Our think about things
Think Stream

Majstro-ji

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.

Atulit Saxena
29 Mar 2016
Atulit Saxena Before Futurebrands, he was Director of Euro RSCG Advertising, one of world's leading advertising agencies. A post graduate in business administration from University of Rajasthan, Atulit has more than two decades of brand development experience across apparels, FMCG, consumer durables and services. His principal areas of work and interest include Startup Brands, Brand Finance, Brand Licensing, Brand Partnerships, documentary films and teaching. Atulit has given lectures at franchising & brand licensing conferences, FICCI , CII seminars, and management schools in India.

Atulit Saxena
29 Mar 2016
Share this article
Related Posts

Evangelize an Idea first. Build a Brand later

Soon we will have request from business schools in India to co-author case study on Brand Evangelism as Patanjali (an Indian cross category FMCG brand) will reportedly grow to  INR 5000 ( USD 757 Mn) FY 15-16 since its launch in 2009-10, at the fastest growth rate in Indian FMCG market,  as…
Atulit Saxena
30 Mar 2016
 

Real Power

Before Alexander died he asked people to display his empty hands to the world in his last journey. He wished to convey that all the power he fought for is not being taken by him but is being left behind. The warrior code of power lost to the ultimate reality and powerlessness in death. In the same way,…
Atulit Saxena
28 Mar 2016
 

The last slow-motion crawl

As the monsoon starts to fade somewhere in late August, Mumbai sets aside its umbrellas and bhajia platters and gears up up for a frenetic festive season. In every corner of India there is at least one festival that the locals claim as their own, in Mumbai it’s the Ganeshotsav, a ten day long…
Anirban Mukherjee
19 Nov 2015
 

Meat bans in Mumbai: Rethinking protest

When it comes to dietary habits, one would expect the State to concern itself with matters of nutrition, adequate or otherwise, among children, women and the poor. As the first year of its being the Government of Maharashtra comes to a close, the elected representatives of the people seem to have developed…
Anirban Mukherjee
19 Nov 2015
 

A spanner in the anthem

Imagine seeing young men and women from all over the country, waking up with a look of square jawed determination on their faces as they put on their construction helmets, laboratory coats, overalls and even spectacles in the slow, deliberate manner in which soldiers supposedly wear their body armor…
Anirban Mukherjee
19 Nov 2015
 

Leaving hunger behind

The preponderance of food in today’s social media, rapidly multiplying food reality shows on television and the emergence of an entire cheer-leading squad in the form of food bloggers, reviewers and critics?—?can create a sense that we are living in some kind of a gastronomic golden age.…
Anirban Mukherjee
11 Mar 2016
 

The changing quest for music

An idle fantasy of mine is to be able to go back into one’s own past carrying some wondrous product from today’s time and to confront one’s earlier self with the miracle just to see the reaction. Perhaps nothing would cause more astonishment than a smartphone, but (for the sake of…
Santosh Desai
01 Oct 2015
 

The City as an idea

It is easy to lament about the nature of the city, particularly when in rains. The fissures in the city’s pretences begin to drip more visibly, as the city’s many vulnerabilities get cruelly exposed. The need for urban renewal has never been felt more tangibly, and while the government’s…
Santosh Desai
01 Oct 2015
 

Sholay: Revisiting an epic

Sholay was a tidal wave that engulfed us a little after it was released in 1975. Never before and never after, has a film had that kind of impact as did Sholay. Even today, forty years, after having seen the film only twice (once when it came out and then on television a few years ago), I can recall…
Santosh Desai
01 Oct 2015
 

Who runs the world? Twenty-somethings

The world is being run by twenty-somethings. Strictly speaking, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it would seem that in a few years time, it might well be true. Giant businesses are being built by people who cannot buy a beer in Delhi. A bunch of kids are dreaming up ideas, hiring people much older…
Santosh Desai
01 Oct 2015
 

The past as anchor for our present?

What role should the past play in our present? How important is it to reorient our sense of the past in order to shape a more meaningful present? One of the key projects of this regime has been to try and fashion a deeper connection with what it sees as a more ‘Indian’ version of history.…
Santosh Desai
01 Oct 2015