‘Society has started accepting women as chefs’

By Kishori Sud

New Delhi, June 26 : Traditionally, chefs have been men. Even top-end restaurants in five-star hotels have had men as cookery experts. But things are changing. An increasing number of women have started to flaunt the chef’s hat.

Masterchef Pankaj Bhadouria says the society’s mindset has transformed over the years, leading to acceptance of women in different professions.

Bhadouria, who launched her fifth book “The Secrets in the Spice Mix: Fifty Unique Homemade Spice Mixes with Recipes” (Penguin/Ebury Press; 168 pp; Rs 399) earlier this month, has her academy in Lucknow.

“Not today… Now if you see, a lot of women can be seen as professional chefs. But, yes, earlier was a different case,” she told IANS in an interview here when asked about the lack of female chefs in the hotel management industry, particularly in India.

“This is true with every other profession. Earlier girls were not allowed to step out for a long time,” she said.

One has to understand what the hotel line is like, she said. “When the entire world is asleep, the kitchen work starts at 7 in the morning, closes at 2 in the night. Difficult timings, long hours… tough job. At that time, parents would not allow their girls. But now women are doing night shifts, air hostesses are doing night shifts… Now the horizon of our society has broadened. We have started accepting our girls in different roles, and this is one of them.”

She is also happy to see how mothers are enrolling their sons for cookery classes. “I have a lot of students where men are enrolling to learn how to cook. I have a lot of mothers bringing their sons to my academy where they say, ‘Please teach him something because he is going outside the country to study, will live on his own; so he needs to be independent enough’,” Bhadouria said.

Teaching comes naturally to her. A school teacher for 16 years, Bhadouria left her job to chase her dreams. She participated in the first season of “MasterChef India”, and won it.

It paved the way for her to host several TV shows, author five recipe books, and start her academy. She says her profession as a chef is her second life.

The 45-year-old, mother of two, says she is leading a very different life now as her hobby and passion have become her bread and butter.

“My journey has been very interesting and I would like to call it my second life. Because this is a very different life I am leading now… I am doing everything that I enjoyed doing earlier, but it was a hobby earlier and now it is my profession,” Bhadouria said.

She says she enjoys sharing her skills through her books. “I love to research, read a lot. Each one of them (books) has been a point of excitement in my life. Whenever I have approached a publisher they have always appreciated the concepts that I have shared with them. The support has always been there. I guess my hard work has been noticed,” she said.

Bhadouria’s latest book celebrates the very “essence” of Indian cooking.

“My book doesn’t just talk about these Indian spice mixes but we also have certain international spice mixes that I have covered. For example, the Thai curry mixes, Zaatar — a Middle Eastern masala or the Moroccan seasoning.

“All the spice mixes are very sensual to the local flavours of that particular place. So we have gathered all those… It’s an alchemy of spices is what I would like to call it. That is what the book is all about,” Bhadouria said.

(Kishori Sud can be contacted at kishori.s@ians.in)

/IANS

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