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Steady rise in demand for skilled baking chefs

If the smell of rising bread or baking cookies makes you weak in the knees and your favorite past time involves whipping up a dish in the kitchen, then you must consider a career in the baking industry. Patricia Mascarenhas presents the scope

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Steady rise in demand for skilled baking chefs
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In India, due to rapid westernisation and the expansion of modern habits, the consumption of bakery products has gained popularity among the masses. “As Indians are increasingly travelling out of the country, especially to Europe, their tastes are getting more refined,” says Santosh Rawat, pastry chef, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel and Lakeside Chalet Marriott Executive Apartments.  

With the increasing number of international bakeries opening outlets in India, there is an increasing demand for quality bakers and patisseries. The Indian baking industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. “It is going to reach 47 billion by 2015 with a year on growth of about 20 per cent. The patisserie and chocolate segment is growing at around 15-18 per cent and the bread segment is growing by 4-5 per cent, majorly from the healthy and multi-grain bread,” informs Dhiren Kanwar, country head, Puratos Indian Subcontinent. Health and wellness being a new trend in bakery like in most categories, players are now bringing out healthier product options. “In breads also, the whole wheat/ brown bread segment is seeing an upswing,” he adds. 

Whether your passion is bread, cakes, cookies or pastries, a baking career can be a viable and rewarding business. All you need is passion and fascination for food with a mix of science and creativity. “The field of baking and pastry arts is a small part of the food preparation industry. It is a grain-based food industry which includes breads, cakes, pies, pastries, cupcakes, cookies, baked pet treats, tarts, etc,” informs Kanwar. “The skill gap persists as far as producing world class products is concerned. This is primarily due to lack of infrastructure at the grassroot level, lack of trained specialty instructors, lack of right exposure and sufficient exposure to world class baking,” says Rawat.

Like in other fast-growing economies, consumers are becoming more sophisticated in the products they want and so there is a demand for well-trained staff. Anurag Barthwal, pastry chef Trident agrees, “Pastry/ bakery is not a part of the Indian food culture. And since ingredients play a vital role in developing a good quality product our local produce is not well suited for the taste profile of international pastry,” he says further adding, “For example, our dairy products primarily cream and butter differ vastly from European produce in taste and texture.” 

Pursuing a career as a pastry chef ideally begins with formal training and because baking is considered to be a science, one needs to be aware of highly technical subjects, such as food science and kitchen math. It also helps to gain specialised skills related to cake decoration, pastry techniques, sugar artistry, pairing, plating, and more. However, at present there are very few schools in India that offer professional training in the sector so the supply for skilled workers cannot keep up with the demand. “Most employees end up learning on the job. In fact in the contacts we have had in the industry, business leaders emphasise that the lack of sufficient professionally trained workers in bakery, patisserie and chocolate is actually preventing the sector from growing at its full potential,” says Kanwar.

There's a difference between spending a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen, whipping up the family's cherished  recipe, and spending an eight-hour shift in a fast-paced commercial kitchen. “Most people love to bake, but if you want to do it for a living, you better make sure that you love to do it all day long,” laughs Rawat adding, “Apart from usual attributes of any good chef like aptitude for handling of baking ingredients, scientific approach to recipes, artistic bend, conceptualisation skills, they should also be willing to work on various shifts, as baking specifically happens early morning.” 

Like any other career, education and experience determine your career growth path. Finding a great teacher, a fabulous place to work and staying motivated are the challenges that one faces in any career. “Although, joining well reputed institutes like Le Notre, Paris, Le Cordon Blue or Culinary Institute of America builds a good foundation for a budding pastry chef, on-the-job training by french pastry chefs in India is also recommend since France is considered as the home of pastry,” advises Barthwal. 

In the end, bakery is about indulgence and celebration. Naturally, when a guest digs into something delicious, it brings a smile to their face. “There is nothing greater than the satisfaction of watching someone enjoy your food,” Barthwal signs off. 

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