By Sanchayita Bhattacharya Alam aka Chef Sunshine- Cordon bleu, London, Chef, and author of Travelling Flavours
Cooking programmes, competitions, recipe books, food apps etc have now become a huge part of everyday life. A trend, I hope, which will continue. Therefore a career in cuisine arts has become a very lucrative profession. A recent survey had shown that the most satisfied employees are those in the food business and the beauty business.
Also because of these trends, training for this career has become accessible to many. I consider it a profession which combines the best of the Arts and Science streams. An exciting fact is that more and more women are walking into the professional kitchen, which was previously considered to be mainly a man’s domain.
Allows space for innovation and creativity
Inspirational, disciplined and detailed as a profession, it allows space for innovation and creativity. Like one needs to train in the basics of musical notes to be adept at singing professionally, in the very same way the finer nuances of food preparation are best learned through professional courses. There is a wide world of cuisine to explore from and the opportunity to travel is open to those who choose to delve into it.
Interestingly, I am often heard complaints about the back breaking hours, drudgery of being stuck in a rut, and having to work one’s way up in this profession. Let me take this opportunity to clarify a few points.
The point that practice makes perfect applies to this job very seriously. People are paying to eat what you cook and here your dexterity comes in use. The work is live ie; you cook and you serve fresh. When on duty you do not get the chance to make mistakes. Once an order goes out it is out. Recalling an order or a dish being sent back by an unsatisfied customer to the kitchen, is the really disturbing, and this applies for every portion. Of course there are exceptions. You are holding up your part of the responsibility of a smooth service like any worker in any manufacturing business and long hours are applicable in both cases.
Also the point about being stuck in a rut
Here your love for your profession and your discipline comes to the fore. Remember, in this profession no job is small. It is contributing to the entire brilliance of the end result. For a bright student, it is an excellent opportunity to watch and learn techniques and tricks in the kitchen. I remember being stuck in the vegetable section for months, shredding cabbages, peeling potatoes and washing spinach. But I watched the more complex meat, fish and dessert sections and picked up invaluable tips and tricks. When my time came to be part of these sections, I had gained enough confidence from these impromptu ‘demonstration classes’.
Thirdly there is the common complaint of having to work up one’s way through the ranks to reach one’s goal – whether it’s being an executive chef or whether it leads to running one’s own food outlet. To me this profession is like any other uniformed service. It calls for hard work and loyalty to one’s choice. If you join the army, if you join the medical profession you have to similarly work your way up. Then why is it assumed that the minute you can waive a ladle you are a top chef ?
For me, the choice was easy ! Late in life I discovered a profession laden with creativity, excitement and the right amount of nervous energy. Here I would also like to talk about the holistic approach to this career – training in both Cuisine and Patissire. A lot of students come to me with their beliefs that they are either more interested in the hot kitchen preparing sauces, vegetable dishes, meats and fish. While others vehemently swear that the dessert section work leading to delicate sweet creations and artistic plate decor is more up their street.
I have an humble advice here
If you can, train in both the streams. Having acquired a Grand Diplome both in Cuisine and Patissiere from Le Cordon Bleu has immensely helped me to master my craft and led to flexibly and more opportunities in this profession. The best thing about this career is that no training goes to waste, and the more you learn the more your techniques are embedded in your dexterity in the kitchen.
Also as you acquire experience with time there are other offshoot careers which lead from this job. You can specialise in teaching, food styling, designing menus and consulting to set up kitchens and restaurants etc. Your love and passion for food and it’s preparation are all you need to be armed with. And of course hours of practice!
To sum up I would say – if you are a diehard foodie, if you a dreamer, if you are sharp and eager to learn if you are willing to go elbow deep into anything to do with food – this is the career for you! Plunge in. You will never regret it.
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