The International Chef Day is observed on October 20, but this year, the celebrations here were muted as chefs are facing a torrid time as COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in many hotels cutting down their staff strength, as well as their salaries by 30-50 percent.
A webinar was the sole event organized on the occasion.
“Normally on International Chef Day, we would go to orphanages with cooked food and feed the inmates. This year due to Covid-19, we were not able to do that. We had a webinar on Healthy Food. About 400 chefs participated,” Chef Damu, President of the South India Chef Association (SICA), told IANS.
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“We would also bring the food from the hotels to a sports stadium and hold events for poor children and then serve the food,” Chef G. Suresh Kanna, a Member of SICA Board, told IANS.
With international airlines grounded, domestic travel restricted, a salaried class suffering pay cuts, added to the general COVID-19 fear, hotels are not getting guests.
As a result, many chefs and other staff are laid off by many hotel chains as well as standalone outfits.
“Many chefs have lost their jobs and suffered huge pay cuts. Some have started their own food business,” Chef Umasankar Dhanapal told IANS.
“Star hotels cannot depend only on domestic travelers. The bulk of their revenue is from banqueting, meetings, conferences, and weddings which are not happening since March-end,” he added.
Software companies with huge headcounts opted for a work-from-home format which in turn impacted the food business for hotels as well as for private food contractors.
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As a result, several chefs have got laid off.
“Initially hotels resorted to paying cuts and then came to staff reduction. The hotels sent out top officials in each department and run them with those remaining,” a human resource (HR) manager who lost his job with an international hotel chain told IANS.
“Hiring interviews are happening… the prospective employers are willing to match the old designations but not the old pay packets,” the HR professional added.
Kanna said: “Many chefs and those who were working in the food and beverages department have started cloud kitchens and sell through Swiggy and Zomato. Some have started small restaurants.”
Chef Shashidar Bhat, who was Executive Chef at Ambassador Pallava hotel here, has started food home delivery service ‘Santripti by VSB Food Concept’ in Coimbatore.
“We serve South and North Indian dishes for lunch and dinner. Have about 170 customers and the daily order number is fine. Customers get a home-cooked meal with a star hotel touch at a far cheaper price,” Bhat told IANS.
Staring a huge pay cut if he goes back as an employee, Bhat said he plans to continue his business and expand operations.
“My wife and I do the cooking. I do the home deliveries,” he said.
Chefs also told IANS that many hotel staff working in cities have gone back to their native places and lived with their parents dipping into their savings.
Industry officials also told IANS that many new hotel projects have been put on hold till clear visibility on the prospects is seen. (IANS)