‘A Chef is the CEO of the Kitchen’
What can a TV star, writer, chef and vice-president of one of the renowned culinary schools of the world, have in common? The answer is Christopher Koetke. With an experience of more than 36 years in the field, Koetke has tried his hands in some of the finest kitchens in the world, and is also a celebrity writer and host of Emmy-nominated cooking show “Let’s Dish”.
In this interview with Careers360, the vice-president of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts turns the limelight to the academic side of culinary arts and stresses on its importance in the ever competitive field.
Below are edited excerpts from the interview:
Careers360: Can you highlight the career opportunities in this field?
Christopher: There are a lot of opportunities in this field.When you graduate from a culinary school you are not just on your way to become a chef. There are many graduates who have started their own restaurants. It presents the possibility of becoming entrepreneurs, becoming educators as I have or go into research.
Also, if you work hard and things work out these days there’s even a possibility of having your own show!
Careers360: What about research opportunities in culinary arts?
Christopher:Definitely, culinary arts has ample scope for research for those who are interested. It might not be purely on the academic side but there are some students known to have explored that territory. For example, there is culinary anthropology and also culinary history which provide some interesting scope in research.
Careers360: What according to you are the factors that a student should consider before embarking in the field of culinary arts? Please share your own experience with us?
Christopher: For me, the most important factor is passion. Passion for your work, passion for your business. It is imperative that you love what you do. There should be a burning desire to create food that will make people happy.
But, you see passion is not enough. You need hard work with passion to make a successful profession. Besides, it is important that you equally focus on all subjects like maths and science as there is actually a lot of these subjects in this field.
Careers360: What about your own experience?
Christopher: I find myself to be fortunate as I had the opportunity to do many different things in life. I look back at my career and what do I see? My love for cooking started at a very young age and I have been cooking for 36 years. I have written a book which is at its second edition and another one is in the anvil. Hosting a cooking show like “Let’s Dish” is also a very unique experience. But, it’s my experience as an educator that has brought me so many opportunities.
Careers360: What role does a culinary-based institute play in shaping one’s role in the field?
Christopher: See, there is an assumption that you go to a culinary institute only to learn how to cook. That is not true. In fact, cooking is only one part, which already most students are good at-a reason why they are a part of the school. A culinary school teaches you accounting. It explains to you the art of management. You see, a chef is not just a cook, he is a business person too. He is the manager of the kitchen environment. A chef is the CEO of a kitchen.
So, what is it that you learn at a culinary school? Well, students are learning sustainability. The basis of management, the art of surviving and diversifying yourself in an ever competitive field.
Careers360: What are the factors that you consider when you accept a student for admission at Kendall College?
Christopher: The first question that comes to my mind when I meet a student is “Are you cooking? As I said earlier, he needs to have a passion. He should be able to challenge my ideas. Also, he should be able to expose himself to new concepts and try to bring in more diversity to Kendall.