Hotels may be super cool places to work at, but only if you are willing to get your hands ‘dirty’. IHM graduate Amrita Chhabria gives you the inside dope on what it takes to survive – and thrive – in hotel management
It all started with a test, which I didn’t take all that seriously. I solved the English section, eeenie-meenie-minie-moed the math section and came home. Later I heard that there is coaching available for the all India-JEE exam for hotel management; but I don’t think it is necessary.
A few months later I got a call for the personal interview to be held at IHM Mumbai aka Dadar Catering College. I thought, “Hmm, hotel management sounds interesting, better than becoming an engineer like everyone else…”
It was a very hot day. I looked down at my clothes – trousers and a shirt and felt under-dressed because a girl next to me was wearing a blazer and a skirt. She looked like a renegade air-hostess. Suddenly we heard strains of ‘Back in the summer of ’69’ from the interview room. The guy inside came out with a grin; apparently the panel made him sing since that was his hobby.
Finally it was my turn. The panel was seated on a long table quite far from the entrance. I walked up to the chair and before I could sit, a gentleman asked me:”How many hours can you stay standing in a day?” I replied that if you gimme enough coffee – the whole day. All six interviewers burst out laughing. After that it was pretty smooth sailing. I got in.
Life at Catering College:
I started with a disadvantage – I was a vegetarian. My first Food Production practical was a horrifying experience. The chef had a carcass of a sheep on the steel table. Before starting, he casually asked all vegetarians to put their hands up. We were 4 in a class of 40. He called all of us out to assist him during the lesson. With every cut and every spurt of blood my stomach turned. I thought I would puke. But a guy beat me to it. Thank God the bathroom is near the kitchen.
Food and Beverage Production involved learning how to lay a table and rules for menu planning. You can’t repeat colour or texture or ingredients in a menu, there are even rules for placing knives and forks. It is an incredibly detailed and fascinating subject. Of course the added attraction was our lecturer who knew everything (he has a photographic memory) – from how caviar is made to the best way to marinate chicken for the tandoor.
The other two main subjects are Front Office and Accommodation Operations. Front office involves handling guests coming in and out of the hotel, making reservations, assigning rooms etc. While accommodation operations is just a fancy way of saying ‘housekeeping’. Both involve contact with guests in situations which range from funny to simply freaky. You need to think on your feet if you want to work in any department of a hotel.
Other subjects taught include accounts, financial and strategy management, facility planning tourism studies, human resource management etc. First year is easy. If you are alert in the kitchen you’ll survive with a few knife cuts and minor burns. Second year is where the fun begins.
It’s all about ‘just doing it’:
Industrial Training (IT) – 22 weeks of work, hard work in a hotel of your choice. The college provides placements for IT and the hotels have a variety of methods to select their trainees. Most use the tried and tested Group Discussion/Personal Interview while some require a written test. Some hotels make you work so hard that all you do after going home is eat and sleep. Others are so lenient that trainees may bunk for a couple of months and the hotel won’t care .You won’t learn much in either unless you pester people and ask questions.
It was back to the classroom for the rest of the year. The first few days when the bell rang at 5:30 p.m., I couldn’t believe that it was time to go home. I felt like I was on vacation. Then came my Mess Duty. The college mess is where all the students have their lunch and where hostelites eat breakfast and dinner as well. All second years have to put in two weeks of mess duty, which involves planning the breakfast menu, ordering the ingredients, cooking and serving the food. You have to stay in the hostel for the week and wake up at 5:30 a.m. to report to the kitchen. There are no teachers to supervise or help. It is totally run by students.
Mess duty is a thankless job. Nobody’s ever happy with the food and I don’t blame them. After all it is made by a bunch of sleepy students who probably have forgotten to put any salt (of course sometimes ingredients just don’t turn up). Imagine making egg kathi roll without eggs. But even after all the grumbling people do ask for second helping and sometimes alu parathas are all it takes to put a smile on everyone’s face.
In the second year, it’s time to figure out the type of hotel you would like to work for and in what capacity. Third year is where you find out whether a hotel will let you work in any capacity!
Most of my third year was spent out of the classroom. Each third year class organizes a theme dinner and runs the training restaurant as a commercial venture. This involves a lot of work right from sponsorship and planning menus to the actual operations aspect of production and service of the food. Since I was the vice president of the student council, I also had to organize all extra- curricular activities. These include a welcome party for the freshers, dancing competitions, extempore, debate, story writing, bartending competition, various themed days like traditional, chocolate etc.
Third year students are sent to represent the college at various inter hotel management competitions in areas like cookery, bartending, quizzes etc. I was part of a team of three that won an All India level quiz competition held at Mumbai. Another team of five was sent to Delhi for a quiz as well as a cookery competition where they won too. The college also hosts the Nestle young Star chef competition, which pits professionals from the industry against each other. There is another competition for student chefs of all the IHMs across India popularly known as the ‘Chef Comp’.
The rest of the year is either spent in the classroom or spent trying to land a job. All major hotel chains come to IHM Mumbai for campus recruitment.
The departments are:
1. Food Production (Chefs)
2. Food and Beverage Service
3. Housekeeping /Accommodation operations
4. Front office
5. Sales and Marketing/ Human Resources
The interview process starts with a group discussion followed by an extempore round or a written test or a trade test for the wannabe chefs. Then there are a series of personal interviews with every conceivable person from the management of the hotel. So far the record is 11 interviews. Recruitment is a long drawn out process. The following are needed for a good placement:
– Anna Daata / Godfather from the Industry
– Good looks or else an attractive personality
– Glowing references from teachers
– Know your stuff from the 1st to 3rd year
– Good communication skills
Posts offered are:
Management Trainee (MT): This is the most coveted job. Pay scale ranges from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 per month. Every hotel has its own training program which ranges from 3 months to two years of ‘off the job’ or classroom training + a further 1 to 2 years of ‘on the job’ training. After the training is complete, the person is appointed as either Assistant Manager or Manager. Some Hotels make MTs sign a bond while others prefer a contract.
Kitchen Executive Trainee: Same as above except its only for wannabe chefs. The two-year training is mainly on the job. Final post of a KET is Chef de partie (CDP), which basically makes you the boss of a section of the kitchen.
Operational Trainee (OT): Pay scale ranges from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 9,000 for an OT. The training period can be as short as a couple of weeks. The emphasis is ‘on the job’ exposure and on completion you’ll end up as Team Leader or Supervisor.
Entry Level Recruitment: The first rung of the ladder. Pay scale ranges Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 7,000. You are straight on the job. After a couple of year’s hard work and good performance appraisals you may be promoted to Team Leader or Supervisor.
These are the basic categories hotels offer. The finer details of each job differ from hotel to hotel. In the areas of Sales and Marketing or Human Resources, some hotels may recruit MTs and others at Entry level.
Other organizations, which offer jobs to hotel management graduates:-
Fast food chains: Fast food chains like Mc Donald’s and Café coffee day offer MT and OT. Mc Donald’s has a good training program. Being an international organization, it follows stringent quality standards and you can gain valuable experience.
Call centers: A lot of people join call centers basically because of the pay. Hotels do not pay very much and the daily work is very physically challenging and stressful. Personally speaking, I feel if you want a career in this industry join a hotel. If you just want to make a quick buck join a call center. Another problem is the demand – supply imbalance. Too many institutes are churning out hotel management grads and there are too few jobs to choose from. Plus, in hotels, it’s a long and tough way to the top.
Airlines: It is extremely tough to get into airlines. The companies demand clear skin, flawless complexion (they make you wash all make-up off to check) and a good height. Pay packages are very good – Rs. 10,000 during training and after you pass their qualifying exam and get cleared to fly you get Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 30,000.
There are are a number of IHMs (Institutes of Hotel Management) in India as well as private institutes supported by the industry which offer excellent exposure and education. Most students join the 3 year course after class 12.
Most Wanted Hotel Management Institutes:
* Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai.
Sophia College Lane, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai-400026.
* Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Aurangabad
Tel.: 0240-2381104, 2381106-10.
* Kohinoor – IMI, School of Hospitality Mgmt, Khandala
* IHM, Catering Technology & Appl. Nutrition, Bangalore.
* Army Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Bangalore.
* Welcome Group Graduate School of Hotel Management, Manipal.
* Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Appl. Nutrition, Chandigarh.
* International Institute of Hotel Management, Kolkata
Phone: (033) 337-7726/ 359-6065.
* IHM, Catering Technology & Appl. Nutrition.
P-16, Old Exhibition Ground, Tarotala Road, Kolkata 700088.
* IHM, Catering Technology & Appl. Nutrition, Chennai
Address: CIT campus, TTTI-Tharamani P.O, Chennai 600133.
* The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD), New Delhi.
* IHM, Catering Technology & Appl. Nutrition, New Delhi.
Hotel Management is a very practical course. You need to work with people and have a knack of defusing potentially explosive situations. You should have the ability to smile even when you want to murder the person in front of you.
It is a lifestyle adjustment, as all jobs require working in shifts. The hotel never shuts and your job needs to be done 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Delete the word vacation from your vocabulary and prepare to work on New Year’s Eve.
On the plus side, your jobwill never be monotonous or boring, as the people you interact with will change daily. Each day will bring something new to deal with and learn from. Be warned however that this is a profession for those who like to work with their hands – not just their brains.