Thursday, January 8, 2009

From Khansama to Chef or Still, A Khansama………

During senior secondary only almost 60 percent of studious students decides to appear for PMT (Pre Medical Test) to become doctor or CET (Common Entrance Test) to pursue their career as an Engineer, but I was in another 40 percent lot, who just do what comes in their way, so I decided to appear for Hotel Management entrance test conducted by National Council of Hotel Management, India. (May be because I was not too comfortable with mathematics), I got through the entrance test and joined Institute of Hotel Management, Chandigarh. It was three year program and according to the curriculum of 2nd year, each student supposed to undergo 22 weeks of industrial training in any of the five star hotels to get them exposed to the real world of hotel industry, which is just opposite to the shimmering glamorous facade. But that opposite world of show floor also has its own charm.

I did my training in Hyatt Regency, New Delhi and during my training only I found myself fascinated towards the Chef profession, may be due to the respect, which they get in hotel or the crisp white uniform with black buttons and long white apron. I really don’t know which reason overpowered my decision to choose Chef as a life long profession. While campus interview I got through Taj Hotel’s management trainee program in food production (Which is considered as one of the best job to start career after hotel management) and after two years of training in all the luxury properties of Taj, I got a designation of Chef.
Now it’s been more then 6 years, I am working as a chef and till last year I had a notion that at least decent educated people in India knows about this profession and I used to give the whole credit of that to Chef Sanjeev Kapoor (Khana Khazana fame) because he was the one who had actually introduced this profession to the real India through his Khana Khazana series.

But an incident or a conversation had changed my notion about people's perception about Chef as a profession. I was traveling from Bangalore to Delhi and was waiting for my flight to depart, there was a person sitting on my next chair, after a small chitchat, he asked me about my profession and what I do? I very proudly said I am working as Chef. He said, what?
Again I repeated the same sentence that I am working as Chef, with a great difficulty to his tongue, he some how pronounced that word and asked me where do I work? I replied him that i for the hotel. So his instant question was, then what is this Chef? I said I work in kitchen, my answer was like a utter surprise to him, he said oh, “to Khana banate ho aap, Khansama ho’. I paused for a second and said “haan ji, Khansama huin.” On top of this when he actually understood the word Chef and my profession, he started asking recipes for his wife and himself. During that time I thought that all the pain which top chefs of India took or taking to promote this profession from mere khansama to chef has gone into trench. (I would like to mention that I did not mind his word Khansama, but the way he said it, I could make out his perceptions).

Here I am not denying the very fact that yes cooking is the very basic job of any Chef but as a profession in a whole its much more then just cooking. Today when in Europe, Chefs have reached celebrity status (Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes, Roux Brothers, Thomas Keller) where people wait months to dine in their restaurants, but in India Chefs are still considered as just mere Khansama or Bawarchi. But in reality it is much more then that. Chef is the person who innovates, who leads, who manage, ok leave it, I don’t want to discuss job description here.

I do understand that in India most of the parents want their kids to be future Doctor or Engineer. But my point is, if decent educated people like that person will think so inferiorly about the professions which are not traditional and are different then Doctor, Engineer, Teacher and many others, then how they will guide or advise their wards or others to join these different professions.
Still, whenever I wear my chef coat I can feel that sense of proud and dignity. But I feel in India, chef as a profession, we have to go a long way.


  1. Well in life we meet all kinds of people....and each one of them are entitled to their own opinion.Every job is good if done with sincerity and honesty. Personally i think Chefs are one of the best professions...not only because you get to learn the best of dishes but also because you folks know the way to the man's heart is through his you do a great job. hope i get to taste some of your exotic preparations some!!!

  2. Thanks Nitu, for your sincere and genuine comment....

  3. Sometimes, we tend to give importance to short sightedness. :) Just shrug opinions away.

    If that's difficult then look at the brightest side. Back when I was a little girl and my Ma and Grandma wanted me to start learning cooking, I used to run away. And then one day they asked "Which guy will marry you if you don't know how to cook?"

    The 11 yr old me replied "That's simple. I'll just marry a Chef" :D

    That one reply eased the tension back then and I am till date a successful non-cooker :)

  4. hi,well some admirers come from un expected corners,
    khaansama hai to kya hua,khan paan ke bina jindigi kya hai
    a old song i do not know why i hum when i have to change something and it is the fact of life that only thing you can change is yourself
    kabhi kisi ko mukamal jahan nahi milta,kabhi darti to jabhi jahan hai milta
    well perceptions stay and i am reminded of an incident on this khamsama bit,someone asked my dad 20years ago what his son did he said he works in hotels,
    the nest question was kitna kamata hai aur kya kam karta hai ,his reply was what made me proud "kitna kamata hai nahi maloom par apne khayal rakh sakta hai,khud ki roti khata hai banata hai aur hamko bi kabhi kabhi ladoo khilata hai,aur kabhi kaam se nikala nahi jata hai (ressession)nice to see your blog well i have failed in my duty as you say you are lonely some books will make you grow into a learned person something i am reading mavericks at work and what got you here wont get you there,setting the table by danny mayer is a must read.happy new year buddy and keep smiling and shining

  5. Hi Chef, its really a big shock to see your comment, actually i never expected that you will pass through my blog, but I am really happy to see your comment. I still miss my wonderful four years in westend.