Except that it was not called Internship, it was called OJT (On The Job Training )and it wasn’t compulsory and we did not have to present a report at the end of it. But all of us did it as it would enable us to get a job.
My first exposure was at the Park Hotel for the puja vacations in 1983 and I had to report to a manager called Leo. I saw an expert fish filleter skinning a fish with one swipe and were as Trainee captains in my first year. I was exposed to couple of situations which stayed with me. One was a lady asking for a vegetarian prawn cocktail and I was flabbergasted. I saw the confusion and consternation on the face of the order taker and his control in keeping a straight face while he explained that it was impossible and the lady reiterating that she has had it elsewhere. I suspect it must have been a prawn shaped fruit.
Another episode involved the Kolkata Metro stakeholders including some advisors from Japan. It was almost lunch time and the buffet was ready for consumption. The Japs got involved in some discussion and delaying lunch while the Indians cribbed about it. Also one question that I heard was asking the Indian officials about how the services lay in the proposed tunnel, along the tunnel or across. The Indians had no clue and said we will find out as we commence tunneling.
My second training was rather a short one at The President, Bombay in 1984 summer vacations. I was in the Room Service for two weeks, when my eldest brother’s marriage came about and I quit half way and returned home taking permission from the then Personnel Manager, Mr. K M Borgaonkar. The only thing of note was the full tray of an NCKOT lunch that I dropped in the lift while trying to keep it open for a person entering and the doors closed on me and knocked the tray from my hands. I got bawled out and spent the rest of the day in the Kitchen Stewarding washing dishes. On my last day, I ran around the hotel trying to get in the details and saw my first Italian restaurant at the Trattoria.
Those days the college never placed us. We had to select the hotel, write our application for internship, get it countersigned by the Principal Mr. P. A Koshy and off we went. We made as many applications that we would need. Amit, Harry (Harkirat) and I went to Delhi to try our luck at the Maurya and the Taj for the Puja Vacations in October. We walked all the way from Dhaula Kuan to both the places with no luck. We take an impromptu decision to use the opportunity and hook off to some place. A bus ride to ISBT and onward to Dehradun and Mussoorie was the destination. We spent a couple of days at the Hotel Hill View and went back to Calcutta happy. Little did we realise that the training not happening was a blessing in disguise for us as we got the news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination end of the month and it was a black letter period for the Sikhs and Harkirat and us escaped the backlash.
The third and final training was back in Bombay in 1985. This was a group of six of us who took the Geetanjali Express which starts in the afternoon from Howrah and reaches VT Station on the next day at about 9.30 pm. By the time we made our way to a Bengal Lodge owned by a senior’s relative, on Grant Road next to the infamous Kamathipura it was past 10.30. A quick dinner later, we were fast asleep. Our daily commute from Churchgate to Vile Parle and the short bus ride to Taj Flight Kitchen (now Taj Sats) or TFK would be our route for the next month or so. There were others who were staying elsewhere and this was good training ground where we got to know the operations from ground up of the Kitchen as well as the Operational Areas and the importance given to Hygiene and Nutrition. Best of all was the military like operation without the involvement of guests directly. When a delayed flight required an extra meal then all hell broke loose. The multiple tries with left over egg to try to get the perfect omelette, the frozen hands in the butchery section, the race to put clingfilm on 400 fruit platters, the inserting of plastic cutlery along with salt-pepper sachets (Mr.Surti of Indian Airlines section), the loading of aluminum trolleys into high-lifts all were a look into an allied hospitality operations.
This was besides the hands-on experience we got in Outdoor Catering which calls for another blog. My gratitude and thanks to all the people known and unknown who helped me in my professional growth along the way — college faculty, training managers, supervisors, employees and fellow trainees- a thousand thank yous.
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