Having a strong affinity towards food and cooking that she has inherited from her grandmother, Chef Vrushali pursued her passion by graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management from IHM Goa and also becoming the best outgoing student in the Culinary Arts. Her dedication and commitment to excel has made her a known name in the Culinary Fraternity in the UAE. Her professional career started with the Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, spotting immense talent in her made her a part of the pre-opening team at the prestigious Madinat Jumeirah Hotel in 2004.
Chef Vrushali has taken challenges and opportunities as they came, moving from the Jumeirah Group to the Dusit Thani and then to The Palace Down Town, where she worked as the Head Pastry Chef, making the hotel a famous F&B offering in Dubai. After having commendable years of experience in the commercial kitchen, she then decided to take up the teaching path with ICCA Dubai and quickly became one of the favourites of all the patisserie students, not to mention how much we love her for spoiling us with her delicious treats she whips up every now and then...
What inspired you to choose the Culinary Arts as your path of career?
Vrushali: It was my mom who wanted me to do something in the culinary industry because she saw in me all the qualities that my grandmother possessed as a passionate cook. Back in her time, she was a great cook and a small scale food entrepreneur too. When my mom saw all those qualities in me she strongly believed that this could be the best career option for me and I have to say that she wasn’t wrong. So, as soon as I finished my school my mom got me enrolled for Home Science which I discontinued to join IHM to get my Bachelors degree in Hotel Management to become a chef.
Were you excited about being a Chef at the time?
Vrushali: No, I wasn’t. I never had any idea that I would become a chef someday. I think if I had continued the Home Science course, then I would have become a dietician or something in the nutritional line but being a chef was never on my mind at that time.
Has it always been about baking, or were you interested in cooking as well?
Vrushali: No, in fact, it has always been about cooking until I started working. It was my interest in cooking that got my mom thinking about me having a career in the culinary industry. Baking came to me much later when I joined the industry after my studies. When I joined the industry I was given a position in the main kitchen as buffet attendant which I was not very happy about, so as soon as there was a slot available I fought for it and it happened to be in pastry. From there I started learning and developing new skills and interest in patisserie.
How did Dubai happen?
Vrushali: I started my career in Dubai in 2004. It was through campus recruitment by Madinat Jumeirah group and I secured my first job with them as Commi 3 and landed in Dubai.
What made you choose teaching over working in a commercial kitchen where you were doing exceptionally well?
Vrushali: I decided to leave the commercial kitchen to have some quality time with my family. My husband is also a chef and at that time we both were working in the same hotel so we were mostly spending a lot of time at work only. Later when my first baby came along it was difficult to maintain the family bond with such a busy work life and that’s when I decided to switch my career within the industry where I could still be around the kitchen but at a slower pace.
Pastry Chef in the kitchen or a Pastry Chef Instructor, which role do you enjoy the most?
Vrushali: In the beginning, when I had joined ICCA, I used to miss that hustle and bustle of the commercial kitchen a lot, but now I feel I have taken a very good decision. Now I get enough time for myself and my family. Also, work wise I think in the teaching profession the respect you get is much more genuine than in the kitchen where it is more of a mandatory thing to do. So yeah, I can say back then I enjoyed the kitchen and now I enjoy teaching.
What do you enjoy the most about being a Pastry Chef?
Vrushali: Now after so many years of experience I feel amazed about being capable of doing so many things which I never thought would have been easy for me to do. When I was in school I had done a henna designing course which later helped me in developing my piping skills as a pastry chef. I have always been a creative person and pastry lets me be the creative person I am.
Coming from India, what’s your take on the Indian Desserts compared to Western?
Vrushali: I would say the Indian sweets are the difficult ones to make, and hats off to those pastry chefs (we call them Halwai) in India who make them so beautifully delicious. If I would get a chance I would love to spend some time learning them as they are really difficult to make but definitely worth the effort.
What is your greatest career success and biggest setback as of now?
Vrushali: Greatest career success would be definitely all these years of experience and contentment that I have achieved throughout my professional life. It is very important for you to fall in the right hands to learn and progress in your career and fortunately I have had the opportunity to work with so many great chefs through whom I have not only improved my skill sets but have also gained good perspective towards my work & people. Now regarding the setbacks by god’s grace, I barely have any to mention because I took every situation that came my way in a positive way.
Does being a pastry chef help motherhood in any way?
Vrushali: I would say yes, in a lot of cases. When you’re a pastry chef you’re very particular and precise about everything which is a part of your profession and this practice at work has made me a much-disciplined person. So when it comes to my kids whether it’s their food or studies I automatically take this stand with them as well. And also, when it comes to occasional celebrations, treats for the kids and the family are always taken care of with a healthy and homely touch to it.
Do you have any advice for the graduating Culinary Arts students before they enter the industry?
Vrushali: I would say get your basics right because as you’re beginning your job you’re not entering as a pastry chef although your certificate might say so. Where ever you’re going, be prepared and keep in mind that you’re going as a Commi and you’re there to learn and not to show that you know something. Focus on learning more not on acting smart.
After ICCA, what is it that you would like to do? Any plans yet?
Vrushali: I would like to start a patisserie school of mine in India on a very small scale, more like a small kitchen where I can teach as well as display my products and sell them too.