Chef Kunal Arolkar, Managing Director of Foodybreaks
Chef Kunal’s trajectory of life, from his college till present day is a very interesting journey of over 16 years. He began this journey at Le Royal Meridien Bombay upon completing his graduation from IHM Calcutta. After 2 constructive years there, he moved to the Maldives to work at the scenic Anantara Resorts & Spa and The Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa over a span of 2 years, even earning his promotion to Chef de Partie, Pastry there.
With a desire to pursue a cruise career, he joined a Luxury Yacht line, called Yachts of Seabourn where he worked a single contract and later got selected to work with Chef Vineet Bhatia. During his 2 and a half years with Chef Bhatia in Europe, he travelled to London, Geneva and parts of France and gained his European experience. Chef Bhatia was very instrumental in guiding his life in the pastry industry and by exposing him to the immense art in pastry, baking & how to adapt Indian Cuisine to a truly global standard.
Having spent close to two and a half years in Europe, Chef Kunal then saw an opportunity knock with The Residence (Cenizor) Group in Mauritius, but ended up taking up the challenging task of a pre-opening assignment at The Residence in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Since 2012, Chef has been working on Bakery Setup & Kitchen Design & Build Projects across West India. Having a deep desire to continue baking, he opened his own Bakery Academy in 2014 in Goa, to train Goans on the proper techniques of baking. The Academy was later rechristened as FB Academy, which is Goa’s Only City&Guilds UK Approved Pastryschool and then in 2018, he launched his Bakery Supply Kitchen called FB Café Goa, which currently caters Cakes, Savouries, European Breads & Desserts to Resorts, Restaurants & Caterers across Goa.
Chef Kunal always knew that he going to be a chef. His mother played an instrumental role in developing his interest in the profession by spending Rs. 15,000/- to enrol him in a one month Baking Certificate Program during his Class 10th vacation. Back in 1997- 1998, it was a big amount to spend on a hobby-developing course. When he completed the course he realised that he was actually good at it. His father had a lot of friends who owned restaurants and bakeries, so he began working there at entry-level positions for short durations, to better gauge this industry. What inspired him was an inner feeling that he wanted to make confectionery. He was always fascinated by cakes, fancy desserts & breads. Even today he is fascinated by top of the line desserts and pastries and intends to bring them to Goa, slowly but steadily.
To every budding chef & aspiring hotelier, he recommends to understand first, why they want to get into this profession. Chef Kunal suggests to his readers to try out the profession before embracing it, like fitting clothes on before buying. One can try this industry by joining a short course, short training sessions, doing internships and industrial training in hotels or restaurants & cafes, or taking up summer vacation training and see if this line of work suits you.
He further suggests to get into a Specialised Education System instead of getting into a traditional educational one. SAVE YOUR YEARS!!, he says. At the end of three years, when you’ve been juggling a part-time Job, you can stand beside an average hotel management graduate and have the added benefit of 2 -3 years of part-time experience, which, in the hospitality industry, is as valuable as gold.
India today has many specialised schools providing specialised culinary training, cruise line training and patisserie training, etc. So choose wisely, move in the right direction and save time. Chef Kunal states that, “Time is the commonality for the rich & poor, its how we use time that is of paramount importance!”
When Chef Kunal and his team opened the Academy, the biggest challenge that they had to face was to have highly skilled manpower. Chef Kunal prefers someone younger because he believes that the younger generation understands the current trends and work efficiently but not according to the clock. Many of those who work at the Academy, are locals, and many were not from the trade or were not Hotel Management graduates, he built his team through training and discipline.
WHY BECOME A CHEF OR A HOTELIER?
One of the motivators to enter this profession is that this is a line that will offer you financial independence. You can start a bakery from your home. Whether you want that income or not, having your mother or sister or wife working in your very bakery will increase the GDP of not only your home, but also your local market and town subsequently. If the GDP goes up then the peoples wants and desires go up and their need to satisy these new wants, means we as sellers can easily sell a luxury product in the market.
Secondly, one gets instantaneous gratification in this profession, which means if you pay for something you will enjoy it now. In bakery, if you make a batter for a cake, you can bake it immediately and within 15 to 30 minutes one can get the result. It may be good or bad. One does not have to wait one or two or five years. Whatever effort you put you will get the result immediately, this is the one of the other motivators. That is why many doctors, lawyers, industrialists, etc use this as a secondary profession and are doing particularly well.
Thirdly, this line is such, which keeps changing every 6 months. One will never get bored. And lastly is the chance to travel abroad. There are many opportunities in the gulf for specialised and skilled bakers, chefs, chocolate artists, cake artists etc.
FEW TIPS TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE KITCHEN
According to him a common mistake that chefs normally do, in baking, is that they always run into a new kitchen without testing their equipment. It was a mistakes that he did so he makes sure to warn others about the same. So when operating in a new kitchen, or in a new environment, or with a new market, always make sure to test it out first.
Another mistake that chefs make is that they blame the ingredients rather than focussing on their application of the same. He says, “Being a Chef means, YOU are the main hero of the any dish. If you can take a boring set of ingredients and convert them into an awesome product, you are the hero. If you take take a good ingredient and convert it into an awesome product, you are still the hero. Today, the focus has shifted from the ingredient to You, the Chef, and your Products.”
Yet another mistake that chefs do is that they tend to get complacent. If a menu is doing really well, they don’t change it. The Indian Restaurants in Europe are doing crazy things with Indian food but in India there is no innovation in our own market, this is being done in the cities but will need time to percolate down to the smaller towns.
When it comes to the education system, he believes that outdated curriculum is the biggest issue across IHMs in India. The benefit of the three year course is the fact that you get a degree but what is taught is not relevant in the modern day scenario. It does not have an updated curriculum, neither does it have IOT integration nor machine integration. Teachers on a micro-level are making efforts, but a over-all revamp is the need of the hour. He happily mentioned that IHM Goa has modern technology, modern ovens, mixers, door sheeters, refrigeration etc. which many IHM still do not possess and the right equipment and tools are a major point to drive an effective Kitchen!
TECH-SAVVY & GOA-CRAZY
He keeps himself updated by following big chefs on Instagram and following popular hashtags. He also relies on magazines, such as “So Good” (Spain) and Bakery Biz, Bakery Review, Hotel Review (India) which updates one on the happenings in the market. Another source that he uses to get inspiration frequently is ‘books’, for guidance and for recipes which are tried and tested than those on the internet.
He also uses Facebook groups and updates from the chef fraternity through the WICA, GCF & AHWPI Groups that he is a member of.
FB Academy Goa, launched by Honorable MLA Shri Rohan Khaunte, is Goa’s first London Approved Pastry School, and offers their 4-Month Comprehensive Diploma in Patisserie, which covers Patisserie Principles and Entrepreneurial Baking, to the Basics, Intermediate to Advanced Pastry & Bakery Skills in a 90% Practical Training & 10% Theory Format, one needs to be 16 or 17 years of age, Passed 10th standard with Fluency in English, to enrol for this program. They also offer a 6 Week Intensive Diploma (For Experienced Bakers looking for a Qualification) in Pastry Program & Weekend Baking Classes for Hobby Learners & Organise a Summer Kids Baking Camp, every year and every second Sunday
He Wishes Everybody a Successful Career Ahead, and is available on www.foodybreaks.com
It’s very interesting to read experiences of the established chefs and their journey until this day.
I too am a chef with 26 years of rich experience ranging from Academics and Food service to being a part of pre opening hotels.