A Chef’s Inspiring Journey from India to Canada Amidst the Pandemic
Posted on February 10, 2021
You Want to Become A Cook!?
That is the first reaction I got when I broke the news to my near and dear ones about my dream and aspiration to become a Michelin Star Chef one day. However, I had always dreamt of becoming a chef.
I used to spend every spare hour in the kitchen, experimenting with whatever ingredients I found until my mother would chase me out of her beloved space with a ladle in hand.
My grandmother knew of my inclination and penchant for cooking and was always encouraging. I owe her a lot for what I am today.
I draw inspiration from Julia Child’s (famous American cook and TV personality) quote – “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude”.
After careful deliberation, I went on to complete my Bachelor of Hotel Management. I also started a food blog and participated in multiple cooking competitions.
Culinary art offers immense exciting career opportunities. As a chef, you can plan menus to match evolving taste buds and food choices, adhere to food quality standards, and take stock of inventory. If you have an experimental bend of mind, love cooking, and are creative, then this is the job for you.
In recent years, the food certification market has been growing by leaps and bounds. Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of food safety standards, nutritional and organic intake.
In the wake of stringent rules and regulations introduced by governments across the globe, key players are introducing new mandates. The hospitality industry continues to grow year on year. With it, the demand for chefs and other related positions will also grow.
From cruise ships to being a personal chef at private homes, a career as a chef is highly mobile! If you can work under pressure, and don’t mind being on your feet for long hours then this is the job for you.
My Work Journey
After obtaining my degree, my professional journey wasn’t very easy. I started my culinary journey chopping vegetables for long hours before slowly working my way up. I climbed up the corporate ladder by earning additional certifications like Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Certified Culinary Administrator.
I also started a food blog to gain visibility. I uploaded recipe videos and interviews with inspiring hospitality professionals. Over time, traffic to my website grew and it is still thriving.
I believe that the kitchen is a sanctum sanctorum for the employees who put in long hours here. Apart from being a positive work environment, strong bonds that last a lifetime are formed here.
That is what happened with me. It was time to pay it forward and learn from the process. Now that my inherent love for bringing people around the table had taken shape, I wanted to take a giant leap of faith.
Giant Leap of Faith
My giant leap of faith was to accomplish the next part of my dream – to become a pastry chef in a country other than India. I wanted to master pastry making as well as ace restaurant management and people management skills at a global level.
However, I was at the crossroads where I didn’t know which road to take to accomplish my dream.
I realized that the birth of a cuisine happens in North America or Europe where it is available in its purest form, unlike India where it is customized to suit the Indian taste buds.
Canada presented favourable opportunities for me to experiment with my new radical ideas. The amount of exposure and dynamism in Canada is unparalleled. Also, the country is known for respecting work-life balance.
In today’s digital age, one can get instant information about almost anything. Hence, it wasn’t hard for me to find out about the application process, work opportunities, etc. Yet, I had a lot of questions that needed answering and I wanted to be thorough in my approach.
When I sought advice from colleagues and friends, they strongly advised me against getting any paperwork done from overseas consultancy firms. They all echoed in unison – It’s a waste of money!
Having grown up in Hyderabad, the Y-Axis brand was always on my top of mind recall. Trusting my instincts, I just walked into their office one day.
As I sat across a consultant, I was reluctant and apprehensive. Quite patiently, the consultant took down my details like age, qualifications, English ability, work experience, etc.
Once he started giving me information, I had a lot of questions. The consultant was extremely patient. I informed him of my clear intention of going to Canada. I was awed by the fact that they had detailed knowledge of every aspect of the process and could back it with proper proof.
I had to choose if I wanted to go for further studies or work. I chose the latter since I qualified under the pre-requisite category of work eligibility criteria.
The consultant informed me about their department called Y-Jobs. This department helps professionals look for jobs abroad.
I decided to give it a try. Y-Jobs helped me tweak my resume according to international standards and floated the same on their job portal.
A Step Closer to my Dreams
I was surprised to know that the demand for chefs in Canada is quite huge. They have even included the job on the NOC list (National Occupation Code list).
If chefs around the globe have the experience, qualifications, and the right skills then they can make an Express Entry Application for Chefs Canada Residency.
Provinces like New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba are looking for qualified culinary experts who want to live and work in Canada.
Chefs are eligible to apply to immigrate to Canada under the Canadian Government’s Immigration program. Under the Express Entry for Canada Immigration points, your points are determined using the Canadian Comprehensive Ranking System.
An important point to remember is that once you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) from Canada Immigration, you have only 60 days to file an application.
So, get your chef skills assessment done beforehand. This doubles as your red seal qualification meaning you are eligible to work as a chef in Canada from day one.
Unforeseen Challenges Due to the Pandemic
Canadian employers started contacting me around late 2019. I secured a job offer in January 2020 and began my application process.
Then, the entire world went into lockdown. Nobody knew when the lockdown would lift, and things would go back to normal. Every 15 days, I would call my Y-Axis consultant. Very patiently, he used to address all my concerns.
In July 2020, the Y-Axis consultant called me to let me know that the Canadian officials had restarted the application process.
I submitted my online Express Entry profile. This profile is entered into a draw pool, which takes place bi-weekly. The highest scoring candidates are selected and receive an ITA (Invitation to Apply) for permanent residence.
Country of my Dreams
The entire family gathered to say goodbye to me before I headed to the airport to fly to the country of my dreams. With all their Corona-related advice in my head and dressed in a complete PPE suit, I landed in Canada.
The minute I stepped out of the airport the chilly winter air filled my nostrils and I pulled my jacket closer to my chest. As I drove to my hotel, I was awestruck by the huge parks and conservation areas I saw.
Of course, I reminded myself; Canada is the second-largest country in the world after Russia in terms of space. It is also one of the happiest countries in the world.
My employer had arranged for my transfer to the quarantine facility. On my way to the hotel, I strangely felt at home. I realized then that it was due to the presence of fellow Indians there that I didn’t miss my home country.
My Experience in the Country
The city has been nothing short of welcoming. The people here are funny, generous, and polite.
I began working with my employer a few days ago and they have been quite accommodating in terms of cultural sensitivity, amongst other things.
I had heard that Canada ranks at number 2 in terms of highest quality of life. I couldn’t agree more. The Indo-Canadian community is actively involved in many important areas of the society.
Have A Question?
I know that you will most likely have a lot of questions about the country’s culture, the application process, et all. Having once been in the same situation, I can imagine your excitement and curiosity to gain more knowledge about working overseas. I will be more than happy to help you with all your doubts/ queries/concerns as some of the Y-Axis patience has definitely rubbed on me.