Chef Vijay Anand Bakshi is only two months old in Barbeque Nation and his presence can already be felt. The fast-expanding fine dining restaurant which otherwise specializes in Indian cuisine is celebrating its Global Cuisine Indian Style Festival, all thanks to the global exposure of Chef Bakshi, Head- Culinary Operations. Chef Bakshi has travelled far and wide, accumulating loads of experience during his twenty-three years in the industry.
The extremely articulate Mr. Bakshi in an exclusive interview with India Hospitality Review talks extensively about his experience in the industry and shares with us his inspiring journey from his days as trainee to heading country-wide culinary operations at Barbeque Nations.
What inspired you to join Hospitality sector?
I was very passionate about cooking. I was influenced by the way my mom used to cook, and then small culinary experiments at home, the creativity and innovativeness involved in them kept me interested. That was the time when all my friends were running behind more ‘conventional’ jobs so I told myself that I should rather take the other path. Hospitality courses were popular during those days.
Share with us your professional journey.
I graduated in 1991. I was appointed by Oberoi, Hyderabad temporarily and I worked there for a year or so before joining Taj Coromandel. Taj was also the place I had done my six-month internship during college. I was appointed at a supervisory position, which in our terminology is called Chef de partie (Chef of the group) with 6-8 people working under me. I worked in Coromandel for eight months before shifting to Taj, Vishakhapatnam. I continued with Taj for about four years and was eventually promoted to the position of Senior Chef de Partie.
After Taj I joined Cunrad line’s Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, which traveled in transatlantic water giving me an exposure to global cuisine. I was exposed to all sorts of herbs, cheese and other condiments. This was 1996. I stayed there for another four years.
Then I came back and used my last job as reference and got an opportunity to join Taj, Bangalore for another four years. After that, I went back to work on another cruise ship- Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
After I came back from there, I worked with Royal Orchid Group. Then I joined an Oberoi friend’s hospitality venture Casa Del Sol (Spanish for House of the Sun) in Bangalore as chef cum manager in 2005 and worked for three years.
After Casa Del Sol, I joined Accor group and opened the first Ibis Hotel in, Gurgaon ,India. They made me their India champion as time passed by. I designed their menus and conducted trainings etc. I worked there for five years.
I had an opportunity to work with Marriott, Bangalore for a while. And then I came to work with Barbeque Nations’ two months back.
Why Barbeque Nation?
40 restaurants means 40 kitchens. So much of challenge, so much to learn. I was happy to know I could standardize this and that. Use my creativity and if I do it in one place, it has a ripple effect in all other outlets of the chain. So much exposure! If I design my menu here, it gets multiplied 40 times, the whole India comes to know. What else!
You go globe-trotting, see the variety and then come to Barbeque Nation which has Indian cuisine at its core. How do you look at it?
Have done so much of international travelling , I am happy to be home and feel hands on with our own country cuisine, i.e., Indian!
What is your culinary and food management style?
I specialise in global cuisine. I am also comfortable cooking Indian food. My management skill is that of a perfectionist, I have an eye for details. I am a task master.
I speak 8 Indian languages and that is why I can easily connect with people. The learning and loyalty comes through this, I develop the team that way.
Your favourite ingredient?
Basil. Nice and sweet. Aromatic.
Chefs who inspire you.
My chef on cruise ship. His name was Josef from Austria. He was my mentor. He taught me the nuances of culinary industry.
Your favourite cuisine.
French. It is so mild. You take any piece of meat and you can put in salt and pepper and that’s it, no long list of masalas. It’s clean and a very scientific method to cook.
How many years in total have you spent in the industry?
What do you think has changed in the industry in all these years?
When I left India to go abroad there were not many things happening in India. Now it’s happening here too. There are hygiene checks happening here on daily basis. We started regulating temperature, cleanliness, grooming of the person is checked, and sanitizers are being used. Companies never used to invest on such things. Now there is a micro-biological lab, food samples are taken, tested and certified. There are checks to see if the foods are served at the temperatures they are meant to be.
What do you want to do now?
Create new dishes, meet new people