Chef Ananda Solomon: "To make a mark, be a trendsetter"
Sumita Vaid, 11 Jun 2014

Ananda Solomon,
Executive chef, Taj President Corporate Chef of Taj's upper upscale hotels

SOLOMON'S interest in food started at an early age as each member of his large joint family had to give a hand in the kitchen. And he believes in the simplicity of food. “I stay away from molecular and processed food.”

Among other things, Solomon says that young people should be prepared to enter the industry with their eyes open.

Q. So tell us chef, what ingredients go into making a good chef?
A. Well, there is a lot that goes into making of a chef and much of it comes with experience. Working as a chef is all about creativity, fun and discipline. An understanding of the nuances of food, how to buy meat and vegetables, how to cut meat and vegetables, good communication skills.

Q. Would you rather take someone fresh to work with you, or someone with professional training?
A. If you are raw then cracking the industry can be a little tough. It’s important to have some kind of prior training. In fact, I would say to those keen on a career in food production that they should check out the facilities before enrolling in colleges.

Look at the kitchen; see if the kitchens are well-equipped. Meet the faculty. Find out if the faculty have had industry experience. Because that’s how teachers can prepare students for the rigours of the industry! I would also say, find out how many practical classes are held in a week and for how long. In my view, there should be at least four practical classes in a week and each class should be of four to five hours of duration. But, of course, cooking is one part of becoming a chef.

Q. What are the other parts to a chef?
A.You have to be familiar with the commercial side of the profession, be involved in product positioning, pricing, do cost analysis, but above all be a good manager. But nothing will work without passion.

Q. So, passion is the key ingredient…
A. If you are keen on a chef’s career, then passion is what you need. It’s not a desk job where you sit all day.

Q. But it’s also a profession where you come across people who can act difficult…
A. There’s nothing called a difficult customer. Every person is a wonderful opportunity to be served and looked after. Remember you are dealing with people, not vending machines. After all, you have to create opportunities to increase footfall. You don’t become a great chef in a day. It takes perseverance and passion! Of course, for that you need nerves of steel and you should know how to cook good food. And remember, above all, you have to be a trendsetter to make a mark for yourself in this competitive field. 

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