5 profession,” he says.
Chef Muthukumar’s daily schedule says it all. Menu for the next day’s breakfast is planned the night before. The mornings are for chalking out the lunch and dinner requirements. In between these are sampling sessions where each dish is checked for quality and presentation before it is served to the guests. It is an ongoing cycle.”
Simultaneously, the international meets and symposiums that are scheduled through the year has to be taken care off. According to him the toughest day is, “when you don’t have enough guests. It is easy when you are packed, and people demand things.”
If you have a passion for cooking and food then you will find there are openings everywhere, from cruise liners to hotels and resorts.