Eight international Michelin women chefs are currently in India as part on an initiative to mentor and share their culinary expertise with underprivileged girls. The initiative is part of a program by the Creative Services Support Group (CSSG), which offers a chance for underprivileged girls and young women to pursue a career in the hospitality sector.
Ana Ros who owns her own restaurant and is also a member of an association of young restaurateurs in Europe is one of the participants who has traveled for the event from Slovenia.
“By being associated with this initiative, I believe my experience as a chef would help to motivate underprivileged girls to put in their own efforts to become best chefs in the world,” Ros says.
Another Chef Lauren Eldridge from Australia renowned for her specialized fine dining restaurant down under believes she can help the girl students polish up their skills to a level that would help them compete on an international platform.
“The initiative started earlier this year and it has been taken seriously by me to pull in the girls to make them learn whatever I have learnt in five years of my career. I believe if all the girls are trained and learn finesse in their work they would be able to compete on international platforms,” says Lauren.
A total of 53 underprivileged girls cooked together with the eight Michelin chefs at the Le Cirque restaurant at the Leela Palace hotel in Delhi.
From the palate of ingredients that were provided, the girls together with the chefs learnt to cook Pizza, a variety of frittatas, chargrilled vegetables, pastas, marinated cherry tomatoes and apple crumble with vanilla cream.
The chefs are also part of a series of charity dinners that are being hosted in Delhi and Mumbai till September 14.
Elaborating on the need to empower women, Anand Kapoor, president, CSSG says, “There is an ongoing need to raise awareness and for female role models to change the perception of women who face restraints in society. We have dedicated 2015 as the ‘Year of the Women’ and we have been creating avenues that will empower them to make choices that can make a difference in their lives as well as in their communities.”
Jatin Malik, who has been a chef for 18 years and has been associated with the initiative for over a year says he has employed two of the girls in his restaurant here.
“I always believe there is a lot of talent in these girls and whatever I have learnt could be given back to society by training them. We have started with two of them and many other will be joining our team soon. Their awareness of how to conduct themselves as professional chefs in a kitchen is commendable and soon they would learn the contemporary European cuisine too,” says Malik.
Lily, 20, who has her roots in Assam but migrated to Delhi in search of work says she had always dreamed of being a proficient chef.
“My father was a cook in Assam and I always had a dream of being a star chef and CSSG gave me the chance to pursue my dream. I have been working with ‘The Tres’ restaurant owned by Malik since past two years where I got first hand experience to work in cold storage, learnt a variety of salads. Now I am working in their vegetarian section,” says Lily.
“When I came to Delhi I was living in a NGO and had no way to look forward in pursuing my career in cooking. My education is restricted just to school, therefore getting a job was always difficult. Now I earn about Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month and live on my own,” she says.
So also Poonam, 22, says she has got a chance to try out her skills in baking after she got herself inducted in the bakery section of Malik’s restaurant.
“I wanted to bake and become a pastry chef. The Tres, where I have been working since past one year, has made me learn a variety of hard and soft rolls. I have become expert in making red velvet cake and chilly chocolate crepe,” says Poonam.
All the 40 girls in the program also visited an Organic Farm in the city in the company of the Michelin chefs besides exploring the famous spice market in the Chandni Chowk market.
“All these girls are very keen individuals and have a desire to learn. It’s an honor to teach them because many a times people don’t appreciate their hidden talents. These girls want to be better and become something one day,” says Lisa Allen who is touring India and is an executive chef in North of England.
Sonja Fruhsammer who recently got awarded as the top new comer by the Berlin board of Tourism (Berlin Partners) also accompanied girls in exploring the spices.
“The hospitality here is overwhelming and these girls are really helpful. I have come here for the first time but my experience in teaching these girls what all I could from my experience is a lifetime memory for me. They are learning quite fast and will become good chefs soon,” says Fruhsammer.
The month-long event will culminate in a congregation of chefs from countries like the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and Slovenia.
Zomato, an online food portal has also been roped in for the initiative to host master classes with aspiring chefs.