THE SECRET TO ACING THE CULINARY ARTS
A member of the World Gourmet Society, Chef Unity (Master Chef), American Culinary, and Infront Hospitality Management, Chef Daniel C Gomez has indeed taken the culinary world of Bangladesh by storm. Currently a judge of Rupchanda-The Daily Star Super Chef, Chef Daniel has worked in places all over the world, including U.A.E, Bahrain, and India. In an exclusive interview, Next Step caught up with him to learn more about the world of culinary arts.
What inspired you to become a chef?
Well my grandfather and father were both chefs. Culinary arts are in my blood. Even my younger brother is one! I guess you could call it somewhat of a family business.
Why would someone want to be a chef?
Most people pursue this career out of a passion for the culinary arts and a love of food in general. Other than that, there are plenty of perks to the profession. You get to travel to different hotels all over the world and try out various cuisines. You are constantly learning and experimenting with different kinds of foods. So, there is plenty of scope to be creative. Altogether, I would say that being a chef is more of a journey and less of a profession.
How long are the working hours?
Initially, the hours are quite long. At least 14-16 hours a day! But I promise that it pays off in the end, as you get to pick up a lot of techniques along the way. So, the more effort you put in, the better it is for your career.
What is the current situation of the food industry in Bangladesh?
With the huge number of restaurants, hotels and resorts opening on a regular basis, there is no doubt that the food industry is growing. People are much busier and now prefer going out to eat instead of cooking at home. Over the next decade, we can expect further increase of opportunities in the industry. This means that the country is going to need more and more chefs and unless proper training is given, there is bound to be a shortage.
How does Bangladeshi cuisine compare to international standards?
The world adores the Bengali flavours – our cuisine is quite rich because of the variety of spices used. However, we need to work on presentation. On international platforms, presentation is usually what lures customers. Also, since most of our food items are quite spicy, we need more fusion food so that it appeals to the different taste palettes of people around the world.
A lot of franchises are opening in the country recently. With more international influence, what do you think the chefs have to do to adapt?
Chefs need to watch YouTube videos, follow cooking blogs, and read cookbooks and recipes of famous culinary legends from all over the world. It is important to join a culinary institution if you want to be a professional. Also, keep track of cooking competitions worldwide, and if you can, compete in one as well. Times are changing fast, and unless you keep up with recent trends, you are likely to lose out.
Which is the most difficult cuisine to learn?
The French cuisine is by far the hardest, in my opinion. It requires a great deal of skill to work with the raw materials and master the consistency of the food, the making of which is often a complicated and delicate process.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue this career?
Be passionate about it. And grab every opportunity you get to learn new things. The world of culinary arts is huge and you can never know too much!
What are the qualities one should have as a chef?
The most important quality for a chef is to be hygienic. Cooking people's food means that you are in charge of their lives. It is very important for what you cook to be safe and hygienic.
Secondly, you must be punctual and hardworking. People do not like to wait too long for food, and with the industry always being short of skilled chefs, the pressure is immense. So, you need to be able to rise to the challenge. Other than that, the love for food and an artistic palette is also a must, along with good leadership skills.
How important is having a mentor in this career?
Very important. Without mentors, you will never be able to master the nitty-gritty details of food. You need someone to give you instructions, guide you, and introduce you to people who can help you build your career.
How expensive is the training?
Courses start from about BDT 60,000, but can be up to BDT 2 lakh in Bangladesh, depending on the courses and teachers. However, before joining an institution, do a bit of research on the faculty and how they teach. For the culinary arts industry, training under the right chef is really important.
You can get certified after a three-month course. You can also get a diploma, which is a year-long course or a graduation which takes three years. Unfortunately, there is no institution in Bangladesh that provides a graduate degree, so you will have to go abroad for that.
Why did you join Super Chef?
Our country is a rather talented one! I wanted to find talented chefs who are passionate about their work. I also wanted to teach more chefs about my experiences. This is one thing all chefs must do – teach others so that the art lives on!
How do you think shows like Super Chef help those who want to start a career as a chef?
Since they are being taught and feedback is constantly being given on their work, shows like Super Chef will definitely help them improve. Also, competitions like this help them showcase their talent to the world. So, they get an advantage in terms of job prospects.
What future plans do you have regarding shows like this?
More seasons of Super Chef to start with. And perhaps, even one for kids!
Adiba is a second-year Computer Science and Engineering student at BRAC University.