Cook it Up! (George Bernard Shaw)


“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw

There certainly is no ‘sincerer’ love; but of course, that love for food does not necessarily transcend to the love for cooking. And that’s because you have food so readily available everywhere you look! Does it get there by magic? Sort of – the magic created by someone who loves to cook. “Cooking is like love. Both come from the heart and need a tender touch and a soulmate to relish them,” says Chef Hemant Oberoi, Grand Executive Chef of The Taj Mahal Palace and Towers and author of Th e Masala Art: Indian Haute Cuisine. It is for this love that he says “I want to outdo myself… again and again. What gives me utmost satisfaction is the spontaneous smile on the face of a guest after a satisfactory meal. Trying to better my best is the philosophy which drives me.”

What it takes
Most chefs agree that the most important quality required to make it in the culinary arts is the love for it. “I became a chef to eat food. Which other job pays you to eat such good stuff ?” laughs Chef Paul Kinny, Executive Chef of the Intercontinental Marine Drive in Mumbai. On a more serious note, he says, “Many times while interviewing, I come across candidates who say ‘Cooking is my hobby.’ My answer to them is a straight no, because you cannot work for your hobby for 16 to 18 hours day in and day out.” According to him, to enter this field, you need a level of passion much higher than what a hobby would require.
To join the exciting and fast pace of cooking, you need several qualities, most important of which is an understanding of food or a willingness to inculcate it. “A career in culinary arts can mean many different things. There are several different chef jobs involved in the preparation of food. An important facet, in addition to cooking, is making sure that everything is running smoothly in order to properly serve food throughout the day,” says Shubhada Kotibhaskar, teacher of Bakery at the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (Dadar Catering College), Mumbai.
In a large, high-end kitchen, there are several teams and a hierarchy of chefs. Executive chefs coordinate the kitchen and food preparation. They determine portion sizes, plan out special menus and oversee daily operations, with every respect, whether it is quality, uniformity or presentation.
“It is very important to research about and know your audience well,” opines award-winning international chef Ian Kittichai whose restaurant Koh at the Intercontinental Marine Drive in Mumbai serves his signature Thai cuisine, cooked using traditional methods blended with contemporary international styling. He should know, since he understands not only vegetarian cuisine, since more than 60 per cent of his clientele is vegetarian, but also Jain cuisine, where anything grown under the ground is forbidden. “There is such a contrast among the different guests from different parts of the world that I have to lend that tiny twist to my signature cuisines to suite their palates. It is essential that students understand that very early on in their careers,” adds the renowned chef.

Patience is the key
“Benefits come a long way down the line,” informs Chef Kinny. “You have to wait it out. If you are thinking of entering the field to be the celebrity chef on TV two months down the line, or even two years down the line, drop the idea,” he adds. According to him, you have to be aware of the backend as well and the perseverance it takes. Glamour cannot be a starting point. Seconds Chef Kittichai, “A lot of work and practice goes into making good food. It is a difficult job to work in a hot kitchen for many hours at a stretch.”
Both say that one day the guests may be happy, and on another, not. Food is a very subjective issue with strong personal choices, so those who try to appease others with their food need to keep this in mind.

Education and training
“An education is essential because it gives you a well-rounded experience and knowledge of other related departments, apart from just the kitchen,” says Chef Kinny. According to Chef Kittichai, “Going to college will help you get the basics right and also help you to get into some of the best kitchens to train under real masterchefs.”
Kotibhaskar feels that, “College training is essentail in many ways. It prepares you for all kinds of roles and helps you start at a reasonable level in the field rather than start right at the bottom.” Training also equips you to handle the tensions of the kitchen better, since there is so much practical exposure. There are several kinds of roles that chefs can play, apart from the most obvious one. Training in the field can vary accordingly. A few preferred programmes are as follows:
Catering and Restaurant Management Apt for those who want to pursue management positions within the food service industry.
Culinary Management Focuses on imparting practical experience in the kitchen while studying the business.
Baking and Pastry Main focus on hands-on baking skills and fundamental pastry techniques.
Bar Management An interesting option for those who are above the legal age! Great for those who are looking for part-time options.

Innovation matters
“When I started as an apprentice, I had five different styles of making a Caesar Salad. Being young and having only ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in mind, I struggled to find out which one was the ‘correct’ style. I didn’t for one minute think of making a sixth style, calling it my own,” reminisces Chef Kittichai. According to him, innovation is the key to survival. Even today, he says he learns a lot from other chefs’ kitchens. “Also, if you think of sustainability and local produce, it will go a long way,” he adds.
So where does one draw the inspiration to make new dishes all the time? “You got to have the creative keeda,” says Chef Kinny, “and that will never let you stop thinking of new things. In fact, now, with ingredients so freely available, that is not even a challenge any more.” He says that over his 20 years of cooking experience, he has seen the industry evolve, not only from the inside but also from the outside. “Today, even our guests appreciate the international food that we present, which was not the case say a decade ago. We travel, and so do the guests. International exposure expands the learning manifold,” he says. No wonder he can whip up delicacies from around the world in a matter of minutes. It’s something he loves to do. Doesn’t it get boring though? What would he have been if not a chef? Pat comes the reply, “If I wasn’t a chef, I’d be a dead chef.” That says it all!


Who started the first restaurant? There are at least three theories:

Boulanger, 1765
In about 1765, a Parisian ‘bouillon seller’ named Boulanger wrote on his sign: ‘Boulanger sells restoratives fit for the gods.’ This was the first restaurant in the modern sense of the term.

Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau in Paris, 1766
The forgotten inventor, Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau, moved to Paris in the early 1760s and began floating a variety of schemes he believed would enrich him and his country at the same time.

Beauvilliers, 1782
The first restaurant worthy of the name was the one founded by Beauvilliers in 1782, in the Rue de Richelieu, called the Grande Taverne de Londres. He introduced the novelty of listing the dishes available on a menu and serving them at small individual tables during fixed hours.


• Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (Dadar Catering College), Mumbai
• University of Delhi, New Delhi
• The Goa Swiss Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai
• Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, New Delhi
• Dina Institute of Hotel Management Studies (DIHS), Pune
• Subbalakshmi Lakshapathy College of Hotel Management & Catering Sciences, Madurai
• Ram Krishna Mission – Kolkata
• Oberoi School of Hotel Management, New Delhi
• Indian Institute of Hotel Management (Taj Group), Aurangabad

Volume 1 Issue 4


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