Nostalgia – a story of a Lad in the Kitchen:

A must read for the Hotel Management Trainees…

As a young apprentice, it is most exciting to see the rows of gleaming copper / brass / stainless steel/ ceramic / earthen pot and pans, vast shining stoves / oven …. almost exciting to see CHEFS / COOKS in their whites at work all at the same time.

Soon after the first introduction began with instructions in culinary science, store room and into the nature of quality of ingredients. Explained for instance the different sort of rice. Almonds too must, carefully pick them, in case there may be a bitter one among them, which are smaller and wrinkled. Learnt the difference between currents, sultana and raisins which also had to be tested for smaller stones, as must peas, lentils and beans. Before cooking they had to be carefully washed and any impurities removed. One is asked if he had understood and as always said ‘Yes’ with the great confidence. A senior cook had not given either lentils or rice but a bag of salt to wash. Lad zealously poured into water, only to find that no little stones remained but also – to the general amusement – no Salt either.

On another occasion, a large bowl of Ice Cubes were given to sauté. Other Cook came and gave a kilo of refined flour to cut up fine. Which Lad vainly tried to do. Lad soon forgot his embarrassment at such practical jokes in the thought of being able to play them upon my successors. Lad was now on the look out for such things, but lad had one other occasion.

Lad was taken into the Butcher and given an un-skinned sucking pig, with instructions from the Chef to pluck and clean it. Of course Lad had seen often plucked chicken, partridges and ducks – but a pig. That was something new to Lad. He took endless trouble to pluck hair and remove the skin, until his fingers become more and more painful and lad finely give it up. Onlookers could no longer control their laughter, Lad was rewarded for all his vain by a good slice of Cake. This was the end of the tests. It was only later that I discovered that none of his predecessors had passed them any better than him.

He who is laughed at as an Apprentice, will win Honour as a Master

Published without edit, as exactly said by Chef Manjeet Gill, Father of Indian Cuisine, who has enjoyed every bit of his professional journey. Donning many a hats at the Chef’s Corner, he is happy giving his advice to all the youngsters.

          The president of the Indian Federation of Culinary Association and Corporate Chef ITC Hotels, he has loads of responsibilities, “But this is what I love to do. Helping the young to know the possibilities this profession offers is our responsibility as well.”

          It’s not just the passion for food that makes a good chef, according to Gill; a good vision and being honest as well as ethical is paramount. “With food, we are playing with people’s health. Add to it patience (there are no shortcuts in this field) and be a great disciple if you want to rise in this field.”

          What he loves most about his profession is that it keeps you physically and mentally fit. “One needs to think ahead,” he says.

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An exclusive interview of Corporate Chef Manjit Gill

               Chef Manjit Gill is the Corporate Chef at ITC Hotels & President of IFCA –  Indian Federation of Culinary Associations. He is passionate about popularizing Indian cuisine on the global palette and believes that only if Indians start taking pride in their native cuisine and present it well without aping the West, it would very soon be the next big thing on the global arena. In his relentless efforts to attach due recognition to the Indian Culinary Art in the pantheon of great cuisines of the world, he is educating the masses in India and abroad about the richness and depth of Indian gastronomy. At home, he is also in regular parleys with food enthusiasts, hotel and restaurant owners to work together to raise the standards of Indian food industry. Follows the conversations…


What inspired you to choose Hotel Management?

                “I had a natural inclination towards creative things from the beginning. I was an average student, not clear on what career to pursue till I passed schooling. It was my father who came across this new booming career through the newspapers and one day asked me to give it a shot. So I did. I chose cooking as my major subject. It started exciting me and I realized that this was what I actually want to go ahead with.

                I began my formal career as a Food Production Trainee in the Oberoi School of Hotel Management and was selected for the Kitchen Training Programme where I got the opportunity to hone my skills. After graduating from Management School of Oberoi Hotels International, I joined ITC Group in 1997.

                I decided to popularize the goodness of Indian food sans any western influences. I did it pure Indian style. I began doing seminars, workshops, road-shows, TV shows, writing books, and what not to increase people’s knowledge base and bring back the lost pride of Indian cuisine.

                This has borne some fruits. But I alone cannot bring about radical changes. We all have to work together. While Indian food is better placed in the global arena today, there are miles to go.

                I have always told my juniors that they may learn any cuisine they like but they must know their regional cuisine inside out; they must master it. Being jack of all and master of none does not work in my kitchen. We train our staff to perfection, to be taken seriously and to be unparalleled wherever they go. This uncompromising philosophy has won us accolades and prestige world-over.”

Who was your inspiration when you joined this line?

                “Very frankly, back then we did not have any role models as such. My parents and wife were my biggest inspiration and support. I remember how seeing me in uniform filled them with pride, as if they could not ask more from life. They guided me with whatever little they understood of this line and stood by me in all thick and thins. While my father introduced me to this line, the women in my life – my mother and wife reinforced my passion for cooking. Whatever I am today, I owe it to them.”

How involved are you with the kitchen financials?

                “Oh! we are business managers! Profit from the F&B is the only thing in a hotel that is calculated on a daily basis. So we have to be super at culinary mathematics. It includes a range of factors:


                Forecasting: You have to calculate how much food you have to purchase for the next day.

                Profit Management: You must understand that once you buy something, cost has been incurred. Now how you make profits out of it without compromising the quality, is the game. Here your business acumen and salesmanship play a major role.

                Guest Understanding: when you have a party in your restaurant, you need to be aware of what kind of people are coming, how many of them are coming and what their food preferences are. Notably, there is different food consumption in different cultures. Food consumption also differs with occasions. It would be different for a wedding, a cocktail and a wholesale dealer’s outlet opening party.

                Yield management: Yield standardization is where the profits lie. On hundred kilo de-boned chicken, did I get 42 gram chicken or not? If I got, say 35 gram, it means more meat is thrown with the bone. How much was the wastage? Such things have to be calculated on a daily basis. While cooking you also have to ensure that the dish is neither over-cooked nor under-cooked. Else it results into wastage and translates into immediate losses.

                Price-to-Portion Ratio: Chefs must carefully decide on the portion size for the price it would be sold at. The worth of the dish should match its selling price. And the portion size of each dish should be same for everyone. It shouldn’t be that someone is getting 100 grams and someone only 70. At the same time, we must watch out for competition. You have to outdo them by being reasonable in costs, best in quality and high on profits. How many applauds one gets for one’s dish does not matter at the end of the day if one doesn’t make profits.

                Among other factors you need to calculate are labour cost, cost for food promotions, staff training, etc.”


The interview conducted by India Hospitality Review over Lunch at ITC Maurya Sheraton, details of which can be found at their appropriate section.

Hotel Pillow got signed by Michael Jackson, in INDIA!!


The King of Pop arrived in Mumbai on October 30th, 1996 at Mumbai’s Sahara airport. During his stay at The Oberoi Hotel, Jackson surprised the entire staff by mingling freely among his fans, who thronged at the hotel to catch a glimpse of the ‘King of Pop’.

          According to Butler Manager, Sandeep Walia, who was attending to him with a team of three butlers, Michael loves sweet white wine. That is probably the only kind of alcohol that he consumed during his stay at the Oberoi. Apart from that, he loves orange drinks, Fanta being his favourite and a special German orange drink, Gatorade, which he carries with him. Michael drinks a lot of Diet Coke as well, prefers his drinks at room temperature. Jackson has a penchant for chocolates too, so The Oberoi made sure there were chocolates, of all shapes, sizes and flavours kept in every reachable corner of his room.

          Michael Jackson likes a lot of festivity around him. The Kohinoor Suite at the Oberoi was decorated with flowers, balloons, confetti and bowls of sweets and chocolates to give it a spirit of celebration. While in his room, Jackson does not like to use the air-conditioner. He also likes his space. His body-guards have been instructed not to come close to him to give him enough space to move around.

          During his stay in Mumbai, Jackson relished several Indian cuisine, including South Indian and Mughlai.

          After Michael Jackson had gone, when the hotel was preparing his suite for the next VVIP guest, they found Jackson’s gift to them: rather mischievously the great singer had scribbled on the pillow he had slept on

“India, all my life I have longed to see your face. I met you and your people and fell in love with you. Now my heart is filled with sorrow and despair for I have to leave, but I promise I shall return to love you and caress you again. Your kindness has overwhelmed me, your spiritual awareness has moved me, and your children have truly touched my heart. They are the face of God. I truly love and adore you India. Forever, continue to love, heal and educate the children, the future shines on them. You are my special love, India. Forever, may God always bless you”

      Michael Jackson





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