‘Chef’ is the only title I’ve ever wanted to achieve

Kavita Kathoke
About the author : Kavita Kathoke

Executive Chef, Sodexo India

Published on : 10/6/21
  • From a very young age, I was fascinated by food and how it is made. I saw how skillful cooking is from watching my mother in the kitchen and I realized that I wanted to develop and excel at those skills. From the moment I stepped into my first professional kitchen, I fell in love with the organized chaos of the kitchen and I knew that ‘chef’ was the only title I wanted to achieve in my life.

    However, my parents didn’t want me to go to culinary school. My conservative Gujarati family believed that women should only cook food in their home kitchen for their families and shouldn’t aspire to be professional chefs. It took me a year to help them understand and accept my ambition to be a chef.

    After completing higher education, I worked in a range of hospitality and chef roles, often cooking for senior business executives. I completed a 2-year diploma in Dietetics and Nutrition to boost my knowledge in this area and went on to even bigger kitchens. At one point I was working for a multinational organization where we were creating 7,000 meals per day. Here I learned a huge amount about the systems and techniques required in bulk cooking.

    After this role I took a break to care for my baby. Then I had the opportunity to join Sodexo.

    It is a privilege to create food memories for customers

    I joined Sodexo in 2016 as a head chef. Initially managed a team of 13 chefs at a large site. It was a fantastic team with in-depth knowledge of cuisine. I had a wonderful experience of team management & leadership. I then transferred to a different site with a smaller team but with a client who had good knowledge of food along with higher expectations.

    My most recent career move has been to become an Executive chef at a tech client with Sodexo. I consider it a privilege to create food memories for client. It’s what I like most about my job. I love that total strangers become friends after interacting with us. In our business, no day at the office is ever the same. I work alongside some very experienced leaders who are experts at overcoming any operational challenges which come our way. We all work together as one unit.

    Gender balanced kitchens

    One of the things that attracted me to working for Sodexo was the company’s commitment to diversity and equality. When we have conversations with a diverse range of people, we generate different ideas which lead to evolution, change and better business outcomes.

    Now women are starting to see positive change in the culinary world. In contrast to when I first aspired to become a chef, more and more women are now taking their culinary skills outside the home and making it their career. For example, the Culinary Institute of America, one of America’s most acclaimed culinary schools, didn’t accept women until 1970. Now, 49.7% of their students are women. What a difference a few decades can make!

    Together with my tech client, Sodexo has launched the 10-month ‘Women in culinary development program’ for female chefs in the APAC region. I am the project lead for this program, and we’ve selected 12 female chefs to participate.

    The program seeks to ensure these chefs have the opportunity and support to grow their culinary career, and to improve gender balance in our culinary teams including leadership positions and to raise the bar of our culinary talent, while elevating the level of service and the quality of food that we provide.

    Passion, practice and experimentation

    The greatest quality which any aspiring chef needs is the passion for food.

    Through education and experience you can hone your skills. Remain open to constant learning as the list of flavors and techniques you can learn about is infinite, plus practice really does make perfect.

    I am always learning by myself; I make food every day at home and I love to experiment with different ingredients in my favorite recipes. I love to make protein energy breakfast bars made with nuts, seeds, dates & spices as well as different types of Dhokla which is a plant based high protein snack made with rice & varieties of pulses.

    See me at work in this video:

    Top chefs will also need leadership skills and optimum organizational skills to coordinate additional kitchen responsibilities.

    Not everyone in this world loves to cook. However, those who love cooking are truly lucky, as are their families. Cooking is a great experience that makes you happy as well as those around you. If you love cooking, keep up the passion.

    As my mom would always say, “Cooking is a way to express your love to your family in an edible manner."

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    This article was created by Kavita Kathoke, Executive Chef, Sodexo India

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