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From passion to paycheck: Padmavathy Krishnakumar’s journey

Ruchi Brahmbhatt

Jan 12, 2021

If we look around at the world around us, there is no dearth of young people who are living the lives of their dreams. Every day they dedicate themselves to being better at their crafts.

At Beyond 8, we are always excited to tell their inspirational stories, with the hope that they will inspire more learners to follow their passions, whatever they may be. We recently caught up with Padmavathy Krishnakumar, Mumbai-based law student-turned-culinary artist who spins her magic at The Bombay Canteen , O Pedro , and Bombay Sweet Shop .

As part of the marketing team at Hunger Inc. Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, Padmavathy manages content, social media, planning, events, alliances, design, coordination, and yes, sometimes tasting new dishes too! Excerpts from our talk:

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Ruchi: Let’s take a flashback from where it all started. What was the a-ha moment that made you realise food was more than a whim or a hobby to you?

Padmavathy: I've been interested in food for as long as I can recall - from helping my mom and aunts in the kitchen during festivals to pretending to have my cooking show and putting on entire episodes. Food has always been my core interest - be it cooking it, tasting it, or just experimenting with new cuisines.

I think my a-ha moment happened when I was pursuing law studies, and it just dawned on me that I was spending more time looking at recipes and food videos than I was on a subject I was supposed to be devoting my professional life too. So that flipped a switch in my head and made me realise the only way I would be able to excel at work is if I enjoy it.

The switch from law school to culinary school was certainly an unorthodox move, but my parents have been quite supportive throughout, and I couldn’t have been able to make it through without them. It is easy to boil down career changes to the person who makes them, but it takes a really strong support system to enable this change.

Ruchi: What is it like to follow a culinary passion in India? What was your experience when you started? What's it like for women in the field?

Padmavathy: I pursued my study of food and cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York . Before this, I completed a 6-month internship at a renowned hotel in Bangalore, where it became very apparent to me that women in a professional kitchen were few and far between. The general treatment was respectful and friendly, but it was just taken as fact that female chefs were not "as tough" as their male counterparts. The best way I learned to navigate this world was to prove my commitment to the work, the long hours, the research, and ultimately the consistency in performance.

Once I completed my studies and returned to India, I transitioned into a more R&D role for a hotel, followed by a route that led me down a path to marketing - from working in TV production and event management to F&B, retail, and e-commerce. I've now found my core area of interest, which is marketing for F&B and retail - a bit of a far cry from cooking in a kitchen but still very much about food.

Ruchi: If you could change one thing about conventional education in India, what would it be?

Padmavathy: Conventional schooling is restrictive in its scope - there's very little information about career paths that don't fall under the STEM umbrella. So for someone with meandering interests or uncommon career choices, it can be isolating and scary to not have an established path. The best way to solve this issue is to have mentoring programs, wherein students are matched with working professionals in their field of interest.

Rather than structure conversations around examinations and universities, the program should focus on sharing knowledge you can't learn from a book. Having access to successful people in your focus area helps you believe there is a pathway within reach to attain your goals - it may not be linear or easy, but it can be done. The fact that someone you know has done it makes the journey seem achievable.

Ruchi: How much has your life changed since you started doing what you love? What advice would you give your teenage self if you could do it all again?

Padmavathy: I realised that if you believe in the fundamental objective of your job, there's no way to feel burdened by your work or studies. My driving force has always been the exploration and discovery of the best food out there, and working in the industry has afforded me access to some of the top chefs and restaurateurs in the country - getting to work with them, learn from them, and best of all, add value to their endeavours.

I'd tell myself to focus on my core interest, rather than trying to be good at everything. It's easy to think of interest as a hobby, but if you know that there are jobs and entire career streams out there for you to apply your passion and channel the enthusiasm you have, it opens so many doors to happiness. I think if I could do it all over again, I'd make a stronger effort to meet more people in the industry at a younger age, and believe it's a viable career choice, no matter what the textbooks say.

As we saw from Padmavathy’s own experience, following a passion is not always a cakewalk. One has to be very patient throughout the process and be open to lifelong learning. But it is all worth it when you see your passion turn into a profession.

You can follow Padmavathy on Instagram to know more about her and her experiments with food.

Do you have an inspiring story to share on following your dreams or know someone who does? Write to us contact@beyond8.in and you could be featured on our blog!

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