CAREER GUIDE Friday, June 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Earn fame in the kitchen
Sanjay Austa
NCE upon a time they were condescendingly dubbed babarchis and counted among the last in the hierarchy of professionals. Today having a chef for a friend is a status symbol. They are now minor celebrities who appear regularly on television channels and page-three supplements, where they talk about food and even their favourite holiday destinations. Glamour, publicity, a good paypacket and perks all go together with the job of a chef.

Earn fame in the kitchen
Sanjay Austa

ONCE upon a time they were condescendingly dubbed babarchis and counted among the last in the hierarchy of professionals. Today having a chef for a friend is a status symbol. They are now minor celebrities who appear regularly on television channels and page-three supplements, where they talk about food and even their favourite holiday destinations. Glamour, publicity, a good paypacket and perks all go together with the job of a chef.

No wonder, many youngsters studying in hotel management institutes now opt for this line. Veena Arora, a senior Thai consultant and Master Chef at The Imperial, New Delhi, goes as far as claiming that the job of a chef is the best in the hospitality business.

"The salary is good. Besides, one makes a name for oneself," she says.

Earlier, the chef was usually a matriculate and was someone who had gradually worked his way up. He hardly ventured out of the kitchen. However, with a career in the kitchen becoming more sought after, more and more people with a good educational background are joining in.

Gone are the days when chefs were confined to hotel kitchens. They are moving into restaurants and are expected to mingle with guests. Discussing the food and cuisine with the guests has become part of their job profile now. Says Arun Trikha, Sr Chef-de Partie at Taj Palace, New Delhi, "Now a chef is expected to be aware of a lot other things besides food. He has to be well versed with what is going on in the world. He has to meet people from different countries and cultures after all", he says.

The chef is now also a manager. He manages the kitchen, trains the staff and looks after the restaurant he caters to. When Trikha joined a hotel management institute, kitchen was not a career choice that made anyone proud. Least of all parents. Trikha says he did not tell his parents that he worked in the kitchen until he was confirmed by the hotel. "Now parents are more aware. They also see that we get a handsome salary so they donít complain at all", he says.

Earlier, some chefs were embarrassed to wear their chef caps beyond the kitchen threshold. "I never take off my chefs uniform, including my cap, when I go out. Yes, people point at you in a marketplace, but it is out of awe, not contempt", says Trikha.

There are a host of hotel management institutes in India where one can learn to work in a hotel kitchen. Leading them all is the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Pusa Complex, New Delhi. This institute regulates academics for hospitality management through structured courses that are imparted at the 24 institutes of hotel management and eight food and craft institutes located in different parts of the country. The eligibility requirement is that the candidate should have passed his or her class XII board examinations and should be less than 22 years of age. Other main institutes include the Welcomegroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal, The Maulana Azad Educational Trustís Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad, the Institute of Advanced Management, Kolkata, the Oriental School of Hotel Management, Calicut, and the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development, New Delhi. Besides government and private institutes, almost all five-star hotels have apprentice programmes for anyone interested to work in the kitchen.

The job of a chef may be a top-notch one in the hotel industry, but it takes years of hard toil in the kitchen before one can command that post. It is always a good idea to join a diploma course in one of the management institutes that have a specialised course in culinary.

Besides the glamour and fame that now come with the job, chefs must have some special qualities. First among them is a sense of hygiene. Basic cleaning knowledge and facts such as keeping raw meat separate from the cooked meat should be on ones tips.

The chefs must have knowledge of different methods of cooking. For example, what can be roasted and what fried. Creativity is another aspect that marks a good chef from an ordinary one. "We cater to a variety of people who have a variety of tastes. We cannot serve the same recipe of a dish to everyone. For example, if there are members of a family, children may want less spice in their dish while adults may want peppery food. So, we are constantly striking a balance", says Trikha.



Q Do colleges fix cut-off percentages arbitrarily? Are they kept artificially steep to uphold the "standing" of the institution?


A While that may be one of the considerations, it is by no means an arbitrary decision. The cut-off percentage for each subject is fixed by the Admission Committee of the college (comprising of the teachers in charge of the various departments, a five-member team elected by the Staff Council and a Convener) after carefully computing the number of applicants and their marks. The more popular the course, higher the cut-offs.

Let me give you an example. For instance if there are 25 seats in economics in a college, roughly double i.e. the first 50 entries will constitute the merit list. Now the 50th entry will constitute the cut-off percentage for the first list. If the 50th entry has 90% then the cut-off would be 90%. Follow?

Attached to this is the universityís stipulation that all applicants, who fall within the cut-off percentage and approach the college within the stipulated time, must be admitted. In effect, this means that any student with a score higher than the cut-off percentage announced by the college and applying within the prescribed period has to be admitted by the college irrespective of whether the college has any seats left or not.

Naturally therefore, the college plays it safe by keeping the cut-off somewhat high in the initial list. Then, depending on the gap between the demand and supply, it can always drop the percentage a couple of notches in the subsequent list.

The weightage given to subjects related to a specific course is again entirely at the discretion of the college. Colleges retain the right to grant weightage to various subjects based on their relevance to the course offered. So do check out the fine print. While some colleges put up this info on their websites, others mention it only in their prospectus (priced at Rs. 75-125/).

Technical courses

Q I am a student of class XII from Punjab. What are the eligibility criteria for admission to technical courses in the state?

Paramjeet Kaur

A All students who had passed the qualifying examinations either as regular candidates or even as private candidates will now be eligible for admission. The children, wards and dependants of employees of the Punjab Government and boards, corporations or statutory bodies or companies or cooperative societies set up or owned/controlled by the Punjab Government, including those under an Act of the State of Punjab or a Central Act by the Punjab Government are eligible to apply for the Punjab quota, even if the employee is posted outside the state of Punjab. Similar exemption is also available to officers of all-India services born on Punjab cadre. Punjab domicile students will also be considered for admission against the 15% all-India seats, reserved for non-Punjab students. Admission in graduate courses would be offered only on the basis of merit in the common entrance test (CET) conducted by Punjab Technical University. Similarly, admission for diploma courses would be done on the basis of the joint entrance test (JET) to be conducted by the Punjab State Board of Technical Education.


Q Are all educational boards given equal weightage? I am from the Harayana Board.

Gyan Singh

A Donít worry, all boards are treated on par with the CBSE. However, outstation students who took examinations from boards other than the CBSE must get their marksheets verified by the Resident Commissioners of their state in case their results have not been posted on the Internet. Authentication and verification is sought to check malpractice and dissuade students from using forged marksheets.


Q I am a student of class XII and want to pursue engineering after 10+2. I want to know about the job prospects for engineers in Punjab. Gurcharan Singh

A The Punjab Government has opened a number of engineering colleges and polytechnics in the past few years. But most of the trained youth from these institutions are unable to find suitable jobs in the state. According to information available form statistical abstract of Punjab, more than 40,000 trained engineering candidates are registered as unemployed youth during the past year.

This included graduate engineers, diploma engineers from polytechnics and diploma holders from it.

The job opportunities in the state had declined after the closure of thousands of units in Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh, Rajpura, Batala and other industrial towns.

But the Confederation of Indian industry (CII), Northern Region, has asked the state government to improve the quality of technical education and create job opportunities.

Officials in the Economic and Statistical wing, Punjab, agreed that at present there were about 12,000 seats in ITIs, polytechnics and engineering colleges in the state, but job opportunities were limited to a few hundreds only. Also the number of students joining ITIs had declined to 6,246 in 2001-02 from 6,958 in 2000-01.

According to the Directorate of Employment, Punjab, about 521 lakh youth were registered with the state employment exchange offices.


Q I have completed class XII (Science) and would like to do a diploma course in optometry. Kindly tell me where I could do such a course?

Ramesh Kohli

A You could look at some of the following courses:

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110029. Course: BSc (Hons) Paramedical (Ophthalmic Tech) (3-yr). Eligibility: 10+2 (PCBM +Eng, 50% agg)

Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani, 333031 (Raj). Courses: BS Optometry, BS Ophthalmic Asst. Eligibility: 10+2 PCB/M. Also Off-Campus Distance Learning & Collab Programmes (4-yr) with Sankara Netralaya, Chennai & LV Prasad Eye Instt, Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry, Hyderabad 500034, Course: Basic & Clinical Sc (Optometry) (4 yr). Elig: 10+2 (PCMB) (60%).

SNDT Womenís University, 1 Nathibai Thackersey Road, Mumbai 400020. Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Technology (2`BD-yr). Eligibility: Class XII.

Christian Medical College, Thorapudi P.O., Vellore 632002. Course: Paramedical Diploma in Optometry (2-yr). Eligibility: 10+2.

Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Postgraduate Instt of Medical Sc (MDU, Rohtak). Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Assistance. Eligibility: 10+2.

Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 202002 (UP). Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Assistance (2-yr). Eligibility: 10+2 Science (50% agg).

BRD Medical College (Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur Univ), Gorakhpur 273013. Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Assistance.

Ophthalmic Technology (3/2-yr)

Jamia Hamdard, Venu Eye Institute, Dr Patnaik Laser Eye Institute (Delhi). Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Tech (3-yr).

Gandhi Eye Hospital, Aligarh Course: Diploma in Ophthalmic Tech (2-yr).

Optician & Refractionist Course (2-yr). Eligibility: Inter (Sc).

Sitapur Eye Hospital, Sitapur (U.P).

School of Optometry, Lucknow. (Refraction & Optometry).

Computer education

Q I am a first-year civil engineering student. As computer education is a must in this IT-oriented society, please suggest some suitable courses?

Chandra Mohan Walia

A Basic familiarity with computers is all you need at this stage.

Thereís no point undertaking any specific course at this early stage because requirements will be very different 3-4 years from now when you are ready for the job market. For all you know, you may decide to go in for an MBA or some other additional professional qualification on completing your BE.

So donít be in a hurry to enrol for a computer course unless you know why and what exactly you intend to do with it.

Also, I am sure your college will incorporate the fundamentals of computing for students of all fields of engineering in the subsequent yearsí syllabus.

ó Pervin Malhotra

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to: Editor, Query Hotline, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at