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She COOKS to conquer?

Though women wield the ladle in the kitchens at home, there are very few lady chefs heading them in the hotels. JESSINA ABOOBACKER finds out what's cooking behind a low turnout of lady chefs.


THOUGH LADIES wield the ladle in the kitchens at home, there are not many women chefs heading hotel kitchens. Though lots of

girls enrol for this course but what happens once they graduate.

Switchover

" In the 1981-84 batch when I was graduating from Chennai, the number of women students was pretty impressive. Presently, very few of them from that batch are in this vocation. A good number of them have switched profession. Those who decided to stay put in the hospitality line of work have a preference for front office or other desk jobs at the hotel." says Soman, Executive Chef, Hotel Le' Meridien.

Woman's job

From a very young age girls are seen to assist the women in the house with rolling out chapattis, cutting vegetables, washing dishes, laying the table etc. This art of food preparation comes easily to them. Some of us believe that men make superior chefs as women are anyway doing this at home, so they might not be professional in it. Thus we tend to think there is nothing skilled about it. But all the professionals say that it has more than just cleaning vessels and cutting vegetables. "Ladies are superintendents of the kitchen and they do not need to master this profession, they already have a panache for it. No doors in the hotel industry are closed to women. It also depends on the stance of the ladies as to how they want to be received in the kitchen," says Premanath, General Manager, Casino Hotel. "Several women has been a part of our hotel and they have been well accepted. ".

Late hours

In a hotel industry it is irrelevant where you are posted, all the jobs bear a glamorous tag. And the pay parcel undeniably is very appealing . So it is believed that marriage is the core culprit.

The working hours are not generally in acceptance with a family life. They have to work anything between 12- 18 hours a shift. So the long working hours are a hindrance to a good family life. Not many parents like their unmarried daughters working late into the night. Once married such unpredictable timings means the family suffers. "Not many in the family were happy about me joining this profession. They feared I would not get a right match and that my choosing a spouse will be limited to the same profession. I am up for new things and like to test waters," opines Kavitha Roy boldly, a student at a catering college in Bangalore.

"I always welcome lady chefs because they are so natural and adroit in the kitchen. They are so resourceful and creative in this art. Most of our women like to call it a day once they enter into matrimony. Just like we have lady I.P.S officers heading an entire police force with utmost discipline so can the chef lead the kitchen with dexterity One just needs to espouse the right attitude towards the subordinates," states Chef Rasheed of Hotel Taj Residency. "They just need to be instilled some confidence to carry on the profession even after the wedlock. Chefs are on a higher professional status so when the ladies are considering marriage they have to get a suitable match. Most of them are of the opinion that a chef spouse can definitely understand the erratic demands of the job."

Chef Soma's special

"You cook for your family, as a wife, as a mother, as a sister, you cook for every relation and every occasion. So why not take it as a profession. This has been my childhood yearning to do professional cooking. There were objections from my family. But then I found my husband in this same profession for which also there was an objection. Now I have managed out of both the objections and am settled professionally as well as personally," says Soma Rijo, Sous Chef, Spice Village, Thekkady.

Adjustment problems

Some of them have adjustment problems in this male dominated locale of the kitchen. Some juniors may not take to these women well. There again arises adjustment malady. Moreover, you should be able to handle the comments from the customers as well. Hotel industry is one place where you will have to put up with the wrath of customers if job not done well. Because the product here in question is FOOD. Some customers would go wild if the food does not satisfy their appetite. It calls for diplomatic and courageous dealing," says Chef Soman.

Since this job requires unearthly timings there is hardly any room for personal time and recreation. But then again hospitality Industry is all about leisure and entertainment. You have enough and more entertaining within the job itself, why go out? Some of the customers comment on the ladies toiling in the kitchen.


"Once we had a couple of guests at Spice Village from Gujarat. One of the ladies with them told me that as a girl I should not be working late nights and that too in a hotel, as this does not speak of `Khandani' girls. But Kerala I feel is more liberal and accepts women in all professions. I have never had any problem with the Keralites." Says chef Soma who is a native of West Bengal and married to a Kerala Chef.

Women are welcome

There is nothing good or bad for women in a profession. It's all unisex.

Mr. Premnath says, "When food served at home turns out luscious it is the lady of the house who revels in this appreciation. A hotel is mainly known by the taste and quality of the food they cater to. So why don't more women come forward to receive this reward from the customers and public at large."

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