Sabyasachi Gorai, or Chef Saby, is director of kitchens for Ai, the Japanese restaurant, Lap the club, Olive Beach, Olive Qutab and The Moving Kitchen by Olive. Earlier an executive chef for Olive, Delhi-based Gorai received the National Tourism Award for the Best Chef of India, in the standalone restaurant category, from the President of India and the minister of tourism in 2012. Excerpts from an interview
As far as employment prospects are concerned, what’s the climate currently like for executive chefs in particular and chefs in general? What do you think the future is likely to be?
There’s a fantastic possibility. There’s no dearth of jobs for good chefs. Due to the cookery shows on TV, everybody is attaching glamour to this profession. But there’s nothing like that. How many people can do TV shows? Out of, say, 10,000 graduates, one or two will get to do that.
In what kind of a position do India’s diverse culinary cultures put Indian chefs in? Is it an absolute advantage?
Any day. Always. You should use it to your advantage. Learn your culinary basics and then learn other cuisines. To begin with, can you make a chapati?
Other than loads of hard work, what does the executive chef’s profession demand? Would you like to give any advice to aspiring executive chefs?
Go to the best college possible. Education is extremely important. Come out with flying colours in your practical as well as your theory exams in college.
You must have great management skills and knowledge of wines and spirits, cooking skills not just in Indian cuisines but also international ones (the basic is chapati — can you make one?) and a very good project report that you need to do in college. When you go for your internship, aim at building a very very good track record. And go to a large luxury hotel (for internship). Better the company, the better your chances in campus placements. Attitude is important. Passion is the (stress on the) priority. The work is 99% hard work and 1% luck.
Perfect your culinary basics and move on to elaborate cuisines Sabyasachi Gorai, National Tourism Award winner for Best Chef of India in 2012
What’s it about
An executive chef heads kitchen staff and cooking and related activities in a catering outlet, restaurant/s in a hotel or in a chain. S/he is mostly involved in management (read: paperwork) work, including business development, financial planning, tracking and keeping abreast of industry developments and trends, as well as designing menus.
The executive chef’s direct assistant and second-in-command is called a sous chef (under-chef). The sous chef is responsible for day-to-day kitchen operations, allocation of duties to all chefs, liaisoning with other departments, procurement, designing menus and interacting with guests, etc.
The typical day of a Sous Chef
9-10am: Arrive at work, check timetable for the day, issue orders
11am: Hold a meeting with all chefs. Take a round of the kitchen and check the important catering events lined up for the day
Noon-3pm: Supervise lunchtime kitchen operations
4-6pm: Take stock of inventory and place orders for the next day’s requirements
6-7pm: Take another round of the kitchen
7pm onwards: Supervise kitchen operations for dinner and leave only once dinner is wrapped up.
An executive chef earns around Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 3 lakh a month. A kitchen management trainee makes about Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 a month. A sous chef in a leading hotel can draw Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 70,000 a month
How to get there
There are three routes to becoming a chef and ultimately an executive chef.
* The best hospitality management graduates, who pass their bachelor’s exams with flying colours, are lapped up by big hotels for kitchen management trainee (KMT) programmes, which last for a minimum of two years. After this KMT programme, you become a chef de partie,then junior sous chef, sous chef, executive sous chef and executive chef.
* The second route is kitchen operations training or KOT (also called kitchen executive training), usually one year long. After KOT, you become a demi chef (means: half-chef), then chef de partie, senior chef de partie, junior sous chef and further on.
* The other way is to start as a commis, or cook after which you become a demi chef de partie and so on as in the second category above. Else, without a hospitality degree (that is, after Class 12), you could begin as an apprentice, move up as commis and so on.
Institutes and URLs
* National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology, New Delhi
* Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition (Dadar Catering College), Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi
Pros and cons
* You can earn good money and fame too
* You can build an international career, travelling the world
* Physically demanding; it’s very hot in the kitchen - the high temperature can dehydrate you
* High pressure job