Culinary education during the pandemic

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Parixit Pai Fondekar

The world revolves around fundamental resources, and one of these is food. There will never be a time when service providers in the food business are not needed. So, what do you need to be different from the thousands of chefs out there? You need to set yourself apart, particularly if you have dreams of rising up in the hospitality industry or becoming a culinary entrepreneur.

Here’s where culinary management becomes vital. Choosing a hotel management institute in India that focuses equally on improving culinary skills and strong foundations of management will stand one in good stead through the years.

Including culinary management at the start of your career makes you perfectly poised to hit the ground running. A good course will offer attention to detail, including good verbal and written communication skills so you can be professional when dealing with staff, employers, patrons, and vendors.

The last year has adversely impacted the restaurant and hospitality industry. It is expected to be a rocky road to recovery, and prospective culinary entrepreneurs will need skills beyond the kitchen counter to ensure they can make it in a post-COVID-19 world. Currently, many in the business have no formal training in management skills such as negotiation, leadership and strategy, skills that can play a big role in quickly mutating restaurant concepts.

Proficiency in financial management will be key to surviving in a recovering industry. A good understanding of operating costs, business accounting and monitoring transactions will help keep culinary ventures above water, even profitable in post-COVID-19 times. Good hospitality management institutes in India will definitely include these skills in their curricula. Chefs with these skills are more likely to stand out to prospective employers.

Strategic thinking is another key area that progressive hospitality management institutes in India need to focus on. The sector will be looking at hiring staff who are able to look at the big picture. Thinking on your feet helps with negotiation, from everything including rent and utilities to vendor payments and ancillary services which can help avert added debit.

Many restaurants saw closures or prohibitions on on-site dining and had to quickly change tactics to delivery-only or takeaway options. Culinary education will certainly see adoption of transforming elevated, full-service menus into meal kits, family packs and even food truck service as an important inclusion in their syllabus.

In order to expand abilities, culinary schools will also focus on operations management in a way that helps students economise costs and run more efficient businesses. This will help them reach more customers in a shorter amount of time, and thereby improve profits. Cloud kitchens and ghost kitchens are buzz words amid the pandemic. Cost-efficient cloud kitchens enable more than one culinary venture to share industrial space without dine-in options. In ghost kitchens, food is sold only online or through a mobile app. These require an entirely different kind of strategy for managing operations, marketing and customer service.

An important aspect of running a hospitality venture that is often overlooked is facilities planning. Choosing to study culinary management will give you the necessary skills in planning the physical space around your restaurant, hotel or culinary venture – parking, stores, kitchen, service area, washrooms, disability access, etc. You will also learn about conceptual design, understand capital cost estimates, how to assess equipment and other facilities, and conduct market research through surveys and focus groups.

Kitchen management is another skill that culinary management is focusing on. This involves compliance with health and safety regulations, overseeing inventory, maintenance of equipment, scheduling and other organisational tasks. These skills are extremely important in restaurant and hotel chains, where a certain level of quality control and safety is expected across the board.

Chefs learn a great deal about food safety and sanitation, but a good culinary management course will impart a deeper focus on hygiene and sanitation, a rising concern among the public in today’s world fueled by the pandemic.

Offering more field experience will catch on too. Externships will allow students to get a closer glimpse into the roles and responsibilities of people higher up in the hierarchy – executive chefs, CEOs, restaurant managers, etc. It’s also possible that even as the pandemic continues, hospitality management institutes in India will convert non-lab courses such as nutrition and culinary science into virtual programmes.

Customer relationship management will be vital to attract new customers, keep old ones and continue strengthening ties. High quality training in culinary education will include brainstorming ideas on customer engagement and loyalty, and continually evolving to keep up with changing dining and safety requirements.

There are many details that go into running a culinary business given the challenges of surviving in an ever-expanding food sector. Having a strong foundation in culinary management will complement cooking skills to deliver the perfect entrepreneurial package.

Students looking to expand their education should look at hospitality management institutes which also focus on business management skills to match current demands.

(Parixit Pai Fondekar’s experience in the recruitment and skill development sector for the global cruise and hospitality industry spans across a decade and half. He is the founder of Kamaxi College of Culinary Arts, India’s first culinary business school. He also founded Kamaxi Kitchens which has cloud kitchens operational in south Goa.)