In 1992, Madhu Sapre represented India for the Miss Universe pageant. There were a bevy of beauties at the competition; each one of them fighting for the honour and prestige of their own country. Round after round was played in that faraway land with scores of ladies being eliminated as the better qualified ascended tier after tier, inching towards the coveted crown.
Miss Sapre seemed to be the crowd favourite and many bookies had tipped her to take home the ultimate grand prize. She elegantly managed to sashay ahead of her competition and land herself in the midst of the final round.
It was the round where they ask all the ladies in the final just one question. It is the same question for each of the finalists. This was the make or break question. The right answer was going to propel Miss Sapre to instant fame and celebrity status.
It was finally her turn. A hundred million pairs of eyes were glued to several million television screens across India. The question was posed ‘What was the first thing that Madhu Sapre would do if she became the leader
And in all her eloquence, Madhu Sapre said that her first act as the leader of our country would be to create a massive sports complex because she felt that her country lacked any kind of presence in sports.
And just as she finished speaking from her heart, a hundred million voices let out an anguished “Nooooooooo!” Her answer although factually correct and highly relevant wasn’t what the jury wanted to hear. They were expecting their future Miss Universe to emerge as this beautiful doyenne who would be more inclined towards spouting superficial posturing about world peace and disarmament.
Madhu Sapre lost out for what was termed to be the wrong answer!
In my years of kitchen, I have probably come across many instances of what one could casually term to be the ‘wrong answer’. My favourite is always the one when I ask any new candidate why they want to join the kitchen. And the answer is almost always going to be a very simple “because I love cooking!”
Most of them are then put off by my explanations that follow. I tell them about the pressure of the kitchens, the highly irate and demanding guests that we cater to, the long hours at work and the far shorter hours of sleep. They hear about the dulling of our creativity when guests don’t want to experiment with what we put out on the menu and insist on eating what they have repeatedly consumed over the years.
And then these young students do not want to be part of the culinary world anymore. I see the flames of passion being extinguished in their eyes as they stand before me.
And I have often wondered why a culinarian can’t have the best of both worlds. Why can’t we cook the food that we love and yet get the accolades that we deserve? Why do we have to pay exorbitant rents and yet not reach everyone that we want to? Why can’t we have weekends off? Or festivals with family?
And it is only then that you realise that change is the only constant and you are expected to move with the times.
You could choose to be a home-based chef and indulge in your passion. Or an individual could cater to private parties and exclusive gatherings of the glitterati.
A person may choose to blog on food and create artistic cookbooks with food photographs that evoke responses from the salivary glands. Someone may choose to shoot professionally edited videos that goes viral on YouTube.
There are vacancies for food entrepreneurs and artisanal condiment manufacturers. The world needs more food hunters that seek out specialty products from the farthest reaches of the globe. The market for foodie tour guides has grown rather exponentially. Each career option now offering the process owner to choose their pace, their vacation times and their remunerations. This is besides the fact that the person can still be involved with the industry and craft that they love so much.
There are so many doors that are being opened, that we really aren’t bothered anymore about those that are being shut. We may finally be moving into a world where there are truly no wrong questions!