When it comes to jobs, most people opt for the regular run-of-the-mill choices. ARCHANA SUBRAMANIAN talks to a few who dared to chase their dream instead.

Mugdha, food stylist

WHY?:  Food Styling just happened! I had not heard about it before the second year of my Hotel Management course. I never thought that the food in ads and cookery books had to be specially prepared. My eyes were opened when I assisted my professor (and now colleague) Chef Michael Swamy on a couple of shoots during the holidays. The concept of “cooking for the camera” was not just interesting, but also opened a whole new world that was creatively fulfilling.

FAMILY SUPPORT: My family had also never heard of the concept. But they were very excited and extremely supportive. Not only did they put up with erratic work hours and no holidays, but also stood by me and encouraged me in the early years when hardly any money came in.

OPPORTUNITIES AND STRUGGLE: Chef Michael offered me a job as soon as I passed out. However, the first four years were a struggle in terms of assignments and projects. A couple of stylists had already been around for some time and photographers and clients were not ready to try new people and new styles. It was also very frustrating to have art directors tell us to copy someone else’s work rather than see what we could do. The only shoots that came our way were budget shoots or charity shoots. But we took them to gain experience. Today the hard work has paid off. We get a lot of work and clients insist that we apply our own creativity rather than copy someone else’s work or follow the art director’s instructions. And, yes, we get paid well too.

BACKGROUND: When we started out, there were no workshops that taught plating, styling or presentation. Hotel Management only teaches very basic plating. Chef Michael taught me everything he learned from leading food stylists in London. It has been loads of practice and experimentation all the way. Today, we do workshops and demonstrate plating and presentation.

GROWTH: There are many opportunities and the scope for growth is great. Contrary to popular belief, food styling is not about glamour but about hard work and tons of patience. With food media growing with leaps and bounds, newer opportunities like food shows, reality food shows, and documentaries are cropping up. Leading hotel chains also take on stylists and chefs as consultants. The trick is to keep yourself updated.

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Manan Desai, Stand-up Comedian

WHY?:  When I started out in Gujarat, movies and food were the only entertainment. Live entertainment was almost non-existent. My friends own a sports lounge-cum-multi-cuisine restaurant in Vadodara and they approached me to do something new. So I was a given a microphone and there was no looking back. That’s how “The Comedy Factory” started. Today we do one public show every month.

FAMILY SUPPORT: They’ve been really supportive. My mom still complains about my “adult content” but she was really proud that we got a standing ovation at our recent anniversary show.

OPPORTUNITIES AND STRUGGLE: It has been easy in a way and people have been supportive as the idea is relatively new. But that’s part of the challenge too. Giving something new needs to match the audience taste and it’s difficult when it’s only in English. Creating your own market was a great process.

BACKGROUND: The best course is observation. Observe anything and everything. We have internal workshops when the team gathers and has fun over a weekend.

GROWTH: There are immense opportunities. Stand-up comedy has a great future.

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Prabhakar, Bartender

WHY?: If you are looking for a life that channels your inner chef, an ability to read people and love for beverages, then bartending might be the career for you. The having-fun-while-you’re-at-work appealed to me so I decided to take it up. Partying on weekends allows me to interact with other bartenders.

FAMILY SUPPORT: My family left it to me because they said my career was my choice. 

OPPORTUNITIES AND STRUGGLE: It was not easy to get an opening as soon as I passed out. I was lucky to start with Marriot before moving to GRT. After gaining some experience I started freelancing. Trying to keep your customers happy with the right drink to match their specifications is tricky.

BACKGROUND: Doing a specific course in the field gave me an edge over the others. The course introduces one to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, wines, beers and the process of distillation, fermentation, ageing etc. It also teaches mixology and flaring, bar equipment, glassware, and how to run the liquor in a bar, how to manage the bar includes accounts, stock taking, inventory control and how to handle your guest using communication skills and patience.

GROWTH: As a bartender you can get a job in cruise ships, star hotels, night clubs, pubs, discotheques, resorts and lounges. You can even freelance with a mobile bartending business or start your own bartending school if you think your training skills are good. Bartending is about being a psychologist, sociologist, accountant, mediator, comedian, server and rock star, as well as a mixologist. Do all that while walking three or four miles a shift, shouting over bands or DJs (reading lips if the sound guy cranks things up), and you’ve got yourself a job.

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Bipasha Sarangi, Stylist

WHY?: I’ve always loved colours and textiles. When I mix colours and create a new thing, I feel ecstatic. I got the same reaction when I play with clothes. I started styling for friends and then took it up professionally. I started working as a freelancer; now it’s a part of my life.

FAMILY SUPPORT: My parents were a little apprehensive when I began my first project. My family has an academic background. They did not disagree or object but didn’t understand why I was doing it. Once I explained, they were supportive and told me to do it if I believed in it.

OPPORTUNITIES AND STRUGGLE: I won’t say I struggled because I do not believe in the word. I would say it was my trial period. I did have to go through and answer many questions before I was given the job. Things like: whether I would pull it? Whether I understood what the client wanted? I did have to make presentations and pitch my work. I am glad it was appreciated. I am doing well now; I have a few clients who keep coming back to me. They give me the liberty and the space to create what I want. The best reward is that they trust me.

BACKGROUND: I have always followed my gut. I don’t have a degree in fashion nor have I been a part of any workshop but I have always believed that I had it in me. Aesthetics are within you; you can always polish it up. I read up a lot, follow what’s happening. But I will never copy. Individuality and originality is what matters to me, as I’m in this line because of my passion. All my work has a blend of my personality. I used to sketch a lot; so that probably helped a lot.

GROWTH: Creating something new and beautiful does require a lot of thinking and love for what you plan to do. You have to belong to the colours; else they revolt and reject your work. Doing a course definitely adds value and also the doors open faster as people trust you on the basis of the degree. But having said that, if one has the drive and passion and, most importantly, self-belief then all one needs to do is to go out there and paint the world.