Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How women should groom themselves to enter the professional kitchen by Ms. Arti Sultania

How women should groom themselves to enter the professional kitchen:

Women are, by nature, homemakers. They are the ones who take care of the family, who cook and clean and maintain the home.

This being said, it is surprising that few women choose to make a career in food production. Though many women work in hotels, they are usually in housekeeping, front office, or in administration. Few women chefs have ventured out to start a career in the professional kitchen. This domain was, and is, a male dominated one, and the best chefs today are men. This could be, perhaps, due to the high physical strain required, the long and odd working hours, and the often extreme working conditions.

Many women can have a difficult time balancing the workplace and the home. A straightforward solution for the eccentric timings in the hotel industry is for women to adopt fields where they can work in straight shifts, i.e. from 9 to 5, such as pastry, garde manger etc.

Women are getting ready to accept way of life as a professional chef, such as the strict uniform code, the high standards of personal hygiene required, the restrictions on wearing any jewellery, make up, perfumes etc, while also accepting the ‘shift’ type jobs and the hard working conditions.

Although this is a male dominated industry, the same strict set of rules and high discipline standards in the workplace are in practice to ensure that women need have no fear of harassment or partiality. This is truly a field where the quality of your work alone determines your success as a chef.

When women can go to space or become fighter pilots, why can’t they step into the professional kitchens? After all, cooking is something we have been doing since the beginning of civilization. Women should take pride in their culinary skills, handed down through the generations. Most men chefs acknowledge that their mother, sister or wife, are better chefs than them. Such a statement surely proves that women are born chefs, while men are made chefs.

Chefs, today, are not restricted merely to hotels. Although, at one time, chefs were viewed only through the window of a 5 star hotel, the variety of food operation options available today has expanded the horizon for many women chefs. We can become food critics, host a tv show, write a book, become small scale entrepreneurs, become food photographers etc. A host of options are available today to women who don’t want to walk the beaten path. Apart from all this, as a homemaker, a woman chef can put out gourmet meals for her family members and guests.

I am happy to see famous women chefs like Chef Manisha Bhasin, Chef Nita Nagraj, Julia Child, Nigella Lawson to name but a few. They have achieved a great deal of success in this field and are famous names in India and abroad. These chefs are an inspiration today to women who want to enter this field. I hope that the day is not far away, when we shall see an equal number of women and men chefs in the professional kitchen.

Today, after completing almost half of my course, I can see the difference that professional training makes to my skills and capabilities as a chef. I sincerely believe that if you want to make a career for yourself, as a chef, professional training is needed to help you get the knowledge, the discipline and the ability required in this exacting field.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

SPICES A NEW avatar by Chef Shivaramakrishnan

Updating oneself on different forms of spices in modern uses

Spices are the building blocks of flavor in food applications. Food developers who wish to use these building blocks effectively to create successful products must understand spices completely The word "spice came from the Latin word "species” meaning specific kind. The name reflects the fact that all plant pans have been cultivated for their aromatic fragrant, pungent, or any other desirable properties including the seed (e.g., aniseed, caraway, and coriander), leaf (cilantro. Kari. bay. and mint), berry (allspice, juniper, and black pepper), bark (cinnamon), kernel (nutmeg), aril (mace), stem (chives), stalk (lemongrass), rhizome (ginger, turmeric, and galangal). root (lavage and horseradish), flower (saffron), bulb (garlic and onion), fruit (star anise, cardamom, and chile pepper), and flower bud (clove).

This article describes the different forms in which Indian spices are available for the chefs.

  • Whole Spices
  • Powdered Spices and Sterilized Spices

Powdered and Sterilized spices are in par with the norms of EC directives for microbial load, aflatoxins and pesticide residues and are pulverized to the desired texture.
Spice Oils, Oleoresins and Resinoids.
Spice oils are the volatile components present in most spices and provide the characteristic aroma of the spices. Spice oil is normally extracted by steam distillation. Spice oils have the major advantages such as standardization, consistency and hygiene. Spice oils are mostly used in food, cosmetics, perfumes and personal hygiene products like toothpastes, mouthwashes and aerosols, besides in a variety of pharmaceutical formulation.
Spice oleoresins represent the complete flavour profile of the spice. It contains the volatile as well as non volatile constituents of spices. Oleoresins can be defined as the true essence of the spices and can replace whole/ground spices without impairing any flavour and aroma characteristic. Oleoresins are obtained from spices by extraction with a non-aqueous solvent followed by removal of the solvent by evaporation. Spice oleoresins guarantee superior quality of flavour and aroma. They are complete and balanced, consistent and standardized. They ensure storage stability in the final product and are free from contamination. Custom made blends are also offered to suit the specific requirement of the buyer. Spice oleoresins are mainly used in processed meat, fish and vegetables, soups, sauces, chutneys and dressings, cheeses and other dairy products, baked foods, confectionery, snacks and beverages. India enjoys the distinction of being the single largest supplier of spice oleoresins to the world.
Resinoids from Indian olibanum, which has gained acceptance as an excellent fixative in perfumery.
Olibanum / Guggul & Myrrh are the raw materials from which oil is isolated using steam distillation to produce liquid aromatics. Resin, the other fraction, is isolated using solvent extraction. The solvent extraction process produces a viscous, almost solid substance called Resinoids. Resinoids are soluble in high-grade, absolute alcohols.

Food Seasonings
In order to make food more interesting and palatable, seasonings play a crucial role by providing the tangy heat and enticing aroma of spices & herbs. They tickle our senses.
Unlike traditional raw spice blends, our range of seasonings is derived from spice oils and oleoresins and custom-formulated for specific applications. They come in liquid, plated and dispersed versions as per customer requirements.
Some of the seasonings include:

  • Dust-on powdered seasonings
  • Liquid seasonings for slurry application
  • Liquid blends for processed foods
  • Blends for meat-products
  • Marinades
  • Curry powders

Natural Colour and Enriched Extracts
Curcumin in turmeric and Carotenoids in chillies are the natural colour components extracted for use as natural colours. The natural colours or their blends have wide applications from food sector to pharmaceuticals, dyes and cosmetics. India is a large producer of turmeric, and Indian Oleoresin Industry is one of the largest supply sources of a wide range of turmeric extracts in liquid and dry form. The range of products offered by Indian industry covers a wide spectrum of purity for the colour user, providing versatility in application.
Garcinia Indica (Kokam) and Gancinia Cambogia are two spices widely grown in the slopes and plain of evergreen forests of Western Ghats in South India. These two spices have distinct medicinal properties for curing obesity. Hydroxy citric acid is the principal component which is extracted and enriched for preparation of pharmaceutical products. Both these varieties of tamarind have wide applications in pharmaceuticals and therapeautical areas. A range of branded anti obesity drugs available around the world use Hydroxy Citric Acid since it is natural and herbal in origin.
Spray Dried Products
Spray dried antigenic products are highly valued in the quality cautious market. A wide range of spray dried products are garlic, capsicum, ginger, mustard etc. Spray drying is a technique used for dehydrating aqueous botanical extracts. Oils and oleoresins are encapsulated in starch, maltodextrin or gum so that the strength and the flavour is locked in the capsule.Encapsulation protects the active properties of the product over long storage periods. They are environmentally safe and can contain antibacterial properties. Conversion to powder form enhances convenience in application. When incorporated in food, the outer coating dissolves, releasing the full flavour.In carrier dried products, the base resin is mixed with a carrier (like salt) which is normally an ingredient used by the end product. A comprehensive range of natural extracts in carrier dried, spray dried and micro encapsulated forms to meet the demands of the world market:

  • Oils/Oleoresins
  • Black pepper
  • Fennel
  • Capsicum
  • Garlic
  • Cardamom
  • Ginger
  • Coriander
  • Mustard
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Nutmeg
  • Mace

Essential Oils
Essential oils are isolated using advanced distillation technology from spices and herbs. Modern distillation techniques employed ensure that the most valuable fractions are preserved in the distillate. These components are the odoriferous, volatile components of plant material that contribute to the characteristic aroma and flavour.
They provide a uniform flavour profile, without imparting colour to the final product and are free from enzymes and tannins and also microbiologically stable.
range of world class essential oils include:

  • Cardamom, Cumin, Lemongrass
  • Cassia, Curry leaf, Mace
  • Celery, Davana, Mustard
  • Cinnamon leaf , Fennel, Nutmeg
  • Citronella, Garlic, Olibanum
  • Clove, Ginger, Palmarosa
  • Coriander, Hing (Asafoetida)
  • Sandalwood

Processed Blends
Chemicals have placed itself as a distinguished processed blends manufacturer in the industry. Processed blends are used to improve the final flavor, texture and appearance of the food. Application oriented products are painstakingly processed blends that are commonly used to enhance the final appearance, flavour and texture of processed and convenience foods.Expertise in minutely customizing end products lead naturally into application oriented products. The ingredients and flavours are processed conveniently for direct application to the final food products themselves.
Some common uses of application oriented products are

  • Sausages & meat products
  • Snacks
  • Ketchups
  • Convenience and RTE foods
  • Beverages
  • Processed foods
  • Confectionary and bakery
Nutraceutical products
Nutraceutical can refer to foods, dietary supplements, medical foods, and functional foods that may provide prevention and treatment of illness or disease eg.

  • Fenugreek saponins
  • Green tea
  • Licorice
  • Curcumin
  • Rosemary
  • Piperine
  • Gingerols
  • Brahmi (bacopa monnieri)
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)

Nowadays, food professionals continually search for "new" and unique spice flavorings because of the growing global demand for authentic ethnic and cross-cultural cuisines. Consumers’ are also seeking natural foods and natural preservatives for healthier lifestyles and natural ways of preventing ailments. So. spices are also being sought for their medicinal value, as antioxidants, and as antimicrobials.