The Hand That Stirs The Pot


How many days have we all spent drooling over pictures of food, enviously scrolling through our Instagram feeds that are mostly filled with our friends’ fancy meals? It’s sort of a universal language that connects people around the world. There’s no other art form that cuts across classes, ethnicity and economic levels like the art of making food. Be it a dish of Crab-Stued Filet Mignon on a luxury cruise in France, or a spicy plate of Kulcha Nihari at a Lucknowi street-side stall, a smoothly mixed tumbler of filter coffee at a Chennai cafe, or a well shaken Margarita on a roofop bar in Miami; culinary perfection is the hallmark of nearly every culture that has come to passing.

It is perhaps because of this, in today’s infinitely informative world, that there has been an ever rising demand for in various F&B fields, where the focus is not just on talent and passion for culinary arts, but also, technical expertise and a diverse set of skills.
In India, too, we’ve moved from a century where cooking skills were limited to a woman’s daily routine in the kitchen, to a time where both genders are making it a career. As they say, it’s a great time to start in the F&B industry in India today. In this highly competitive field, more than financial investment and management skills, you need to be innovative enough to lure people in to your restaurant or bar through excellent kitchen skills, a unique ambience, or a smart marketing strategy. Hit the right notes and you’re on your way up!
We caught up with professionals from across the F&B industry to give us an insight into what they do and how you could be a part of it. Dig in!

Why Study Hotel Management?

The lessons you learn at a hotel management course would help you go a long way. We take a look at why a hotel management course is an important step to start your career in the F&B industry

As the very first step of formally getting into the food and beverage industry, it’s ideal that one goes through the learning and training process of a reputed hotel management institute. You can take up hotel management right aer completing schooling. It can also be completed at a post-graduation, certificate or diploma levels. e very nature of the service and hospitality industry combines both arts and business subjects, and thus makes practically anyone eligible to apply.

A hotel management course gets you ready for the hospitality industry mainly, but a major chunk of the F&B industry revolves around understanding hospitality and service industry. It also provides exposure to almost all of the fields in the industry, right from accounting to front desk, culinary skills to housekeeping, management to sales and marketing. The end result is a well-rounded professional who understands how every field works, and this insight can help them manage restaurants or hotels much better than someone who comes from only a business management or arts background. At the outset, being trained in this kind of a course gives you traditional expertise to work the following, besides the F&B industry:
General Operations: is would include management, organization and administration of various departments, and gives you the financial knowhow of running a restaurant.

Front Office and House Keeping:
Specific to hotels, this includes manning the front desk and managing reservations, while housekeeping involves ensuring that rooms are up to the hotel’s standards and guests are kept satisfied.

Sales and marketing: Today, having knowledge on what markets well and what doesn’t can go a long way and give you an edge over competition.

A major subject in this course is food production, which involves understanding the art and science of
gastronomy, nutrition and ingredients, using kitchen equipment, and methods of preparations. Besides this, you also learn things like setting up tables, picking the right glass for the right drink, stewarding, food science, and more.

all about passion
All about passion

Chef Chris Koetke is the VP of Kendall College, Chicago, US, and also heads the Center of Excellent for Culinary Arts for Laureate Hospitality schools across the globe. An accomplished chef and chef instructor, he began his career in the F&B industry at a professional kitchen at the age of 13, and hasn’t looked back since, having worked for chefs in France, Switzerland and the US. “Culinary school is actually a more recent development in academia,” he says, “Understanding business is critical for a chef, as a chef is responsible for a business’s operations and profitability.” He shares more insights into why an education in the F&B industry is necessary

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
The foodservice industry is extremely varied and the answer really depends on the actual foodservice job. In many kitchens, the pace is fast and oen infused with some level of stress, as we have one chance to get it right with the customer. is is where a lot of the kitchen energy comes from, and what keeps us on our toes while we strive to make great food every time.

What are the qualities a youngster needs to have to start and run a successful restaurant business?
Passion – you must love food and preparing food, creativity, making the customer happy with an incredible experience; discipline, as it’s about hard work and many hours of practice and also acquiring knowledge about every part of the foodservice industry though education; intensity and being driven, as this is how many kitchens are culturally.

How do you ensure that culinary arts students who graduate om your college are ready for the industry?
At Kendall College, we ensure our graduates are ready for the industry though many levels of continual assessment meant to make sure each student is absorbing the information and honing the skills needed for a successful culinary career. is is done through daily assessment, course assessment and comprehensive exams. These exams are both practical and written in nature. We focus on the macro trends that will shape the foodservice business for years to come and incorporate those trends into our curriculum.

Where do students who have done a culinary arts degree start at in the F&B industry?
The options open to a culinary graduate are enormous. When students graduate from a culinary program, they should be ready to work in any kitchen, in any foodservice environment, and be ready to move up in responsibility as they gain more experience. For instance, students can work in many different types of restaurants, hotel kitchens, cruise ships, banquet and catering operations, or research and development. Students tend to enter the restaurant industry in areas like garde manger/pantry or as a line cook, depending on the type of restaurant. From there, as they become more procient, they will move up and
grow into management positions.

Neha Arya Sethi double choc chip
Cookie Love

With a background in the finance sector, Neha Arya Sethi had first anonymously started Sweetish House Mafia, a cookie store, out of a car. Soon, with overwhelming demand, she began a store in Mumbai, which has picked off quite well. She tells us what it is like to switch fields and follow your passion

Tell us about Sweetish House Mafia.
It all started with the opening of my shop in April 2013. Even though I have a background in finance, I didn’t like it too much. Baking used to be my hobby and I was really good at it. With my friends and family appreciating my baking skills, I thought I might as well go ahead and give it a shot.

From working in the finance sector to switching to F&B, how has the experience been like so far?
The F&B is less stressful. Here I am in control of myself. Here, I am my own boss. So the experience has been pretty rewarding so far. And during the course of this I have learnt that hard work is important anywhere, whether you are working for someone else or for yourself. You can’t get anywhere without putting in the effort.

How did you deal with the onslaught of demand in your early days?
I used to work from home initially. And that point of time, the job was pretty demanding. I used to bake 120-150 cookies on daily basis. So I guess, I worked really hard and figured it out as I went along.

What qualities does a youngster need to start and run a successful restaurant business?
The passion and re, the will and determination to put in the hours of hard work and effort, the ability to take risks when need be, and the patience to see it all through till the end.

Tell us a few delightful experiences you had with SHM.
I have had many delightful experiences thanks to my bakery. I have had people write me the most sweetest emails telling me how I bring families together; I have had fathers-to-be requesting preference at the nano line as they’re waiting to take cookies to their wife who is in labour; I have seen people let out sighs of pure delight aer eating my cookies; and I have had people hug the counter at my store because they love the cookies so much. All of it is just so amazing.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Just see the positive side of everything. Who are you mentors and what have you learnt from them?
My husband would be my mentor. He has guided me and been a great sounding board, urging me to push the boundaries, take risks, try everything and believe in everything I do.

A word of advice to someone who is new to the business?
If things don’t go so well initially, don’t get disheartened, because there is something fabulous waiting for you down the line.

One thing you’re glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry?
at I didn’t invest in a brick-and-mortar store. I started with the nano and got my market research done without investing too much money.

Irfan Pabaney2
Behind the Kitchen

Irfan Pabaney at The Sassy Spoon had started his career in 1992 with Under The Over. A Hotel Management diploma-holder, he gives us valuable insight into being a chef

How did you come to be associated with e Sassy Spoon? What has the experience been like so far?
The Sassy Spoon was started by my business partner Rachel Goenka and myself. It was both our dreams to have a restaurant and we met through a common friend. e experience has been wonderful. It’s a lot of hard work but very fullling.

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
To mention everything would take way too much space… But being a chef, the most important things for me is food quality, and that begins with the raw material and fresh vegetables that are received in the morning, how it is processed, how it is eventually cooked and served. I also look into the daily operations of the restaurant.

What are the qualities and educational background a youngster needs to have to become a world-class chef?
Well, more than education (which is of course very very important), you have to have the correct temperament. Have an open mind and don’t restrict yourself. A solid work ethic and no compromise on what you serve are also very important. And most important, understand your food!

How different is the education in culinary arts and management different from what it actually is on the field?
Very different; theory is one thing, but doing is another ball game all together. About 12-14 hours of work a day is normal for people in this industry.

Could you tell us something about the Indian audience’s palette? Has it adapted to tasting (and accepting) authentic global cuisines, or are they still rooting for the Indianisation of these cuisines?
Well, we have two types of Indian customers: the ones who are willing to accept change, and the ones who aren’t. Inherently, we Indians love spicy food, so to digress from that is something that most Indians are not used to. ‘Bland’ is what they call food without chilli. The others are more than willing to try new flavours out.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Great food never tastes like it’s trying too hard.

Who are your mentors and what have you learnt from them?
The biggest influence for me has been Rahul Akerkar. He thought me how to have fun being a chef, but to still not lose focus and to stay true to your craft.

A word (or sentence) of advise to someone who is new to the business?
As in anything else you choose to do, work hard, put in the hours, and don’t stop learning.

One thing you’re glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry.
Join a 5-star hotel. But that was way back in 1992. e situation today has changed drastically.

Summarise the Indian restaurant customer base in one word.
Tough (as in tough to satisfy).

Bread Story

Aayush Agrawal’s Cakebred Co offers macaroons, cupcakes, cake-pops and desserts, along with wedding cakes, and has over five outlets within seven months in Mumbai. The bakery-owner with a sweet tooth tells us about his journey

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry? Did you have any educational background in culinary arts?
I got into food & beverage out of sheer interest and passion. I started work on Cakebred sometime in May of 2014 and opened the first outlet in August 2014. I have done my education in economics and business.

When and how did you start Cakebred Co?
We started Cakebred Co in August 2014. I saw there was a lack of gourmet and exquisite flavours in the mid-market range of patisserie and bakery goods. I wanted to oer premium products in the bakery and patisserie market at a non-premium price point so everyone with a sweet tooth could relish and indulge in international flavours and experience dessert trends.

How has the experience been like so far?
It’s been a sweet experience. It bring our entire team great joy to know we were able to make a special occasion a memorable one with our products. We have become a part of our client’s story – be it a wedding or a baby shower, Cakebred has been part of the celebrations with them.

What qualities does one need to have to start and run a successful restaurant business?
I believe there is no standard formula to success in the food & beverage industry. It’s all about how well you understand your customer and how good your product is. A great tasting and well-presented product is pretty much self-selling.

How do you set yourself apart from other bakeries and confectionaries in India?
We co-create products with our customers just for them. We customise everything according to their fantasies for all their special occasions. Right from the colour, to textures and flavours we design our cakes according to the customer’s desire. Our chefs skilfully handcraft fondant cakes using high quality ingredients and with great finesse. We innovate in our product offerings as well with unique dessert options such as cupcake tower, macaron tower, gluten free, sugar free and eggless options for different dietary requirements.

Who are your mentors and what have you learnt from them?
My team is my mentor and we develop according to the feedback and insights they share.

One thing you’re glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry.
I was super hands-on from the beginning and understood all functions myself following which I expanded my team and got personnel with that particular expertise. I’m happy I didn’t just leave it on autopilot to self-develop and run.

Brewing Today

Javed Murad of Mumbai-based brewpub The White Owl tells us that starting one from scratch is all about tenacity and being positive

How and when did you start e White Owl?
I started it two years ago; it required a lot of planning to figure out what a gastro-pub with modern cuisine would be like. According to the ambience, the target audience is a healthy mix of all kinds of people. The ambience is eclectic, with a grungy decor to match the mood. Of course, getting the licenses was a cumbersome process. One should start the process six months before launching to make sure it’s on time.

What all do you look into on a daily basis?
My role as the founder and owner means I have to be plugged in to everything. As a start up, one has to look into every role. e entire team takes direction from you. I looked into every dish and drink, how the customers felt, what they thought of the food, and took feedback.

What are the qualities one needs to begin a brewpub?
Resilience and tenacity, because starting from scratch, there are many small things that can go wrong, but one must remember that it happens to everyone. One should have a positive mindset and navigate through diculties.

Mr. Ali (Left) & Mr. Abbas (Right) (2)
India-based beverage Sosyo, begun 90 years ago as part of the Swadeshi movement, has picked up immensely and is competing with foreign magna-brands like Coca Cola and Pepsi Co. Aliasgar Abbas Hajoori tells us about keeping the brand strong

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry?
I have been exposed to food and beverage industry from childhood. e family business teaches you a lot. Informal training with formal education is a good combination.

Could you give us a brief background about Sosyo, when it began and why?
Sosyo has been around since 91 years. It evolved from the word Socio meaning society. We have been serving the society since many years and our consumers love us.

What has the experience been like so far with Sosyo and its related brands?
The experience of the fizzy mix fruit flavour drink Sosyo has been great. e brand has grown 100% and has reached Rs 100 crores in annual turnover and is valued at 100 USD million dollars.

What is the Indian audience’s reaction to an India-based beverage brand?
Excellent. ey love it. If someone today wants to begin their own beverage brand in India, I’d tell them to start without fear.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Explore new areas.

harsh Talreja
Calling the shots
Harsh Talreja from Liv and Cheval, who began his career as a trainee at Mumbai’s Taj President in 2003, is now managing what he calls ‘Mumbai’s swishest nightclub and restaurant’. He tells us what it’s like to be a bar manager

What has the experience been like so far?
It’s been a great journey, where I get an opportunity to learn every day, owing to the dynamic nature of the industry. I have learnt how to work with different kinds of people and orchestrate things under high-pressure situations.

How different is the education in culinary arts and management om what it actually is on the field?
I studied at Merit Swiss Asian School of Hotel Management, Ooty. Aer which, I further pursued my culinary studies in Australia for two years. Hospitality management is an aspect of the industry that paves a path for a successful career but skills are built on the job. Education is just a pathway.

What qualities does one need to have to run a successful restaurant business?
Creativity, ability to adapt to a constantly changing industry and the willingness to take risks would be the essential qualities the industry calls for in an entrepreneur. It’s important to have an educational background in the field to understand the nuances of the industry.

What one thing are you glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry?
My innate business sensibilities and training for the culinary arts have honed me in to an ideal person to manage an F&B business, and so I’m glad I pursued management of F&B over being a chef.

Deepak Shettigar joined Four Seasons in 2008 as a kitchen steward, and grew on to becoming a bar manager. He tells us what he looks into on a daily basis

How did you come to be the bar supervisor at Four Seasons?

I started working as a kitchen steward and aer a few months I was moved to the Asian restaurant SanQi as a food and beverage server. at’s the place where I developed most of my skills pertaining to food, wine and spirits. During my tenure at SanQi I used to work as a back-up barman. Aer a few months, I started enjoying the bar and around that time, AER was launching, and they asked me if I would like to move up. Then steadily I moved up the ranks; became a bartender, led the bar team, and a few years back, was promoted as a bar supervisor. Furthermore I have been currently working as a MIT (Manager In Training) and soon will be an Assistant Manager.

What do you look into on a daily basis?
I work closely with my bar team to ensure that they are executed in a timely manner, and look into:
i. Checking the bar set up
ii. Storage and stacking alcohol
iii. uality check for cocktail ingredients
iv. Creating menus for promotional activities
v. Overall cleanliness and hygiene
vi. Inventory and spillages
vii. Maintaining standards for drinks and service

How’s India when it comes to bartending? 
It has improved a lot with major companies like Diageo, Belvedere, and Bacardi organising bartending competitions on an international level. is has helped bartenders to get a lot of exposure to Western countries who are way ahead in terms of equipments and variety.

Mixin’ it right

One of India’s most popular bartenders, Ami B Shroff had begun flair bartending since 2003. From winning awards (the first female mixologist champion at La Maison Cointreau India, amongst others) to travelling the globe, mixing all the way, she’s an icon to look up to. She shares her experiences with us

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry?
Before bartending, I took up day jobs as a promoter in events. I started air bartending with my friend Delnaaz Irani when I was almost 18 in late 2003. We were a team for the first five years of my career, which is what made bartending all that more fun, and perhaps I’m still doing this because it was such a great start. I had no background in culinary arts, and no certied training in the bar either.

What has the experience been like so far?
The experience has been a well-balanced mix of life. We never stop learning and all learning can be inter-connected. So whatever I may have learnt through various mediums outside the bar, also get incorporated into my work. e bar has taught me a lot. It has made me a more condent and creative person. How to interact with a various kinds of personalities, deal with tricky situations of a various kinds, create alternatives, speed, muti-tasking, accuracy, balance and air are what I have learnt.

What all do you look into on a daily basis?
In India at least the work shift hours go beyond what’s agreed upon on paper. ere is a strong system of hierarchy which can hinder ones creativity. But it’s all about team work and it’s important that one is comfortable with the team they work with and communication should be completely free. Every day may be different, but still there will be a routine of events from inventory to bar set up, checking of ingredients, preparatory work; servicing the bar, managing the guests, billing, cleaning and closing of the bar and so on.

What are the qualities and educational background a youngster needs to have to become a bartender or a mixologist?
Each person can bring his special skill sets and incorporate it into bartending. Besides that, there’s hospitality, the heart of it all; knowledge and experience; a good sense of taste and balance; creativity; multi tasking abilities and good hand-eye coordination; people skills; salesmenship skills; management skills; air (a personal touch) and more.

What’s the trend of bartending like in India? Is there a long way to go?
The expertise is improving, competition is increasing, and thanks to alcohol and celebrations, the financial strength of the industry keeps increasing.

Who are your mentors and what have you learnt from them?
My family has been my biggest mentor and they have taught me everything I think I know. They taught me how to value things and gave me a sense of security, which allowed me to explore my curiosity in any area of interest. But the world and beyond is my school.

A word of advise to someone who is new to the business?

the accidental
The Accidental Restaurateur

For Jai Thakur, his career in the F&B industry as a restaurateur began in 2012, after he took the giant leap to quit his banking job and go on to Naples, Italy, to “learn the art of making authentic Naples-style pizza”. He shares his journey with us in a heart-to-heart, and also gives us some valuable tips

From a career in banking to a career in the F&B industry, how has the journey been?
What a ride it’s been. In banking you get your performance appraisal once a year, maybe twice. In the F&B world, you get it every day! And restaurant patrons don’t shy away from giving feedback (the good, bad and ugly) – which is a good thing!

How did you set up your first restaurant?
Honestly, I was an accidental restaurateur. A brochure at a food fair in Bangkok led to a visit to Naples, Italy, that led to a very “co-incidental” chain of events with me finally and also gives us some valuable tips opening di Napoli in 2012. Oh, the challenges were many, the biggest being building a team. The most important piece of advice here is to let your plans be known to all (not just F&B industry folks) – you never know who opens what door or who connects you to whom. One thing leads to another and before you know it, problem solved!

How did you know you were ready to own a restaurant of your own and not just work for someone else?
I didn’t – and in hindsight, it’s easy to say, “what was I thinking?”. But after a decade with Citibank, I knew I was ready to take the plunge on my own – and I am glad it was in the F&B business. e satisfaction you get when people come up and say things like “this is the best pizza in India” or “it’s exactly how I had it in Naples” is something words can’t describe. Food satisfies a primary need and getting a pat on the back from a satisfies guest is priceless.

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
I think my many years with a large corporation taught me the art of delegation. I call it an art because in the food business, you have to be careful to delegate where necessary and be personally involved a lot too. The single most important activity a restaurateur must do is simply to be around. Just being there gives you a sense of food quality, ingredient availability (or lack of it), customer feedback, service levels and so on. Frankly, running a restaurant is not that different from any other customer-facing business and it should work like a well-oiled machine with the owner being there as the mentor and guide.

Do you think the restaurateur culture in India needs more improvement compared to those abroad?
Improvement is a harsh word. The Indian restaurant culture is in its infancy but evolving rapidly. A child doesn’t need improvement as a child – once it grows older, it automatically develops. Same here. We are developing and I’m glad to see Indians willing and even eager to experiment more. Many restaurateurs get disheartened when their international cuisine restaurants don’t take o – slow and steady, is the name of the game here.

Jai Thakur
What are the qualities and educational background a youngster needs to have to start and run a successful restaurant business?

I don’t think there is a formula. One must love the journey. I honestly think that you could have any
educational background (or lack of it) and run a restaurant. As far as qualities go, I’m not going to ramble the usual – passion, leadership, drive, etc., etc. You need all these in running any business. rough my own experience, the one thing I think that’s essential is maturity – if you stumble at first in the restaurant business, it’s a very public spectacle. It’s important to take things in your stride and keep moving forward. Like I said, enjoy the rollercoaster ride.

Now that you have started Crave, can you share your vision and your further plans?
CRAVE is a fast casual café for the evolving Indian gourmand. Fast food doesn’t have to be junk food. Everything, be it our stone-baked pizzas or handcrafted burgers to our warm, wholesome sandwiches or delish fries n dips, is made fresh to order. Many days of my years in the US were spent waiting in line at my favourite mom-and-pop pizza or burger place in Manhattan. rough CRAVE, I want to introduce India to that experience – the aim being to comfort you, without compromising on quality or taste.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Don’t play to win; play to play – enjoy the game

Who are your mentors and what have you learnt from them?
My mother – she teaches me to jump – take the plunge

One thing you’re glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry.
Didn’t listen to too many “experts” – you learn the most through your own experiences (and misadventures)

a though business
A tough business made easy

Siddharth Poojari, director of the Sukh Sagar chain of restaurants, began in the F&B in 1999 under his father. Later, he began the City Bar, Zaffran and Kobe, and is on a roll. As a young restaurateur, he tells us what it’s like to be successful

What has the experience been like so far at RSP and especially the Glass House?
The experience has been awesome, I am glad I followed my passion. That alone makes your work fun and easy to begin with. But to achieve any milestone discipline, extreme hard work and patience is and was required for me too. It made me mentally strong and able to face a lot of situations I had never imagined before. RSP has grown over the years that itself has made me really happy and proud; it’s been a tough journey but amazing experience. The Glass House was a project purely based out of passion and it taught me the importance of following once dreams and what it is to achieve it and enjoy its success, pure bliss. The Hospitality business is all about people management, from people working for you and people you serve it’s as simple as that.

Could you give an insight into what you look into on a daily basis?
I check on the daily sale reports, social media comments, staff meeting on the previous days complains, monthly target/daily target report, alcohol report, store and chef reports and costings. Visit all of my different restaurants to check on service, and other restaurants to check on competition.

How important is it to experience every aspect of the restaurant business to be a manager?
It is very important as you’re dealing with people from different walks of life and your staff, you have to be
prepared for every situation and that can only come from experience.

What qualities does one need to start a restaurant?
Honestly, one just needs to be passionate and know what he would want when he visits a restaurant, it’s as simple as that but difficult to achieve.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Everything happens for the good.

Who are your mentors and what have you learnt om them?
From my Dad, I learnt that hard work pays off.

Summarise the Indian restaurant customer base in one word?

The Art of Wining

Nikhil Agarwal started off at Sula Vineyards at 22, and moved on to Moet Hennessy and then Diageo, before starting All Things Nice, a wine and spirits consultancy, in 2010. He tells us about his journey

What is All Things Nice about?
We are primarily a consultancy service offering our expertise to the hotel, restaurant, modern retail and airline industries. We consult them on their  beverage program in relation to training, portfolio and marketing and work with wine brands.

What has the experience been like so far founding All Things Nice?
It’s been an extraordinary journey more so because there is no one doing what we do. After five and a half years we are better footed and have received fantastic feedback from the people that matter. Since the time I started All Things Nice we have launched Wine Week, the Indian Wine Consumers Choice Awards (a wine competition), come up with breakthrough culinary journeys, helped start Myra Vineyards, and more.

What qualities does one need to become a wine connoisseur?
Sincere passion and curiosity, to begin with. You cannot learn about wine from a text book, you must taste. To support your knowledge and to structure it, a degree in Wine and Spirits is very useful to get you ahead of the game. If you have the means, an international degree will not only give you the certificate but the experience which is infinitely more important.

According to Piyush Gadkari of The Wine Society of India, wine can be an interesting topic if you really get into it. A professional wine connoisseur, he gives us an insight into the art

What has the experience been like so far with Wine Society of India?
Phenomenal. ere are very few places in the world where one can develop one’s ability to decipher what they taste, and why it tastes so. e Wine Society of India is one such place.

What do you look into on a daily basis?
On some days I look at our range of wines to see which ones are doing well with customers. On other days, I hold tastings for the in-house team, who oen have to answer questions about wine in a knowledgeable and condent manner. Occasionally I look at customer feedback on the quality of a specific bottle, or about wanting to take a wine trip to Nasik or say, Tuscany.

What skills does one need to become a wine connoisseur?
Whatever course you plan on doing, you must be in a position to taste wines from across the world frequently in order to improve your palate. Try to taste with people who know a lot more about wine than you do, and ply them with questions. Most importantly, write your observations down.

How well versed is an average Indian palette to the different types of wine?
The consumption of wine is slowly picking up. Restaurants that price their wines by the glass competitively do well, but wine’s appeal is still small. It is growing at an encouraging rate, but the average Indian palate is still a while away from being able to discern between different styles of wine.

Food Aesthetics

Food stylist and blogger Praerna Kartha runs food photography and styling studio, Thoda Strong, along with her husband, Arjun. As a food stylist, she’s responsible for making food look drool-worthy, artistic and induce craving in people. Combining an eye for design and a love for food, she tells us what else it takes to become a food stylist

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Food fascinates me – I am always looking to learn more, try different things, the visual aspect being as important as the taste. Although my relationship with food started even before I was a teenager – I was baking, devouring cookbooks and shows – the photography aspect came in only when I met Arjun. Having worked in our respective advertising and marketing careers for years, we realised that we could do so much more. We decided to join forces and do what we were truly passionate about – food and photography!

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry? Did you have any educational background in culinary arts?
I began my work as a food stylist a few years ago, almost as an afterthought, when I realised that such a career was actually possible. Although my love for food, cooking and blogging started much earlier, I wasn’t aware that it was possible to have a career so closely tied to food without being a chef or a home baker. My educational and professional backgrounds lie in English Lit and then advertising & communication. In fact, there isn’t any course or programme in India that teaches this art – practice and experience is the only way to break into it.

What has the experience been like so far as a food stylist? 
It’s been great. e best part is being able to be around food all the time and interact with other professionals from the F&B industry. Apart from restaurateurs, chefs and food manufacturers, we regularly work with marketing and communication professionals, bloggers and publishers. Also, because of the absence of formal training, every single assignment is a learning experience and an opportunity to do things differently and better. It’s an exciting, delicious journey and I love it.

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
Food styling is actually an oshoot of the F&B industry – it involves preparing and assembling food for the camera and is very different from plating food for consumption. It’s the art of putting food’s best face forward for the camera, the end result of which is stunning, mouth watering imagery designed to entice the viewer to reach out and eat it. is imagery is typically used for menus, advertising, marketing and communication.

The job description of a food stylist is simple – make food look good! The key thing to understand here is this: food photographs need to be hand crafted. Generally, a shot of food that’s typically plated for consumption is guaranteed to look fairly awful. I need to make the food look appetizing and irresistible to the viewer all at the same time.

What qualities does one need to become a food stylist?
Although a background in food & hospitality is not a necessity, it is definitely helpful. e skills required are more than a basic understanding of food preparation, ingredient behaviour and an eye for composition, colour and texture – all of which can be acquired with interest, practice and experience.

Food styling can sound more glamorous that it actually is – it is much more than buying pretty plates and napkins. It involves aspects of design and composition, of food preparation and also some basic knowledge of photography. It also involves long shoot days with very little time to sit down and have lunch! So if this is what they are aspiring to do, then here are a few things that should be done:

• Study food photographs and the work of successful stylists to understand what does and doesn’t look pleasing to a camera.
• Practice and experiment with different food forms to understand how things work – you can use magazine or cookbook photographs as inspiration and as a starting point to emulate.
• Since there isn’t any formal course (yet), find a stylist you like and work with him or her to learn on the job.
• Find a photographer friend to help with your independent portfolio.
• Be very confident that you can deliver according to a brief before branching out on your own.
• Never stop observing, reading and learning. There are new developments in the field of food and photography every day. Keep your eyes peeled and learn from them.

For the Foodies, 
By the Foodies

Pawan Soni, the founder of the Indian Food Freaks, a food blogging website run by a team of food bloggers, is also a review writer for Suburb magazine and various food blogs. A Post Graduate in Management, he works with a MNC, and writes about his passion, which is food. He tells us how food critics are influencing the F&B industry

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry?
It has been almost seven years. At that time, the food blogger concept was not much heard of. We would go, pay for our meal, and share our experience with the readers.

Did you have any educational background in culinary arts?
I did a WSET Level II.

What has the experience been like so far with the Indian Food Freak?
The response has been very encouraging both from the readers as well as the hotel industry. We are now a group of over 25,000 members who participate in healthy discussion on Facebook. is group is growing fast.

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
Keep your palate clean, be expressive, learn about different food, and most importantly don’t be afraid of experimenting with food.’

How does one earn an income/make a career as a food critic?
There are people who are willing to pay for the blog posts. One can even join any newspaper or magazine as a food writer.

How do you, as a food critic, influence the F&B industry?  
Social media and online reach is fast expanding. ere is no dearth of options for eating out and people don’t want to pay through their nose on expensive restaurants unless they have heard some positive feedback from the people they trust. is is where bloggers come into play.

How does one differentiate themselves om other food critics in the industry?
Be honest, keep learning, keep experimenting.

What does your target audience look for in your reviews the most?
To visit a restaurant or not, if yes then what to eat and how expensive is the place. Plus they also want to know if they should try the restaurant on a specific occasion.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Love for food

Do you have mentors? What have you learnt om them?
Everyone’s taste buds are different. Follow anyone that matches your palate.

One thing you’re glad you didn’t do when you started o in the F&B industry.
Never took money to sell my soul. Always remained honest even if it ended upsetting few.

Summarise the Indian restaurant customer base in one word?

Harsh Shodhan
Catering Portions of Happiness

Ex-IT professional Harsh Shodhan, founder of Mumbai-based Gourmet Catering Co., has a lot going on his plate lately. His startup, which specializes in modern vegetarian cuisines, providing an end to end service, from planning to catering, for parties or events, has picked up in the past three years in a big way. He also runs the Gourmet Kitchen and Studio, where he offers culinary workshops to other foodies. He shares the story of his journey and other insights about the catering industry

When did you begin your career in the food and beverage industry?
I have been associated with the food and culinary business since the past 30 years through my mother, who was a home caterer. I had a stint in the year 2002 – 2003 when I successfully ran a Gujarati thaali restaurant called Mirch Masala, and was drawn back into this industry in 2012 when I formed the Gourmet Catering Co. Having had zero educational background in culinary arts, my passion helped me develop and grown in the field and I educated myself on the job.

How and when did you start Gourmet Catering Co.? 
I started writing for a food blog on the international experiences of being a vegetarian, following which I was offered to do a video blog. I would send the food that I made during these video blogs to my friends’ houses, and they would love it. en, they started calling me for food, and I used to send it for my love of food and my friends! It was then that my better half, Sheetal, made me realise my potential to do catering which gave birth to the Gourmet Catering Co.

Could you give an insight into what all you look into on a daily basis?
My day beings with understanding what’s going to be cooked for the next day, planning and creating each dish including the ingredients, garnishing, plating and all that goes into it. I then plan for the manpower and required paraphernalia to ensure the smooth running of the catering at the event. A lot of time is devoted to regular research and development of new dishes and desserts, and experimenting with new flavours. It’s like a little laboratory, where we are always in search of guinea pigs! Production and ensuring the food goes out on time, the way it should, is also of a big concern. And, of course, marketing my services on various social media platforms is an exciting part of the day!

What are the various kinds of catering events that you take care of?
We take care of small house parties, dinners, birthday and anniversaries, house-warmings, shop openings, press launches, corporate board lunches and directors meetings, festival parties like Diwali get-togethers, Christmas parties, religious ceremonies like Gosh Bharais, Rakhi dinners, and even wedding events like Mehendi and Sangeet; as long as food is involved, we can do it all!

What qualities someone would need to get into the catering business?
Primarily what’s important is passion, as it all starts with that. Creativity and being experimental surely helps. Street smartness and risk-taking capabilities, like in any business, help to run your business successfully. Obviously, virtues like patience and tolerance contribute to the success.

What has changed in the catering industry since you’ve been a part of it?
With every season the industry has evolved, and with the media bombarding food-based TV shows, our clients know of all the latest trends and cuisines being loved and followed all around the world. We need to constantly keep up with that. Also, understanding fads is a big thing; fusion, molecular gastronomy and veganism are some of the fads that we have to keep up with constantly.

A motto that you make sure you stick to everyday?
Do what you love and you are sure to succeed!

A word (or sentence) of advise to someone who is new to the business? 
Be passionate, be creative, be smart, start small.

Top Culinary Institutes in India

Now that you have heard it straight from the experts of the field, we get you a list of the top culinary institutes and courses that you can opt for, to become the next giant in the food and beverage industry

Culinary Academy of India, Hyderabad
Located in Hyderabad, CAI is one of the nest institutes of culinary arts in India. With 8 classrooms and 7 fully equipped training kitchens, it also has a well designed demonstration kitchen and a compact 36-cover training restaurant, enabling students to be well on their way to achieve professionalism in the study of gastronomy.

– Bachelor degree in Catering Technology and Culinary Arts
– Post Graduate Diploma in Culinary Arts
– Certificate Course in Food Production and Patisserie.

Mumbai College of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Mumbai
The college is managed by Dnyanvardhini Education society established in 1998 and offers a limited number of scholarship and assistantship opportunities for exceptional students who are financially challenged. Students work as trainees with stipend plus free food and accommodation. Classroom coaching and on job training is given simultaneously.

– M. Sc. in Hotel Management
– P. G. Diploma in Hotel Management
– B.Sc. in Hotel management & Tourism & Catering Operation
– Diploma in Hotel management & Catering Technology

Amrapali Institute of Hotel Management, Haldwani
Hospitality industry being one of the important factors in the service sector of the economy, hotel management plays a key role in the on-job training for the youth willing to join the industry. Amrapali’s Centralised Training & Placement Department (CTPD) provides students with employment opportunities by inviting the top companies of the industry to the campus for recruitment drives, thus helping the placement rate exceed to 95 percent.

– Bachelor of Hotel Management & Catering Technology (BHMCT)
– Bachelor of Hospitality Management (BHM)
– Diploma in Hotel Management & Catering Technology (DHMCT)
– Diploma in Hotel Management (DHM)

College of Hospitality & Tourism, Delhi

With courses available for undergraduate as well as postgraduate degrees, the institution also provides hostel facilities, laboratory facilities and other infrastructural facilities that will help culinary enthusiasts to make optimum use of their time studying in the same.

– Diploma in Hospitality & Tourism
– Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management & Tourism
– AHLA Diploma
– Advanced Diploma in Food Preparations and Culinary Arts
– Post Graduate in Culinary Arts Specialization – Indian/Continental/Patisserie
– Post Graduate in Hotel Management & Tourism
– Diploma Courses in Culinary Arts & Patisserie
– Cra Courses
– Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management Catering & Tourism
– Certicate Program in Food & Beverage Service
– Advanced Program in Hospitality and Hotel Administration
– Bachelors in Hotel Management and Catering Operation
-Masters of Hospitality and Tourism Management course

Institute of Hotel Management Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, Meerut
The Institute of Hotel Management Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition, Meerut was established in 1987 as an autonomous body and is registered as an Educational Society under Societies Act 1860.
Though started as an autonomous Institute, IHM Meerut was first of its kind in North India to be approved by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) as early 1993. It aims to train students for the food and beverage industry both in India and abroad, and give them the much needed exposure and insight into the working of the same.

– Hotel Management & Catering Technology (BHMCT)
– B.Sc. in Hospitality & Hotel Administration (B.Sc. HHA)
– Diploma in Hotel Management & Catering Technology (DHMCT)

Hotel and Catering Management Institute, Chandigarh
Constantly improving style, content and quality of training, HCMI Chandigarh provides not only full time courses in administration and hospitality, but also gives students to take part time courses in other areas of expertise including house- keeping, baking among many others.

– B.Sc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration( 3 Years) One and a Half Year Diploma in: Food Production, Bakery & Confectionery, Food & Beverage Service, Housekeeping and Front Office

Part time Courses:
– Housewives Course
– Refresher Courses for Industry Personnel
– Short Term Professional Courses in F & B Services
– House Keeping
– Bakery

Culinary Exchange Programmes In The World

No matter how much knowledge one acquires in a field, there is seldom any use for it unless you put it to practice and, even better, make a career out of it. To ignite the spark in you and help you pursue your passion for a career in the food and beverage industry, we bring you some of the best culinary arts exchange programmes around the world

While a lot of students are extremely apprehensive about moving out of the comfort of their homes to venture abroad and start creating their careers, most of them believe that it can prove to be an amazing opportunity to enhance their skills in an environment that is conducive to their field of expertise. As for an ardent fan of culinary practices, what better way to achieve their love for the art, than to study in the country from which the first of the cuisine originated? We take a look at a few of these institues that you can attend abroad, for the wholesome experience.

American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS)
With over 1.5 million students that have travelled abroad, AIFS is one of the largest providers of study abroad programmes for students who wish to explore career prospects in dierent countries around the globe. Cannes and Paris both have unique programmes for culinary enthusiasts who wish to gain extensive knowledge on the French cuisine. For details visit:

Ducasse Institute
A professional culinary school located in Argenteuil, Paris, the Docasse Institute offers a Superior Culinary Arts diploma and provides hands on training to young chefs who are looking to improve their skill set or explore new cooking techniques for various cuisines.  The 6-month long course (3 month courses + 3 month experience in a Ducasse Education network restaurant) gives you access to educational contents enabling to reach the highest levels of industry expectations.
For details visit:

The Gastronomy and Culinary Management University Centre (Gasma)
A university training, research and innovation centre that aims to develop the gastronomy sector by taking a unique approach. Gasma is the first educational institution in Spain to combine the specialities of Gastronomy and Culinary Management. Over its course, students experience Gastronomy and Management first-hand and grow in both disciplines.
For details visit:

Culinary Arts Institute at VUM
The officially accredited university offering a Bachelor Degree not only in Culinary Arts but in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts in Central and Eastern Europe. The institute provides a 4 year programme in culinary arts and internships at the well-known multinational giants in the F&B industry.
For details visit:


Volume 5 Issue 2



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