Trainee Kitchen

Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Choosing Hospitality for a Career

Recently, a relative’s daughter showed me images of designer cakes she’d made. She’d had no formal training – only social media tutorials that she followed. This girl had a real talent, already had a small business running and was rightly thinking of taking up culinary education to add finesse to her work. She’d looked up several hospitality institutes and also attended their counseling sessions.

“But they all promise so much and everything looks so wonderful that I’m confused. I’m actually seriously trying for this particular one who has Chef So-And-So as their brand ambassador! So I know that’s the best one”, she added excitedly. This last bit disturbed me. The chef she named (a famous TV chef) seemed to be the only reason this girl thought the institute was better than all the others she had researched.

Over the following weeks, many more people came to me: some potential students, some parents. They all had the same story. The kids had a real talent with food, wanted to be chefs, had been to several institutes, attended “counseling sessions”, been told of celebrity brand ambassadors, and were now flummoxed as to what to do.

As hospitality admission season begins, I thought this was a good time to share some insights and help ease the confusion a bit.

There are a few questions one must ask oneself before considering hospitality as a career option. But even before that, it is imperative to understand the difference between the two main hospitality courses available today.

Hospitality Vs. Culinary Arts:  Currently, there are two courses available in India –

  1. Hotel Management/B. Sc. or BA in Hospitality Administration
  2. BSc. or BA in Culinary Arts

Don’t be confused. Hospitality is about Food Production (Cookery), Food & Beverage Service, Housekeeping and Front Office and learning to serve in and manage all these areas plus more. Culinary Arts on the other hand, is only focused on food. Research the pros and cons of both before settling on either. One you have, ask yourself the following questions. Think them over carefully before answering.

–       Do I want to be a chef or do my parents want me to be one? There are innumerable instances of parents pushing their child into this field because it looks glamorous or seems to pay well. Very often, unfortunately, this leads to strained relationships with the child telling the parents, ”I wanted to do something else, you sacrificed my dreams”. Hospitality is physically and mentally demanding and can get frustrating at times. You really don’t want to (or want to see your child) end up feeling disillusioned very soon and quitting the course midway.

–       Are we willing to put in the required hours and days? Hospitality creates memorable holidays for the world. This means, through the 3 or 4 years of college (and thereafter), one may not be home for birthdays, holidays or festivals. Also, the number of hours cannot be predicted. The only thing one knows is reporting time. What time you will be let off is a question no one an answer – not even the boss. Will you do it? Think about it.

–       Do I (does my child) have the physical stamina required? I once met a juvenile diabetic boy who wanted to join the course. I explained the scenario to him and he was confident he would manage. A few years down the line, the boy’s health had taken a serious downturn and was forced to change his career. Hospitality is about literally being on your feet 12, 15, sometimes 18 hours a day. And yes, you are expected to turn up every day.

–       Are we financially ready? It’s easy to say a quick yes, but hospitality courses are expensive and come with additional expenses and investments that go beyond basic fees. Also, fee structures sometimes change every year. I’ve known people who take loans for one year’s fees but the student has to either drop out or take a break in studies in the following year, leading to frustration or disillusionment. Also, do not make the mistake of assuming that the more expensive the course, the better it is. Please consider this seriously before taking the leap.

–       Am I (is my child) a good communicator? Like all service-based industries, a person’s success in hospitality depends on how well and clearly they communicate. And by communication, I don’t mean communicating only in English – though that is a major factor. However, if this is a weak area, the good news is, there is still time to work on it. Use the vacation to attend a course to brush up your English or work on your communication skills. Work on your mother tongue. The more languages you know, the better – regardless of whether you work in a kitchen, restaurant or in housekeeping.

–       Am I choosing Hospitality because I hate to study theory (or my child has learning disabilities) and the course is based more on practical knowledge? I knew someone who wanted their daughter to join hospitality because “she isn’t good at studies but can help in the kitchen”. If you think hospitality or culinary arts do not require research, reading or studying, think again! Contrary to popular belief, it requires a quick wit, problem-solving capacity and out-of-the-box thinking.

–       Most importantly, am I choosing this field because I want to be make a successful career or because I want to be a celebrityIn this age of social media, YouTube stars and TV chefs who seem to lead luxurious lives, hospitality seems like a shortcut to fame. Trust me, it isn’t. What none of these people talk about, are the innumerable hours, hungry days, nasty bosses, and constant scrutiny and judgment they face. There is a fine line between being a celebrity and being celebrated. Which one do you want?

If you, as a student or parent, are able to answer the above questions honestly and have a clear vision of your future without any sense of overwhelm, hospitality may prove to be just the field for you and can offer you a promising future. In the next article I discuss the way ahead.

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