She started her career with Air India three decades ago and flew as an international air hostess. “I was always interested in food and wine and the airlines training does cover a lot of that. I flew for eight years and during this course, I represented AI in the Miss World Airlines contest held in Paris and surprisingly won the crown. It was a pleasant surprise for everybody and the AI officials didn’t know how to handle it,” Suneeta Sodhi Kanga lets out a chuckle, walking down memory lane.
Remembering the grand days of the 1990s when flying was a luxury that only a few could afford; the royal turbaned Maharajah, the grand mascot of AI and when people flying enjoyed personalised service, Kanga says she was with the airline service from 1988 to 1996. “Being an air hostess then was different from being an air hostess today,” she says.
The award put her in a different league and her career took a turn for better. “I became the face of AI and at a very young age, I was managing my Ps and Qs,” she recalls, admitting that during this course she made a lot of blunders. “At times, I found myself lacking in sophistication and felt the need for somebody to train me. That’s when the seeds of what I am doing today were sown in my mind,” she says explaining how she relied on the hit and trial method, observations and by asking around to polish her skills. “I realised that when you teach people that fine dining is more than just eating great food; its a culinary experience steeped in tradition, they won’t make mistakes.”
In 2005, she embraced a new avatar of a corporate trainer and started imparting training in corporate grooming, international etiquette, fine dining and wine appreciation. Kanga was in city to teach the nitty-gritty of fine dining to a group of people attending a workshop.
Fine dining etiquette is one of the 14 subjects she deals with. “I also teach business etiquette, power dressing, art of networking, wine appreciation, communication and presentation skills besides golf-playing,” she says, informing that she is also a business woman and has her own brand of skin and hair care products. Tourism is on the rise with India becoming a global entity and a lot of people travelling abroad using their disposable income. “Even in my workshop session here, I have found that most people have travelled extensively. This is precisely why I travel around the country to help people master the art of handling international cuisine with a great deal of confidence.”
She then imparts a delicious session laced with subtle humour inviting young participants to partake with her in a perfect international style. “Think your are in a 7-star hotel, or you are invited for a banquet with the Queen in the Buckingham Palace, or Donald Trump has invited you to the White House to dine with him, how will you conduct yourself,” she says and goes on to demystify the rules of the extremely formal dining, jumping from cuisine to the other.
“We Indians mostly don’t use knives, forks or chopsticks. It is no rocket science. Remove the chopsticks from the paper bag, split them into two individual sticks; hold one stick as you would a pencil, grab the other one and hold it between the forefinger and thumb. The secret is that the first stick does not move, only the second one does,” she smiles, adding: “Fine dining is no less than an art, relish every flavour of it.”
Although you might be used to flipping over a whole fish once you’ve finished one side, don’t -- at least when you are in China, especially southern China and Hong Kong. That’s because flipping the fish is “dao yue” in Chinese, a phrase that means “bad luck.”