Rachel Goenka, an Indian restaurateur, chef, author and the founder and CEO of Mumbai based The Chocolate Spoon Company speaks about the highs and lows of being a woman in the F&B space.
The most sexist thing you have heard from your seniors, colleagues, guests?
This is something I heard very early on in my career, and thankfully this sentiment doesn’t exist anymore. But I was told that men aren’t used to taking directions from women. Luckily, I never faced any issues with my team, but this was shocking to hear.
What is the most interesting aspect of the industry you work in?
How things are constantly evolving. Whether it’s concepts, cuisine, you name it, this is an industry that is constantly growing and changing rapidly.
What are the challenges involved?
Getting the right kind of people. This is an industry with a high attrition rate and finding the right people is key in making your brand a success.
What are some lessons you learnt along the way?
Trust your instincts. It’s easy to get carried away by what the rest of the market is doing, especially where trends are concerned. But authenticity is what will always make you stand out in the long run and it’s what will build trust with your customer.
If you were not a chef/hotelier, what would you have been instead?
Either a lawyer or an animal behavioral specialist.
What is one fun thing about working in your industry?
The people that you meet! Some of my closest friends today are because of this industry.
Any interesting/funny anecdotes on the job that you want to talk about?
Too many to recount, but my favourite is when people talk about things with so much conviction (even though they have no clue what they’re saying) and you have to keep a straight face. I’ll never forget the time a guest argued with me because he claimed he was lactose intolerant, and I had done the unthinkable by serving him a dish with coconut milk.
Your advice to women entering the industry now, at the moment?
This isn’t an industry for the faint hearted so know what you’re getting yourself into. Be prepared to put in the hours, the late nights, the hard work. The payoff is priceless and will establish you as a strong contender in the long run. Talent and hard work is always recognized and celebrated in this industry but you need to work for that.
The one thing that people do not know about the industry you work in.
It’s like riding a rollercoaster. There are ups and downs and twists and turns but it’s one heck of a ride!