We’re Talking About: Aspire to venture into the food industry? Here are some tips and insights for people wanting to become Chefs or aspiring to own a restaurant someday. Chef Bali shares his valuable experience after training Chefs at The Oberoi for nearly two decades.
Whether the rupee rises or falls, people aren’t going to stop eating! They may switch to cheaper options or home-cooked meals, but the food business is one that is considered somewhat immune to changes in the economy. People today are getting attracted to the food business like moth to flame, some believe it is a creative job, others think food industry is always in business and some are just drawn into it being the natural requirement of humankind. What’s there to understand in something that comes so naturally? After all anyone with a heart to cook and feed people can be in the culinary business! Tiffin aunties, bawarchis and home-cooks here’s a key to the attitude you need to become a great Indian Chef.
Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD) has given us some of the finest Indian Chefs around the world. Celebrity Chefs like Chef Vineet Bhatia and Chef Atul Kochhar, who trained as Chefs at OCLD have even earned the prestigious Michelin Star for their restaurants and for world-class culinary representation of Indian food. What is the key to success in the culinary business in India? We find out in an Exclusive-Interview with the Chef Parvinder Bali as he moulds the Chefs of the future. Also learn about 5 Star Restaurant-kitchen techniques and a recipe from a Luxury Hotel kitchen.
Chef Parvinder Bali is a Hospitality Educator and a Culinary Programme Manager with OCLD. He is a Certified Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America who specializes in Bakery and Pastry. He has been practicing ‘Cheffing’ (you know what I mean!) for nearly two decades. You might spot him judging chocolate sculpting competitions around the world.
Chefs today are entrepreneurs, celebrities and even ambassadors representing the country around the world, yet even a decade ago, wanting to become a Chef was not taken seriously in our country. Cooking was for women, bawarchis and Sanjeev Kapoor, and there was little hope for Chefs in a world of doctors and engineers. My first question to you Chef Bali, what was it like, wanting to become a Chef thirty years ago?
Chef Bali: I went to do Engineering because I could not get selected for medical science. When I left engineering to become a Chef, you should have seen my mother’s reaction. She thought that no girl was going to marry me and that I will end up only washing dishes in the kitchen.
She actually felt ashamed of me (laughs).
And that is not the case with most parents anymore, the identity and the value of a Chef has changed.
Chef Bali: We have something called as STEP programme in our hotel (The Oberoi). In this programme we take students who have just completed their 10+2. Earlier there used to be a small percentage, only 20 people or so applying to be a chef but now for the past 2 years or so 90 percent of the students apply to become chefs. We even had to change our recruitment strategy to incorporate such demands.
Being a Chef comes across as a very creative and a glamorous profession, but is it as easy as it looks? Does it get mundane and frustrating like other jobs too?
Chef Bali: Well, nothing is easy in the beginning.
Initially, when you are trying to get your feet on the ground. You will have to practice a number of times to master a particular thing so that you can work effectively from your subconscious mind. So yes, it can be said that it gets mundane in the beginning but then perseverance is important, because its only after some time that you would actually get involved in strategic planning and the creative process. One has to be patient to enjoy such rewards.
What does it take to be a good Chef?
Chef Bali: Lots of passion, quality to stick and commit to the job and knowledge about the subject and ingredients. Also, one needs to be people oriented because I have seen a lot of good chefs who ended up damaging their career because they were not a ‘people’s person’. A chef should be humble and ready to share his knowledge and at the same time accept criticism in a positive manner.
Are the jobs growing at the same pace as the number of people aspiring to become chefs, or is there saturation in this sector too?
Chef Bali: In the food business, there never was such saturation and there will never be. The only problem is the way we think, we all want to work in 5 star hotels, and yes there is saturation there. Now there are opportunities to work in free stand-alone restaurants, fast food chains.
We don’t mind working in Pizza-Hut or McDonalds but take offence to working in a Sagar-Ratna or Haldiram. We believe it will not look good on the CV. Everyone is in a rat race and hence the so-called saturation.
In India we still need hospitality people in large numbers.
Is the food business in India on a rise according to you?
Chef Bali: Food business has always been on the rise. More and more people are busy with their lives, and less people cook at home, so the food business is really on a high. After a few years you will see people cooking at home only to de-stress or for family time.
Any tips for aspiring Chefs?
Chef Bali: Yes many, but first and the foremost tip is, don’t practice the speed of slicing an onion but first learn to cut the slice correctly.
Speed will build up with practice. The students must learn the right way of doing things because with practice, good habits become a part of your attitude and then they always stay with you.
How can we learn to cook restaurant like Indian food? Is there a technique from a 5 Star Hotel kitchen or a recipe that you can share with us?
Chef Bali: Well of course, home cooks can make three gravies at home, an Onion &Tomato masala, Makhani (tomato based gravy) and white gravy (nut-based). You could combine these in different proportions to create restaurant-like food.
Although, even in hotels there is a lot of demand of home-cooked food,
Corporate clients and long-stay guests cannot eat the rich food everyday.
Here is a 5 Star Hotel Recipe that I would like to share with the readers. This recipe has an interesting technique, it is very popular around the world and is available in restaurants. Now you can learn to make it at home, and eat as many as you like!
Soft centered Chocolate Pudding/ Chocolate Lava Cake
Dark Chocolate, chopped 250gm
Butter, salted 250gm
Egg, whole 4 nos.
Egg, yolk 4 nos.
Castor Sugar 75gm
Refined Flour 75gm
Preheat the oven at 240 degree Celsius.
Grease with butter and dust the pudding moulds with flour.
Take chocolate in a glass bowl and place it over another pan with hot water so that it fits. Then whisk the chocolate and melt it slowly. Now add in softened butter and whisk the mixture.
Add in the eggs, egg yolks, refined flour and sugar. Whisk all the ingredients together and mix them well.
Pour this mixture into the prepared pudding moulds and bake at 240 degree Celsius for 8 minutes only.
Demould the pudding by lightly loosening it from the rim and serve it with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate noodles.
How to Make Chocolate Noodles?
Melt 200gm compound chocolate and fill into a butter paper, piping cone.
Cut open the tip of the cone, and by holding the cone at a height of 10 inches, squeeze out the melted chocolate into a glass containing ice-cold water. The thin strands will immediately chill to form lace like noodles.
Strain it from the water and elegantly top your vanilla ice cream with these to give it that Five Star dessert look!