Francis Gomes, Executive Chef with Casino Pride Group of Casinos & Hotels
Chef Gomes comes from a family of chefs. His grandfather, father, and all his uncles were chefs. He graduated from Bombay University, but never had the intention of becoming a chef, he ended up joining the industry by fluke. Since everybody in the family was a chef, his father wanted him to go into some other field. He initially started as a trainee by joining the flight catering operation. He worked in the kitchen for a month, attended various inductions, post which he gradually developed a passion for the kitchen. He joined as an apprentice with them in 1986 in-flight kitchen and worked there for 6 years.
Since then he started to train himself by reading everything related to his field and put in efforts to understand more and more cuisines. He says that he gained a lot of knowledge by just doing that. During the night shifts, he would experiment with many recipes that he read. Later on, he moved to the gulf for about 6 years. He was employed in Kuwait for some time, then Dubai, and then Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian Airlines in Jeddah is one of the busiest kitchens in the world.
Chef Gomes shares “I have had no formal education as chef nor do I hold any kind of diploma, but I have had a lot of exposure. My house was my college. And that’s where I learned a lot of things. I come from a continental cuisine background but over these years I have become a multi-cuisine chef. Now, I know various cuisines from different parts of the world. I specialise in menu planning, devising specific menus for places.”
To please everyone is a huge task, the job is quite challenging in itself as in this field we cater to different types of people from India. Chef Gomes is in charge of designing menus for weekends and fest days. According to him, the place he works at is very different from any place because of the clientele they have in that place and also because of the busyness of it all. Gomes enjoys himself out there, but there was a time when he was frustrated and wanted to give up. But when he came back from Dubai to Mumbai to join his old company, nobody there knew how to operate a computer; which gave him an upper hand. He was a junior chef back then, somewhere in 1995 – 1996. Knowing computers also helped him out at that time. After that, he went on to do his MBA in 2007 to attain a formal qualification. There has never been any looking back since then.
The passion that keeps him going in this field is mentoring others. He tries to mentor the young enthusiasts entering this field whenever he can. Gomes is a highly professional man who believes that the youngsters should gear up and should make good use of their youth because this is the time when they have a lot of ideas, stamina, and the power to withstand these long working hours. Years down the lines, that won’t be the case and it will just be clerical work. “I desired to always keep the family tradition alive and keep the good food, the authentic food alive. A lot of things get mixed up when you talk about fusion food and I am not fond of it. It looks good on the plate, but you can’t eat it. “
According to Gomes, the youngsters should get proper insight before joining the industry because it is not all that glamorous as it seems to be. The industry has both, front of the operations and back of the operations. But even in the back of the operations a lot of nitty-gritty is involved. A person cannot be refined always but he has to be rough and tough. Going through the grind will help a person emerge and achieve success. So, they have to be ready to go through it at least for a year before it gets better. The biggest mistake they make is that the upcoming chefs give more priority to their personal life than professional life. When youngsters join, they start bunking, Gomes suggests that they should not bunk or come late or go early. They should try to be as punctual as they can.
The crux of the matter is that a person can watch a lot of cooking shows or read new recipes but unless you make a dish, you don’t understand it. They have to be ready to withstand all the heat in the kitchen, the noise, the shouting, and the pressure. The kitchen is almost like a marketplace. They have to ready to endure all of this and work shifts for 24 hours, they have to be ready to experience all of this. Most of them usually come in and their first question is how many hours do they have to work? What are their duty timings? That should not be the case.
“The first thing my father told me when I was about to join the industry was that you will be soon joining the industry, which I don’t want you to, because you are not made for the industry. But since I was joining, he told me you should never say no, and if you are saying no, you should be 100% confident that it cannot be done. Always say yes and get the work done. And that is the same thing I expect from the youngsters. To be extremely strong when they join the industry. Because even after 20 years they become a chef but they don’t know the proper ways of cooking, they will not be able to lead a team. So, they have to be ready for a rough time.”
The biggest challenges as being a chef, including working 24 hours or taking odd shifts, being available on call always which means they cannot plan outings or vacations, a person has to sacrifice a lot of social activities and that means keeping their family in the backseat. But Gomes is lucky that his family is very supportive, they understand his job. The biggest challenge as a chef also means tackling the situation when you run out of food and there is a big crowd. For that to not happen, you should be very methodical with your planning.
Gomes shares that listening to good music while having your food makes it even more likable. It gives the customer a feeling of being home. Gomes shares, “Whenever I am home, I put on the radio and listen to music. Music helps to make the food tastier. You cannot make good food in an angry mood. You have to make it in a good mood. My mother’s food or father’s food was always made with love and passion. So, the same goes for us. When we cook, love and passion should be there for us. So, music helps you be stable and make good food. So, you should listen to good music and make good food.”
Gomes personally would love for more people to join IHM as they understand the basics like the theory of food or hygiene principles. It is very important. Now, things are becoming stricter with FSSI and all that. The use of gloves and hygiene principles. Gomes has worked for an airline catering for almost 15 years so he is well aware of the hygiene standards and he tries to educate his staff about that as well. At least once a week, Gomes tries to conduct formal pieces of training about the standards; at what temperature is the food cooked, or what temperature it has to be stored. That helps to eliminate the possibility of food poisoning. Gomes’ top priorities are that the guests should get the food on time and have good quality. Not only the taste but rather the actual quality of the food that the food should not be stale and it should always be fresh.
Gomes sees himself as a teacher and a guide in 5 years. According to Gomes, the people who come to a restaurant are very sensitive, they sometimes get upset when the food is not right but they can’t pinpoint what is not right. Sometimes it hurts that even after 32 years, people tell them that the food is not good. Of course, some people are never happy. And that is what he wants to teach to the budding chefs as well, that you can’t make everybody 100% happy. You make food with a good mind and you will be a good chef.
Gomes feels successful when he sees the youngsters, he mentored achieving success and getting better opportunities, he feels successful.