Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi discusses his culinary pursuits with Monarose Sheila Pereira.
What are your qualifications and how do you describe your field?
I completed my Diploma in Hotel Management from IHM Bhubaneswar. I find the culinary field very exciting, challenging and innovative.
What made you decide to join this field?
Initially it is just a decision taken to join the field and my elder brother had done all the ground work, he had a vision that hospitality over the years would grow and there would be ample job opportunities. I think as I started getting accustomed to the field of hospitality it turned into passion and love. I have now started my own company called Turban Tadka Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.
What is your specialisation?
During the initial days as a Chef I specialized in Western food. However over the years as I met age old Ustads and Ayurveda specialists I started exploring Indian food in-depth. I also got trained under Begum Mumtaz Khan belonging to the Jagirdar Families of Nizams of Hyderabad. As I moved to television I acquired the knowledge of selling recipes through an omnipresent medium, found it exciting and challenging, as you don't see the person who is consuming your recipes and still you have to build a consumer base to keep the clock ticking.
What are the latest developments in your field?
Hospitality is a very challenging field and every day we come up with new challenges from all aspects be it front of the house guests or the back of the guests. The front of the house guests come up with new experiences that they must have seen across the world which helps us update technology, food and experience, while the back of the house teaches us to upgrade interpersonal relationships, knowledge transfers, training.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this field?
Well personally i think the biggest advantage is that it helps you build the entrepreneur within, apart from building relationships across fields. Well every field comes with some disadvantages and we are also part of it, you work when everyone enjoys, but that's the pleasure of being a hotelier.
Is there a lot of competition in this field?
There is immense competition, these days I think you have to climb up the ladder when you are below 35 yrs of age, as against earlier when Chefs with age and experience were more respectable and acceptable. So you got to work hard and be innovative, take advantage of technology and knowledge base available around you to grow.
What is the remuneration for various types of assignments in your field?
Over the years it has improved and I think now it is respectable and the best part is not the remuneration it is the aspect of making you an entrepreneur. The Starting salaries of a Chef at the entry level is generally around 15K and over a period of 5 years can go up to 45K to 65K. After gaining adequate experience you start your chain of restaurants which can be very rewarding.
What is the demand among students to join in?
Ever since economies have opened up the demand for hospitality professionals have increased as more and more hotels chains are opening up across the country. Chefs on television have given a new dimension and face to the hospitality industry. The much needed acceptance of hospitality professionals in the society is now acquired the celebrity status hence the demand for students joining in is increasing.
What is the future of the hospitality industry?
Hospitality has been a key driver in the growth of services sector in the country, contributes roughly about 150 billion dollars to the GDP of the country. The government is working towards easing lots of norms for enhancing growth of the hospitality sector be it hotels, restaurants, food services. The E Visa and visa on arrival has helped in generating inbound traffic. Most of the licensing norms have changed to one window systems. International hotel chains and restaurant chains are setting up shops in India as they see growth potential. All this is good news for hospitality education industry, as the requirement for trained professionals would increase. For restaurants and food services Tier II cities quiet exciting. Over all the scenario has been good and we are experiencing this when the overall economy is just about beginning to grow, it will take India to peek it's potential in about three to five years and I personally see more international formats and chains queuing up in India to open shops. It’s time to cheer up for hospitality personals.
What message do you have for young students?
Stay focused, work hard and work smart. Come with an open mind to swim in the ocean. There are hardships initially but the end result if fruitful.
The culinary field is always evolving. People want to try out new dishes and cuisines. Be ready to learn and upgrade your skills from time to time. There is always something new cropping up in the field. You cannot afford to lag behind. You have to learn and master new dishes to cater to your clients.