'Being a chef is a fun career'

'Being a chef is a fun career'

Although, in India, cooking is considered a ‘woman’s job’, the culinary field at large is male dominated and women chefs find it hard to make space for themselves.

Kate Phann, the Corporate Training Chef at ‘Mango Tree Bistrobar’, who was here in the City recently, says that being a woman in the kitchen is really hard, and they need to toughen up for the job.

“It’s hard being a woman chef because there are a lot of men around and they look at you like you don’t belong there. This is why I had to push myself harder. Also, all the women chefs have toughened up to stay in the business,” she says.

The Thai chef has been on a long journey that has taken her from being an infant chef to an expert in Thai and Asian cuisines.

Coming from a family of doctors, she says, “Everyone in the family is a doctor but that wasn’t really my thing. Cooking is my passion, and my dad loves cooking, so I decided that I wanted to be a chef. My dad said that it’s perfect and let’s do it!” At first, she wasn’t sure of her footing but now she’s grown confident with time.

“When I first got into the industry, I didn’t know what it was. I walked all over Sydney and dropped off my resume myself. I didn’t have any experience and I was still in college at the time, so after that I would go to work, seven days a week. The first time I got there, it was quite hard and tough; there were so many things to learn, the food, order, how to be creative, follow recipes and the standards they had. But once I got used to it, it helped me in class,” she adds.

Originally from Thailand, she grew up in Perth and worked in Sydney for a while. She has trained in different restaurants, cuisines and places.

“This is how I got to where I am now.” Although she has worked with a variety of cuisines, she specialises in Asian food. “But with a twist! I have worked in a French, Italian, Thai and Korean restaurant; they are quite specific about what they are doing. When you are working with an Asian twist or modern Asian restaurant, there are more things and techniques to learn. It’s very interesting.” 

What does she enjoy about Thai cuisine? “Thai food is a cuisine that has well-balanced flavours; you can taste sweet, sour, spice and salt in one bite. A little bit of Thai touch and a dish will have everything. It’s an amazing style of cooking,” she says.

What is good food to her? “It is anything you enjoy, keep eating and can’t stop. Different people have different preferences, but you know when a dish is good when you think ‘this is my thing’.” Her favourite dish to cook and eat is ‘Pad gra pow’.

“You can use any meat, stir fry it with garlic, chili and sweet basil, and toss it in high flame till you get the aroma of basil. It goes well with steamed or fried rice or noodles.”

She says she didn’t think she’d make it this far. “Being a chef is a fun career and I’m enjoying it so much. I didn’t know I’d come this far. When you are in the kitchen, you are in your land and can create anything. Okay, the hours are tough but it’s worth it. Once you are enjoying what you do, you feel happy,” she says.

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