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.

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