What does it take to be a chef?

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Part of becoming the best you can entail focusing on what it takes to get there. In a regular column, The Best You examines this aspect of personal development. This month
we chat with celebrity chef Dipna Anand

How dID you become a chef?

Having been born and brought up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs, it’s fair to say I have cooking in my blood. Our restaurant in Southall, called the Brilliant, has been open for 40 years. The restaurant is in its third generation, and there is a story behind the Brilliant legacy. I guess it was in my destiny to become a chef.

What is the best thing about
THE JOB?

Every day brings something different. I carry out pop up chef events at different locations, I do cookery courses, I lecture in hospitality and catering, and I manage my father’s Indian restaurant business. I absolutely love what I do and the many roles that I have. 

The other thing I value most about being a chef is that when people eat my food, they enjoy it and when I see smiles on their faces it inspires and motivates me to cook more and more. I truly value the way people appreciate my work. 

Lastly, being a chef, you are continually learning fresh skills and experimenting with new recipes, there is never enough to learn, so this is something else I love about my profession.

And the most challenging?

There are many challenges with the food industry, like any other. For example, at the moment there is a shortage of skilled chefs and it’s extremely difficult to get the chefs we need to help run our kitchens. 

Time also poses a great challenge. For example, when I carry out pop up events, I usually have about two and a half hours to prepare all the food, which is two main courses, raita, pilau rice and naan bread. It’s a lot of pressure because you have to ensure you keep to time and are organised so that lunch service is not delayed even by a minute.

My father assists me at pop up events and it’s a challenge at times for us. We love it though, as Dad and I both work better under pressure.

DESCRIBE your average day

Extremely busy, I am normally rushed off my feet and every day brings a different challenge, which is what keeps me going. It gives me a buzz when I accomplish all my goals. 

Typically I wake up at 7am, get ready and head to a pop up event somewhere in London, arriving at 9am and cooking for 300+ people to have lunch ready for 12 noon. After serving lunch, signing books and meeting customers I get back at about 3pm. I have a late lunch, spend time with my mum and our dog and take a nap.

Then I’ll head to the restaurant in the evening around 8pm for a few hours and back home to prepare for the next time and do my exercise routine while I watch a bit of television. I go to sleep at about 1am. I just can’t ever sleep early.

Is this something you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?

Yes. I was made for the food industry, and it’s where I belong. I don’t see myself ever changing career paths because food is where my passion lies, and the reason I am so good at what I do is because I enjoy every second of it. I would have it no other way but to be around and work with food forever.

What made you want to be a chef?

From a young age, I took a keen interest in cooking and was continually watching mum in the kitchen. Then, when I went to the restaurant, I was intrigued to watch dad cooking and tell me stories about granddad, and how he used to cook for the Maharajas back in Kenya in the 1950s. 

As I grew up, I became even more interested and developed a deep passion for the industry. I knew that cooking was what I wanted to pursue as a career. I saw my dad as my inspiration and I still feel my success is due to him. Even now, I tell people, “I want to be just like my dad.” 

Which ATTRIBUTES are most useful in your career? 

Time-keeping and organisation is crucial because you never want to be late for service, because you don’t want to upset your customers. If you are organised, others around you will be too. 

Patience is important because sometimes you have to wait for suppliers or the right ingredients to arrive. Teamwork is crucial to the success of working in the catering and hospitality sectors because if you work together with the staff you produce a better-quality result and can work more efficiently.

Creativity is another important aspect of working in the food field. If you can come up with unique innovative ideas, you will always be ahead of the competition and that one step ahead which makes all the difference.

Which dish do you most wish THAT you HAD created?

Chicken tikka masala is now known as the British national dish, and is also famous worldwide. It’s definitely the dish I wish I invented, although I must say I do make one of the world’s best recipes.  

 

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