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Chef Vivek Saggar Head – Business Development & WorldSkills India, THSC

Monday, March 18, 2019, 12:53 Hrs  [IST]

A prominent figure in the Culinary trade in the country, Chef Saggar is a multi-faceted personality. An accomplished Chef who worked through the ranks of leading hotel chains like the ITC Group, Hyatt and Taj Group, Chef Saggar went on to set up his own consultancy called Food Art devoted to providing professional and technical support for commercial kitchens in 1988. Chef Saggar is a dedicated and passionate trainer and has been involved himself in the corporate training and developing and mentoring many young talents in the industry. A committed leader, Chef Saggar has been actively involved in the leadership of Indian Culinary Forum (ICF) and as its General Secretary played a pivotal role in organising various trade events, competitions, and Annual Chef Awards. As a WACS certified jury, he has been a member of the international panel of judges at various competitions across the globe including Battle of Chefs 2014, 2016 at Penang, International Beef & Noodle competition at Taipei, etc. Chef Saggar has been associated with Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council (THSC) since 2016 and has been spearheading the WorldSkills India planning and its seamless execution. Hospitality Biz spoke to Chef Saggar to understand the preparations for next years WorldSkills at Kazan.

Q You have been driving the India Skills competitions in the Tourism & Hospitality trade for THSC, the nodal agency, for the last few seasons. What has been your experience of associating with and driving the whole initiative? What were the initial challenges and how you have been able to overcome them in subsequent seasons?
It has been a fantastic journey with new challenges coming up and the initiative getting bigger with each passing year. For instance, this year under the guidance of MSDE and NSDC, India skills Competition scaled to Pan India level. Twenty-two states’ skill missions participated by organising competitions from district level and graduating to state level. The challenges were many as the skill mission had to be guided on many counts - Creating Awareness, Identifying potential competitors and mobilising them, Information Brochure, Eligibility criteria, Selection process, Judging Criteria, Registration form, Terms and conditions/ Rules, Process of elimination/Online tests, Jury identification and their orientation, Venue and infrastructure requirements, Cost aspects, etc.

I had to make elaborate presentations to each state and that meant travelling to different state skill missions. I would call it a very enriching journey.

Q Considering your experience of judging international culinary competitions, how did you try to bring in global standards into these trade competitions which sends people for the World Skills platform?
I did not have to bring any standards as WorldSkills already have them in place. The same is updated from time to time. Yes, my experience of international judging came in handy while briefing the competitor’s and jury on the nuances involved in different skills.

Q What are the new trades you added this year, and how was the overall response in terms of participation, interest, etc.? What was the estimated participation in the tourism and hospitality trade competitions at different levels and how is it growing year on year?
The new skills added this year are - a) Bakery, and, b) Hotel Reception. The participation this year exceeded everyone’s expectations. We had to go in for online tests for all skills to pick up the best and filter top competitors followed by live level-1 competitions and then for regional rounds in Jaipur, Lucknow, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneshwar. Finally, India Skills – National Competition was held at New Delhi Aerocity, from October 2 to October 5, 2018.

Q What are the preparations and training for WorldSkills Kazan 2019 that THSC will be undertaking now? What kind of support that larger hotel industry extend to such training, etc.?
The preparations are in full swing with each test project (rulebook) being broken in submodule and training the finalists on the intricacies involved. For the three Kitchen Skills, highly experienced chefs from our industry have been requested to train on various modules. Same goes for Restaurant and Hotel Reception.

Over and above this, we are lining up overseas training and participation in international competitions for our competitors to give them international exposure.

Q While the number of hospitality management and culinary trade institutes has been mushrooming across the country, how do you see it reflecting in quality and training and education during your engagement with them as you are also responsible for THSC’s New Training Partner Affiliation?
THSC affiliates training partners as per the Qualification Packs aligned with National Skills Qualification Framework which is based on the inputs taken by the industry – job role wise.

THSC has put in place an affiliation protocol which have to be complied without exceptions. There are 8 important Quality Checks maintained, i.e. Entity, Promoters, Financials, Space, Infrastructures, Trainer, Mobilizing Strategy,and Past Experience. To ensure quality THSC regularly monitors the Training Partners by conducting random inspections and speaking to the students.

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