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Chef Niklesh Sharma: The industry will soon recover and demand for highly skilled fresh faces

The current situation has posed new challenges for the recently graduated students, as most industries, including one of the largest employer – hospitality industry, have currently suspended hiring procedures in the wake of the pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy. Chef Niklesh Sharma, founder & chef, Academy of Pastry and Culinary Arts, informs that though the crisis is unprecedented, the better skilled and recent graduates will have a much better chance of getting hired

Have the consumer sentiments towards pastry changed, given its long hours of shelf-life subject to the contamination? 
I don’t think consumer that sentiments towards pastry have changed. Yes, we do understand that situation is difficult and right now priorities are on ensuring safety measures. We are hosting a number of live video classes on different social media, engaging people. We are sharing lots of recipes, hosted by different chefs of academy and our master chefs, which they can easily make at home using minimum ingredients easily available. Idea is to use all platforms available, motivating people and gaining their confidence for a better future.

Chef Niklesh Sharma

What dynamic SOPs are you guiding the students with during these testing times to maintain due diligence of food handling?
Right now the academy is shut and we are only taking virtual classes by chefs. We are regularly updating students about personal hygiene and social distancing. Looking at the new normal, once we are open, we will ensure more strict SOPs which include daily temperature checks, compulsory masks for everybody, washing hands, sanitising and as much as possible maintaining distance between the students and the chefs.

How are you keeping the students’ spirits high and conducting classes during the pandemic?
Right now, we are closed following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. We are in constant touch with our current students. There are regular virtual classes being organised for the students. We are covering all the theoretical topics to keep them engaged which include hygiene and safety, science of bread, chocolates and French Pastries. We are also inviting industry chefs to give sessions on career building in partnerships with academy chefs.

How has the situation impacted the hiring process of the final year students at your schools?
Of course, looking at the situation of the country and the industry, placement is difficult but, we are hopeful that the situation will improve very soon. The industry will be back to normal and there will be demands for highly skilled chefs. The majority of our students have a dream to start their own business. In fact, we feel that after this difficult situation is over, the better skilled and educated graduates will have a much better chance. We are in constant touch with all the renowned hotels and pastry shops in India. There is a structured student’s internship programme in place in our schools. We are sure that students will get good placements.

With seven pastry schools in various countries, how are you looking at expanding to other geographies in the post-COVID world?
Yes, we plan to have a much stronger presence in Asia Pacific and Middle East countries. There are talks going on for some collaboration with a few colleges. It’s a bit too early looking at the current situation. Currently, we are also sending our chefs to other schools to conduct workshops in different continents worldwide. Of course, we don’t know the situation post COVID but, we are pretty hopeful for good growth in the post COVID world.

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