Broadening Horizon Of Cooking As A Career In India

In conversation with BW Businessworld, First Masterchef India Pankaj Bhadauria, shared her journey from home cook to celebrity chef and also talked about the drastic change she has been seeing since she joined the sector

Education in India has expanded beyond the disciplines. Earlier which was only limited to Maths & Science, has now reached the ambit of art, culture and food that is focussing on skilling and artistic value that resides in an individual. However, one cannot overlook the fact that the profession in these fields has faced many social obstructions. Parents never preferred their children to make their careers as cooks, painters and photographers. Gradually, the mindset is evolving in terms of looking up to this profession and it is because of people who took the courage to embrace these professions as their careers.

First Masterchef India, Pankaj Bhadauria is one big example of doing something out of the box to break down the existing mindset. She came forward and owned cooking as a career when it was not considered a mainstream career option. The day has changed, social media is witnessing the uncountable cooking videos being posted on Youtube, Instagram and other social media sites. Excerpts from an exclusive interaction:

How do you see a career in and food and beverages emerging in India right now?

As I see it, India's hospitality and restaurant industries growing by leaps and bounds. This is triggering a great demand for more professionally trained chefs. I feel a career as a chef is considered to be one of the most sought-after careers, not just due to the high demand that we have, but also the wide range of possibilities that are available today. These opportunities are not only available in India but internationally as well. And with more awareness about how fulfilling this career is, there's an increase in interest among young boys and girls.

There was always resistance in society to pursuing such a career, what do you suggest to such aspirants?

I completely agree, even about a decade ago anybody saying that they wanted to be a chef, always heard low remarks about that. So there is always resistance but there were some apprehensions in the minds of the parents and guardians regarding the choice of the hospitality industry as a whole for a career. I can see many new avenues multitude of opportunities being opened before aspirants, not just in the hospitality industry, but even in corporate houses, and the retail sector, the horizons have broadened, which means more and more job opportunities and very good growth. So my suggestion is to embrace these opportunities as they come and free your minds from any resistance whatsoever they may have been there in your mind.

Tell us about the challenges one faces in the cooking industry.

Correct. One thing that you must understand in the answer is that like any other industry, this industry too would have a few challenges. There is no industry, no job that comes free of challenges or stress. One, of course, is the timings on which are professional kitchen operates, you must remember it begins very early in the day. Like you are serving the last meal at 12 and the kitchen would be winding itself up for around 2:00 AM, but you hate to start again early in the morning. It is like any BPO industry and MNC with international timings. It depends on the shift you have been placed on. Apart from working hours, the other is while the entire world is enjoying themselves during holidays or festivals, you will be working yourself.

Because the holiday season for people is the working season for you, especially during these service hours there might be a little bit more pressure. But other than that it is a very satisfying career as a whole. 

What quality framework and accreditation process has evolved in the country for training in F&B?

Yes, the government has set some strict standards as far as the important quality, education and the hospitality industry are concerned. There are many international training and assessment partners also who are offering accreditations that are globally accepted today, so everything is very well structured and assessed now. As a result, an employer can be assured of the knowledge of the quality of training of his employee. There are several bodies in India and at the global level which are assuring that these students are getting quality education in this field. 

We are living in a startup and entrepreneurship and startups. Please elaborate on your collaboration with MIT-WPU in this aspect.

Yes, when we say food startups we had quite a successful history. I and MIT - World Peace University, Pune, Department of Hospitality Management, are coming together to help the aspirant chefs and students to look into a broader horizon. We will assure more quality education, will go beyond the curriculum and will train the student to think outside of the box. We will hold master classes to nurture their culinary skills and also organise counselling sessions to encourage and guide them. Through these counselling sessions, I will share my personal experience with them that will guide their path and refrain them from do mistakes which I committed in my career path. 

Pankaj also shared her experience of winning the first Masterchef India and called it the best experience in her career graph while also touched upon her journey to change the global perspective about Indian food. 

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