Cooks in India are usually men seen in dhabas (highway restaurants) and on open street food stalls. They pick cooking skills and do not gain deep knowledge from other men in the business or perhaps just start cooking by default for livelihood. The professional and brahminical superior race is of chefs who choose creative cooking knowledge and skills as career. They are usually professionally qualified and rise in life like any other professional. Chefs are evolved & elitist in hierarchy and don’t like to be called cooks. Cooks merely have mechanical approach to food preparation and oral recipes. They usually don’t innovate and offer new ideas. On the other hand, chefs passionately go deeper in the ingredients, agricultural source of ingredients, quality and quantity of elements, nuances of temperature in simmering and heating, act of steaming or frying and finally aesthetics of food. They strategically build a mythical world around themselves and are provided access to select customers as a privilege. In further advancement of their careers, chefs become celebrities and entrepreneurs in lifestyle food retail. Everyday food retail for the common man does not hugely appeal to them. Recently in India, a leading TV channel launched talent hunt for India’s best chefs. Soon a profession that was hidden in the confines of five star hotels till a decade ago was now seeking prime time attention on national TV. The role model chefs are now managing themselves as brands by attaching relevant meanings & imagery in their persona. They are the new stars who endorse food brands, judge others' culinary art in talent shows, and are the aspiring actors of fame. Chefs don’t care about cooks who are not only lower class in their minds but also lack the fundamental right to marketing. The appalling difference between the two hence the chef’s indifference perhaps begins from education and professional training. Roadside eateries' cooks don’t go to hotel management schools and learn the art of their sumptuous food design but learn as trans-generational art or largely compulsive hit & trial.
Recently when a textile businessman told me that he does not expect sales of fabric for suiting and shirting from Indian metropolitan cities, his view didn't surprise. One knows that urban metro consumers are seeking the expected benefits of convenience, new styles, value from ready made suits. The only reason for aiming small town consumers is the relative slower pace of life in non-metros. Therefore is was assumed that people in smaller towns of India may find time to visit a tailor thrice ( visits for ordering, trial and delivery ). Expensive fabric gifting is traditionally a status marker in Indian marriages. The bride side usually gives expensive fabric of premium brands. The tailoring cost of suits in small towns has also increased and approximately equals the cost of fabric. Higher the fabric cost more reputed the the tailor one selects. This is where our small town tailors fail to take inspiration from chefs or fashion designers. The similarity between tailors and cooks also starts here. Both enter their respective professions for livelihood or to manage their family shops. Both learn by doing and not by joining a school. Both are overshadowed by their professionally educated counterparts. There are new interesting differences too. The new ‘open kitchen’ and transparency codes in food retail are making cooks visible to customers. Quite often, people mistake cooks as chefs which the former love. They wear pristine white attires with the symbolic chef headgear. The symbolic headgear now comes in different forms and sizes. The ones to simple cover head are cook-type while the taller ones are the crowns of chiefs. Customers don't have very clear knowledge of these different headgear. Unlike the chefs, the tailoring business calls the chief ‘masterji’ in many parts of India. “Master” in the colonial hangover-sick nation is old world vocabulary to mark rank or status. Unlike chef which is French expression of chief, we don’t call ‘master” Majstro. What will happen if we call a tailor ‘Majstro’. Can it create an aura around him or will he continue to live or die under the inspiring image of fashion-designers? Will we also have India’s best Majstro talent contest? Will a celebrity Majstro endorse a fashion brand like a celebrity fashion-designer does? Will fashion-designers continue to use tailors as mechanical workforce and never develop them. Should the blame of tailors’ worsening conditions in India be on only tailors? Will there be a Tanishq or FabIndia in Indian textile Industry who care for their craft, craftsmen and craftswomen, their families and socio-economic development? Will I get my next suits stitched from my old Raymond shop masterji or continue to visit a mall? For a change, I feel like visiting my Raymond "Majstro-ji" after years.