Maria Bennan

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Maria Bennan
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Born
Kerala, India
NationalityIndian
EducationDiploma in Professional Cookery Food Safety - City and Guilds London
Occupation
  • Chef
  • Model
StyleDegustation
Net worthUS$ 0.5 million
Height5' 2"
Parents
  • Robert Frederick Bennan (father)
  • Tresa Bennan (mother)

Maria Bennan is a professional chef currently based in Auckland, New Zealand. She completed her culinary education from Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), New Plymouth, New Zealand. Hailing from the southern state of Kerala in India, she is one of the few women chefs from the country to work outside its shores and most notably, in an anglosphere nation.

Early Life

Maria Bennan was born in the year 1991 in Kerala into a family deeply rooted in Christian values. Greatly inspired by the way her mother used to cook, blending in a variety of traditional south Indian flavors to produce exotic blends, she decided to pursue cooking as a full-time career. Societal views of a woman's role in the household coupled with gender stereotyping in the culinary world[1] restricting women to the confines of the home kitchen meant that there weren't many culinary school options for her during her teenage years. This was compounded by the greater emphasis being placed on her acquiring an engineering degree true to existing norms.[2].

Maria's initial exposure to the professional world of culinary arts began from her university years, around the same time as her pursuing a course in Biotechnology. With her extended family in Kerala owing businesses in the FMCG industry, her culinary interests took on a deeper meaning as she was able to witness industrial operations first hand. Working with her father in the food manufacturing units of Pavizham group in the state of Kerala, she gained valuable experience in menu design, food safety and quality control. Around the same time, she also set up her own cake business by the name of Maria's Chocos and Cakes.[3]

An avid reader of books on the life of legendary chefs and an advocate for greater representation of women chefs in the commercial kitchen, an article published on an online platform[4] provided a glimmer of hope for her to pursue professional culinary arts abroad. However, her dreams had to be put on hold with her father being diagnosed with the end-stage of cancer. Despite her being there with her father through every step of this painful journey, her father passed away after a long battle. Mounting medical expenses had by then also drained all the family savings.

Not wanting to accept defeat, she successfully applied for an education loan to pursue a Diploma in Professional Cookery from the reputed culinary school of the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki and arrived on the shores of New Zealand.

Career

In the land of the long white cloud, it was Maria's colleague and good mate, Chef Naveen "Navin" Thomas, who inspired her to aim higher and pushed her to work harder, spending long hours in the commercial kitchen.[5] She went on to successfully complete her Diploma in Professional Cookery from WITT and also the City and Guilds of City & Guilds London qualifications in food safety with distinction. Chef Navin also taught her to think outside the realm of Indian cuisine and explore food preparation styles from around the world.[6] Keeping her faith in God, juggling multiple jobs in the industrial kitchen coupled with her dedication and hard work, she was able to repay her student loans.

The first defining moment of her career was winning the New Zealand Chef Association Hospitality Competition held at Taranaki.[7] Currently working with a reputed group in New Zealand, she balances her day between her family, work and fitness routines. She is also a professional fashion model and works with prominent photographers across New Zealand.

Personal Life

Maria has stated that she is in a relationship. She prefers keeping her personal life and information on her partner and children private.

Interests

A lover of the classical Italian dessert - the Tiramisu - along with a passion for molecular gastronomy, she spends a lot of time reading and researching menu designs.[8] Food wastage control being her prime area of interest, she also reads on the lives of legendary chefs namely Gordon Ramsey, Marco Pierre White and the Roux Brothers to name a few. Through her work, she seeks to inspire young women looking to step foot into the culinary world both in India and overseas.

In dedication to her mom, Maria has launched the Tresa Bennan Foundation to help people in need by offering them our quality time and financial support. She has also invested in other businesses with a partner in the Middle East.

References

  1. "Why India Has an Abysmally Low Number of Woman Chefs". In Plainspeak. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  2. Bhargava, R. N. (2001). Weichert, D.; Rauhut, B.; Schmidt, R. (eds.). "Present Engineering Education in India — An Emerging Economy — And a Glimpse of the Scenario in the 21st Century". Educating the Engineer for the 21st Century. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands: 77–80. doi:10.1007/0-306-48394-7_9. ISBN 978-0-306-48394-3.
  3. Bennan, Maria (February 11, 2021). "Mastering the Flavors: Chef Maria Bennan". Kerala Insider.
  4. "Trial by fire: Women chefs and the challenges they face in kitchens". Hindustan Times. 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  5. Thomas, Naveen (July 4, 2018). "In season: An international degustation". Stuff NZ.
  6. "A culinary dream in the making". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  7. "Taranaki's next generation of culinary stars cook up a storm". Stuff. 2018-06-18. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  8. "Maria Bennan - Cooking Helps You Get Really Creative With the Wide Assortment of Ingredients to Experiment With". Eat My News. Retrieved 2021-02-15.

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