‘We need to really upgrade our Hospitality education’ : Chef Vivek Saggar, General Secretary, Indian Culinary Forum

According to Chef Vivek Saggar, General Secretary, Indian Culinary Forum the major challenge that the industry is facing of talent, as hospitality is not the most preferred career choice nowadays. In a recent conversation with Asmita Mukherjee, Saggar pressed upon the fact that hospitality education needs to be revamped and upgraded.

According to you, what was the need behind the Indian Culinary forum and the awards associated with it?

The Indian Culinary Forum (ICF) is the peak industry body representing Indian professional chefs, cooks, apprentices & culinary students. At Indian Culinary Forum, we strengthen the cooperation among chefs and all culinary professionals. ICF enables in enhancing and developing the skills of culinary trade. Our aim is to improve culinary skills of all the chefs and bring them together to share their knowledge with each other. We provide a networking platform by organizing industry events.

Everybody needs motivation in life to succeed and recognition for the excellent work done by them. The Chefs’ Awards were organized for the sole purpose of encouraging young and talented chefs to come forward and showcase their culinary skills and be recognised for creating and innovating new dishes.

And how the event has managed to fulfill it?

It was a successful event and was attended by the veterans of the Hospitality industry. With each passing year there has been an increase in the number of participating chefs and we have been able to reach a wider audience.  We have been successful in building a global image and recognition. Every year the ICF Awards are getting bigger and grander and our Indian culinary cuisines are now being globally recognised. We have raised the Indian Culinary Skills at par with International Standards. Each and every chef innovates and creates delicious dishes. This year as well we have received an overwhelming response. And each and every participating chef has surprised us with their extraordinary culinary skills.

What challenges in the culinary profession do you foresee in the next decade?

The major challenge that we are facing is of talent as hospitality is not the most preferred career choice. We need to really upgrade our Hospitality education by establishing new and modern labs, offering lucrative packages to new chefs. Chefs are the backbone of the hospitality industry. Without good food this industry cannot survive, but we need to do more for our chefs so that more and more students aspire to become chefs.

Another challenge that we will see in the coming decade is how to reduce cost of operations. We need to cater to global audience but the cost of importing food ingredients is way too high. We need to look for alternative food ingredients that are locally produced, which will give much better taste due to their freshness as compared to imported ingredients which are not fresh. We also need to upgrade our culinary skills and be ready to witness major changes that will be witnessed in the culinary sector. We have to be ready to sustain ourselves by constantly improving our skills.

As an industry stalwart, how would you train people to manage the quality and authenticity of the cooked food?

We need to give training on various aspects of food quality checks. And it is not only the sole responsibility of the chefs who cook the food but of the entire team. The quality check starts from the procurement of the ingredients, their quality and freshness, nutritional value, etc. Proper training has to be imparted on these to document the ingredients with date of purchase along with expiry date, storage requirement, description and composition. The foods are required to be stored at certain temperatures that have to be kept in mind, because food items get spoilt very easily. All the chefs should follow the standard recipe of cooking as it allows a restaurant to create that perfect dish with the right flavours every time it is being cooked.

One has to set up proper food quality standards in the restaurants as this ensures food safety and no guest will ever send the food back. The kitchen should be highly cleaned and sanitized, even the glasses, dinnerware, cutlery should be thoroughly cleaned and germ free. Visual presentations also have to be checked before sending the dish out.

We need to follow strict guidelines to maintain good quality food.

How will events such as ICF helps the budding chefs of the future?

ICF provides a platform to budding chefs to come forward show their culinary skills. It helps them to hone their skills and learn from the industry veterans. The event will encourage young people to join the industry. We also tie-up with government organizations like the tourism department of India as a skill partner to promote and contribute to the Government’s skill India Mission by providing the right platform.

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