In Conversation with Chef Vinod – The detail oriented mentor instructor

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A food production professional for 20 plus years, Chef Vinod has worked with some of the biggest International hotel chains and fine dine outlets in the GCC and the Middle East.

Masters in Hospitality Management from the Wales Bridge University, USA; Food Production Instructor from the American Hotel and Lodging Association; and an HABC Level 3 Food Safety in Catering Supervision; he has been a culinary trainer for 14 years, ten of which he has been with ICCA as a chef instructor. His specialities include Training & Development, International Cooking, Food Safety & Hygiene Training.

Diligent, Intelligent, Sober & a great Motivator – that is how one would describe Chef Vinod as I’m sure all his colleagues and students would agree. We had to literally catch him in between the breaks to get him to tell us more.

 Me: Chef Vinod, tell us something about yourself that we don’t know and which is unrelated to the kitchen?
CV:
I’m very passionate about cricket and I follow cricket very closely. Also, International Politics and News. I also am an avid reader and enjoy particularly reading on World and Indian History & Philosophy.

Me: Works of which authors do you like to read?
CV:
I like reading Shakespearean literature, works by Max Mueller and Shashi Tharoor amongst the recent ones.

Me: Politics, cricket, philosophy all are so distant from cookery. What got you interested in food production?
CV:
My mom’s cooking. She literally had magic fingers and the magic touch to whatever she made. The lingering flavours and lasting taste that her dishes left behind, is the reason why I am a chef today.

Me: What is it that you enjoy most about culinary training?
CV: When I joined the industry I was shy, timid and very reserved. The way we were instructed and taught was very different back then. I have even witnessed physical abuse. I faced a lot of difficulties and learnt things the very hard way. I was always keen that certain things should change about the way things were taught. And I implement that change in my class now, which I find very gratifying.

Me: Who would you most attribute your learning to?
CV:
A lady chef, Anita Bidini, I had the opportunity to work with in an Italian kitchen whilst I was in Muscat. She mentored, motivated and guided me well. The right instructor can make all the difference.

Me: How is culinary training different from working in a production kitchen?
CV:
Training school is a place where chefs are created for the kitchen. A trainer needs to be patient, a good listener and a good motivator. Here the trainees are allowed their mistakes and are taught to withstand all kinds of pressures and not buckle under stress.

A production kitchen is a zone of zero tolerance. One has to be a performer, constantly on the feet to deliver and deal with unexpected situations or else you perish. One needs to be in an enthusiastic and competitive spirit always.

Me: What according to you makes a great chef?
CV:
Passion for food. More than the love of eating, the love for creating and the love for serving people with what you create is the key.
A great chef should have the hunger to learn more, strong physically and mentally to withstand all the hard work and also someone who thinks smartly. Above it all, he should be very excited at all times when it comes to cooking.

Me: A memorable day in the kitchen for you is?
CV:
When you are passionate about the kitchen, each day is memorable as each day you are creating something no matter how repetitive. Each dish is like new even if you are making if for the nth time.

In the training kitchen, however, a memorable day is when a student gets a certificate and he walks up to you to say a heart-felt Thank You for all the knowledge imparted and values inculcated during the teaching.

Me: Would you want to do something different a few years from now?
CV:
Not a different industry, but certainly different from teaching. I would love to write on the Culinary Industry, Trivia with regards to food and its botanical history tracing back to its roots.

Me: If not culinary, what would have you chosen as an alternative career?
CV:
I would most definitely be a historian. Probably an Archaeologist.

Me: Lastly, after a day of training and mentoring students what do you do to recharge yourself?
CV:
I listen to all kinds of classical music and retro Hindi songs by Kishore Kumar and then I am completely ready to face a new day.

Shagufta Patel

With an academic background in Marketing, Shagufta is also an Image Advisor, Life-Skill Coach and a NLP practitioner with a penchant for writing. She intends to add value as part of the marketing team at ICCA and grow through new experiences. As passionate about food as she is about people, she believes that cultures though diverse across the globe; the one thing that holds common for nations and its folks, is that everyone loves a hearty meal prepared with love and care. Food according to her is the melting pot where all differences just vaporise and she is happy to be part of a culinary potpourri.

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